Dublin Airport delays: Passenger refunds will be processed days after claims are made - DAA

Airport operator told to submit a plan to Ministers by Tuesday morning on avoiding backlogs

Payments for out-of-pocket expenses incurred by those who missed flights due to delays at Dublin Airport will be processed “within days” of claims being received, the DAA has said.

The semi-State company has been told to submit a plan to Ministers to avoid backlogs like those seen last weekend by Tuesday morning, amid ongoing political fallout after chaotic scenes at the weekend.

It is understood that reasonable costs, including rebooking a flight, hotels and meals will be covered, but claims will be reviewed and cross-referenced with other information to ensure they are legitimate.

Head of DAA Communications Kevin Cullinane apologised for the scenes at the airport, which saw thousands of people queueing for hours, many outside the terminal buildings.

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On Monday, he said 12 security lanes were in operation in both terminals, compared with six on Sunday. “We have to replicate that for the busy days ahead,” he said. More than 100,000 people are due to fly into or out of the airport on Friday.

He confirmed 250 security staff had left under a voluntary redundancy scheme during the pandemic, and more than 300 new hires had been made. For this weekend, he said additional staff were being rostered and offered overtime, with back-office employees working alongside frontline staff – meaning 1,000 staff would be in the airport this weekend.

Politicians expressed fears that the situation could be repeated over the June bank holiday weekend. Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien, whose Dublin Fingal constituency is home to the airport, said he couldn’t yet say he was confident the issues would not recur. “I hope I’m wrong – I need to see the plan,” he told The Irish Times.

Labour TD Duncan Smith said: “At this moment in time I’m not comforted in any way that this will not happen again on the June bank holiday weekend.” Fine Gael’s Alan Farrell said there should be repercussions for what he said was a “bizarre and unforgivable” event.

Sinn Féin’s Louise O’Reilly said what happened was caused by passenger numbers that were “very predictable” – “The real litmus test is going to be next weekend.” Minister of State Joe O’Brien said “there is a question here as to why DAA booked in slots they are clearly not staffed to manage”.

Siptu official Jerry Brennan said he warned the DAA when it began a voluntary redundancy programme during the Covid pandemic that “you will need to be hiring people because your queues will be extending through the carparks”.

Airport management were told of “immense disappointment and frustration” among Ministers, and have been told to deliver solutions by Tuesday morning. Dalton Philips, DAA chief executive, met Minister for Transport Eamon Ryan and Minister of State Hildegarde Naughton on Monday.

Mr Philips and his senior management team will appear at the Oireachtas transport committee on Wednesday.

In a statement following the meeting, the Department of Transport said Ms Naughton and Mr Ryan “expressed their immense disappointment and frustration at the unacceptable scene at Dublin Airport over the weekend”.

The department said excessively long wait times were causing “significant distress to passengers as well as reputational damage to the country”.

Daily meetings are to be held between Ministers and the DAA until the difficulties are resolved.

Speaking at the EU summit in Brussels, Taoiseach Micheál Martin said it was “unacceptable”. “The Government is looking for a very clear plan to ensure this type of thing doesn’t happen again,” he said.

Asked if the Army should be drafted in, Mr Martin said: “The answer lies within human resource management with DAA and planning within the organisation.”

Mr Ryan said the use of the army had been considered before the Easter break but it was decided they would not be a good fit and would not overcome the problem.

Graeme McQueen, DAA media relations manager, said the airport does not know the exact number of passengers that are flying on any given day as it is “commercially sensitive information” held by the airlines.

Jack Horgan-Jones

Jack Horgan-Jones

Jack Horgan-Jones is a political reporter with The Irish Times

Brian Hutton

Brian Hutton is a freelance journalist and Irish Times contributor

Pat Leahy

Pat Leahy

Pat Leahy is Political Editor of The Irish Times