Claims plane passengers' lives are at risk due to staff shortages refuted

Aviation authority says it ‘fully complies at all times with European safety regulations’

Claims that the Irish air traffic control system is in crisis and accidents are more likely as a result of staffing shortages have been rejected by the aviation watchdog.

The Irish Aviation Authority (IAA) also refuted a claim made by a group of air traffic controllers in a letter sent to the Minister for Transport Eamon Ryan that passengers lives were being put at risk.

According to reports this weekend, a group of as many as 160 traffic controllers wrote to the Minister to complain that an over-reliance on overtime to run the service had become a safety issue.

The letter claimed that short gaps in the roster had resulted in Cork and Shannon airports being temporarily affected in July, while closure at Dublin Airport had been narrowly averted in August.

In response the IAA said it was aware of the letter and had provided an update to the Minister for Transport “outlining the factual position on the matters raised and refuting the allegations in their entirety”.

It insisted it operated to “the highest standards” and “fully complies at all times with European safety regulations”.

In a statement it stressed that “at no point” has “safety ever been compromised and there has been no risk to ATC services over the last year”.

It said that since the start of the pandemic, the Irish aviation sector had suffered “unprecedented damage” with the IAA losing €375,000 per day. “However, our commitment has been safety of Irish airspace and safety of our staff. We have kept the skies open and safe.”

It said it had instituted “a cost containment programme which resulted in no one losing their jobs – unlike many others in the aviation sector – with a maximum 10 per cent temporary pay reduction”.

Conor Pope

Conor Pope

Conor Pope is Consumer Affairs Correspondent, Pricewatch Editor and cohost of the In the News podcast