Q&A: Can I beat the queues at Dublin Airport, and does the T2 shortcut work?

Conor Pope shares some tips and tricks to ensure you catch your flight

I am heading off on my holidays soon, but what’s this I hear about delays at Dublin Airport?

There have been serious problems at the airport at peak times since airlines started rolling out their summer schedules towards the end of last month. Passengers have reported delays of over two hours getting through security with people missing flights as a result.

Who’s to blame?

Well, DAA, the authority that runs Dublin Airport says it has encountered a "perfect storm". Around one third of its 3,000 employees took voluntary redundancy over the course of the pandemic as the aviation sector at home and abroad was decimated, while like almost every other sector, it has also been impacted by short-term staffing shortages as a result of the latest surge in Coivid-19. On top of that, EU-wide changes to security screening processes has caused staffing issues. This is what Tánaiste Leo Varadkar had to say: "The airport is seeing traffic volumes 30 per cent higher than they anticipated and they're short of about 300 staff members and also because of regulatory issues the number of bags they have to check has been increased. So there's a number of factors at play here.

So none of it is the DAA’s fault?

Oh we didn’t say that. While it is hard not to have some sympathy for the authority, it could and should have done more to keep delays to a minimum at peak times and it does appear to have been caught off guard towards the end of last month. It should not have been caught so badly, because it is not like it doesn’t know how many passengers are going to come through its doors in advance. Flights are not like buses, people book in advance - sometimes many, many months in advance.

What are people saying about it?

Well the DAA was accused in the Dáil of a “race to the bottom” due to the working conditions on offer to new security workers. Social Democrats TD Cian O’Callaghan said the DAA has been advertising to hire security staff who must be available for 40 hours per week but were only being guaranteed 20 hours’ work with a minimum weekly salary of €283. “The DAA is clearly engaging in a race to the bottom, driving down working conditions,” he said.

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But I heard things were getting better?

Certainly the first weekend in April was a lot better than the last weekend in March. Over the weekend just past, Dublin Airport redeployed a “small army” of staff from desk jobs elsewhere in the company to help manage queues and trays and field questions from passengers.

What sort of questions?

We can’t be sure but we’re guessing “How long am I going to be here?” was the one question to the fore in most people’s minds.

And how long were people waiting?

Over the last weekend in March, waiting times to get through security were as long as three hours, while on Sunday waiting times in Terminal 1 peaked at 44 minutes in the early hours of the morning.

So it is mad busy all the time?

No. Dublin Airport - like most international airports - experiences the biggest surge in passenger traffic between 6am and 9am so if you have a flight booked in that window, you will have at least some cause for concern, in good times and bad. It also tends to be much busier at weekends, while the start of the school holidays at Easter and the period covering the Easter bank holiday weekend are also likely to be very busy. And during the summer the airport is heaving most of the time.

How long before my flight do I need to show up at the airport?

The DAA has said it continues to advise all passengers to be at the airport a minimum of two hours before boarding a short-haul flight, and three hours prior to boarding a long-haul flight. However it does also warn that "if you are flying soon, please be aware that it might be very busy at peak periods, so allow yourself plenty of time. At peak times, this can mean up to three and a half hours before your departure time. If parking a car, allow a further 30 minutes." Ryanair has been advising its passengers to arrive at least 3½ hours before their scheduled departure time.

What about the fast track system? Could I bypass the queues?

Sadly, no. The Fast Track system is quite brilliant and allows people buy access to the security queues normally reserved for the well-heeled business class travellers, but the sale of fast track tickets was “paused” by DAA. If you already have a Fast Track ticket for an upcoming trip that will be honoured, however.

Is there any way to get through faster?

There are the VIP services run by the airport. They are very swanky, and not only do you get whisked through a super private security screening process like you’re Beyoncé, you also get access to a private lounge will manner of treats and then get brought to your plane when the time for take-off approaches.

That sounds amazing. Why don’t we all do that?

Because it costs close to 300 quid for one person for one journey.

Are there any other sneaky tricks? Can I go through T2 if I am flying out of T1?

T2, where long haul flights and a chunk of Aer Lingus flights tend to depart from, does tend to be an ocean of zen like calm when compared to T1. And having occasionally been told by an airline to go through security at T2 before being made to walk all the way back to T1 to catch a plane, we know that all things considered, it's a pretty short walk. So you might be tempted to sneakily pass through T2 security to bypass the bedlam in T1 and then double back on yourself. Don't do this. Your boarding pass is barcoded with the terminal you are supposed to go through, and there is a very significant chance you will be sent back from whence you came if you try. You might get through, but do you really want to take the risk?

Can I check the time it takes to go through security online?

If you had asked us this question six weeks ago we would have said it’s pretty accurate, but not anymore. In fact, the last time we checked, the real-time info was down on the DAA website. “We are working to fix this service and have this information back up and running for our passengers,” the DAA said.

So, is there anything I can do?

You need to be organised. Make sure all your liquids are in a small plastic bag that is easily and instantly accessible. Have your laptop out and ready to go in the tray, and make sure your phone, coins and anything else that might set off the scanners are in your bag or coat or jacket pockets and on the tray rather than on you, so they can all be scanned at the one time. Make sure your shoes and belt can be taken on and off easily. In other words, think of all the things you can do to expedite your security zone experience. If we all did that, there’d be a lot less faffing.

Anything else?

Choose your queue wisely. There is nothing more dispiriting than choosing a security queue without much thought only to watch it grind to a halt while all the other queues move along at a fair old clip. Ideally you will pick the queue with a lot of single adults, seasoned travellers and very few families and children.

Once I am through security, am I home and hosed?

No. You might have time to dawdle or you might not. It depends on what terminal you are in and what airline you are flying with. If you are in Terminal 1 for instance and flying Ryanair, your gate number will be in the 100 range. These gates take the longest time to walk to and you will need to give yourself around 20 minutes, walking at a clip. The gates in Terminal 1 that come with a number in the 200s will take you around 15 minutes to get to, as will the furthest gates in T2 once you make it through security.

And once I am at my gate, can I relax?

Yes and no. Please don't forget about Covid. It hasn't gone away and there are still travel restrictions in place so make sure you have your Covid cert to hand, and all the necessary paperwork completed, having checked what the rules apply in the country you are travelling to at dfa.ie/travel/travel-advice. And once all that is done, you can finally relax and enjoy your holidays.