‘Outages’ at new passport machines lead to Christmas airport fears
Serious delays and queues at Terminal One as new e-gate machines fail to read passports
The passport-reading machines have been installed by the Department of Justice for its Irish Naturalisation Immigration Service (Inis). Photograph: Alan Betson
Glitches and teething problems with new passport-reading machines could make life a misery for the large number of people expected home for Christmas through Dublin Airport this year, as passenger throughput at the airport is expected to hit a record 30 million for 2017.
And while the Department of Justice has said Dublin Airport Authority (DAA) is responsible for the queues at the airport, the authority has said immigration is the responsibility of the department.
The e-gate machines were initially deployed on November 30th and, three days later, there were serious delays at Terminal One.
Passengers had to be periodically prevented from accessing the passport hall as queues spilled out of the hall and across the elevated walkway from the main airport to Pier D, which is used by many Ryanair flights.
Inside the passport hall, there were 10 automatic passport-reading machines, installed by the Department of Justice for its Irish Naturalisation Immigration Service (Inis), five of which were said by the department to be “deployed” at the time. But just four of the machines appeared to be showing data on their screens, one of which was just showing computer code, and three of which appeared to be functioning extremely slowly, before rejecting large number of passports.
In addition to the difficulty with the machines, just one person appeared to be available in a booth for “EU Passports” and one person for “non-EU Passports”.
Outside in the baggage hall, there was the unusual sight of many bags moving around on the carousel without people standing waiting to pick them up.
The DAA said it was aware of teething problems with the new machines, but said Inis was “responsible for at [SIC]immigration at the airport so all questions re the new e-gates and the immigration process should be directed to them”.
Asked specifically about crowd control and queue management, the authority said: “The operation of the immigration process and the way in which the new e-gates are operated is a matter for Inis/the Department of Justice.”
Asked if there would be any special arrangements for the busy Christmas period, the authority said: “Like all busy times, Dublin Airport will have additional customer service team members working throughout the Christmas period.”
In a statement, the Department of Justice said: “The question of queues or congestion in the areas leading to the immigration halls are matters appropriate to Dublin Airport who manage those areas.”
It said: “Revised queue layouts were deployed in the immigration halls in advance of the deployment of the e-gates and these are under review by Dublin Airport to achieve the maximum efficiency in the space available.”
Since the deployment of the machines on November 30th, “there have been a number of temporary outages involving individual gates as all stakeholders (passengers, DAA staff and immigration staff) become fully familiar with the system and a small number of issues are diagnosed and addressed”, the department said.
It also said personnel numbers at the airport had not been reduced and would be increased in January.