‘Beyond a joke’: Bank holiday travellers anxious about Dublin Airport delays

Weddings and holidays after hard times — Readers share their plan for navigating airport waiting times

Next Friday just over 30 wedding guests will arrive at Dublin Airport in the hope of getting to the ceremony in Poland the following day. It should be a routine, joyful trip but the recent collapse of passenger processing at the country’s main airport has changed that.

Nathan Collier (25) has an extra degree of anxiety — he is a groomsman; his girlfriend is maid of honour.

“It’s definitely stressful for us. If we don’t get there on that flight there is no flight on Saturday,” he says. “And it’s not just us going, there are about 32 of us. That would pretty much be the whole Irish side of the wedding.”

The stakes are high for Mr Collier and the wedding party, but many thousands of others are also planning trips this bank holiday weekend with little confidence the Dublin Airport Authority can solve the problem of delays in time.

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Mr Collier, who speaks to the other guests on group chats, says they plan to be there as early as 2pm to catch their 9pm flight to Poznan, which cost them €782. A bus from the Polish side to the venue will add another 2½ hours. There is no margin for error.

“You would be hopeful to have a few pints in the airport but are you going to have time? To sit down and just relax and talk to the people you are going with.

“It’s gone beyond a joke. I know they are blaming staff shortages and all that but what they are paying security, it’s not enough.”

He had considered applying for one of the jobs himself but “when I saw what it entailed, it’s just not worth it”.

Abdullah Hamid (33) is in a similar boat, except he has to get home to Pakistan and it is his wedding he is trying to get to.

The Dublin-based software engineer will marry his bride Miral later in the month but has to get back for a suit fitting, on top of many other pressing wedding arrangements.

He recalls watching the chaos unfold at Dublin Airport over the weekend. “It’s a bank holiday weekend [when I will travel] and I am flying on Saturday at 3pm. I was like, oh no, it’s going to be worse next week.

“I think I need to be at the airport at least four hours before. It’s stressful because if I do miss my flight it’s expensive, it’s like €900 and it will be a pain to rebook. It’s stressful just to be even thinking about.”

There are many reasons people are nervous. Fiona Mills and her young family have been looking forward to a camping trip in France which, as is the case for so many families, has been booked and postponed several times over the pandemic.

‘The kids would be traumatised’

All in, the holiday has cost a little over €2,000 before they set foot in France where they will stay outside Paris and visit Euro Disney.

“People say, oh it’ll be fine on Saturday, it’ll be grand. But after reading all the stories, that there were 50,000 at the weekend just gone and there will be 100,000 this weekend, I don’t know,” she says.

“I have been extremely organised coming up to this holiday. I’m not joking, our bags are almost packed, but the feeling that it’s out of your control. I don’t feel particularly comforted that they are going to fix it. Definitely feeling anxious.”

She and her husband Alex plan to wake Zoe (4) and James (6) at about 4am to get to the airport for 6.30am for their flight at 11.25am. But they could possibly spend longer at the terminal, she says. They have been considering their options — could they split up for security and bag drop queues? They do not know.

“We have no other options. We have to get this plane or we don’t get away,” she says. “The kids would be traumatised. It’s all you talk about for weeks: going on holidays.

“I don’t have high expectations. I don’t want to go to the Maldives but it should be relatively easy going to an airport in a capital city.”

Eimear O’Connor (33) is planning to visit her sister in Canada, leaving Dublin Airport at 10am on Friday morning. But she is almost six months pregnant and flying alone.

“My original plan to was to get there at maybe sevenish but now it might be 5am with the queue,” she says.

“In general I wouldn’t mind queuing but my back gets quite sore if I stand for long. And then there is the frequent need to go to the toilet.”

When she saw the pictures emerging from Dublin Airport over the weekend, of long queues of passengers, she said she felt “massive anxiety”.

“[I felt] really worried. I’m not a great flyer anyway. I would arrive early even if there wasn’t a queue.”

She will consider explaining she is pregnant to airport staff when she gets there, if it seems necessary.

“I think [the airport conditions] might get better eventually but not by this weekend because of the bank holiday. I won’t be happy until I’m through security. I don’t have much confidence in them.”

‘People need a break’

Gillian Madigan, her husband Neil and sons Richard (9) and Tom (6) are also planning on getting away for that first post-Covid break, two weeks camping in Spain. They have hatched a plan.

“We live in Glasnevin so we are hoping to go up with our bags the night before. I think the bag drop is available from 4pm to 7pm. We are in a lucky position because we live so close so we can do that,” she says, striking an optimistic tone rare among expectant bank holiday travellers.

They plan to leave home to begin their €5,000 holiday at 3am to get to the terminal 2 queue long before it opens at 4am.

“We are doing everything in our power that we can do. There is no point in going any earlier because it won’t be open,” Ms Madigan says.

“We have gone through an awful lot since 2019. We had a family member very ill with cancer. We want to just make memories. It’s been too long, too many Irish holidays.

“There are so many people out there who have gone through so much in their lives and just need a break.”

Mark Hilliard

Mark Hilliard

Mark Hilliard is a reporter with The Irish Times