Dublin Airport delays: Use of Army personnel to ease pressure discussed

Operator to present plans to remove bottlenecks after Dáil committee’s visit to airport

The possible use of Army personnel to help with security delays at Dublin Airport was discussed at a meeting between members of the Dáil Committee on Transport and Communications and senior Dublin Airport Authority (DAA) management on Monday.

The idea was first proposed at the weekend by Ryanair 's Michael O'Leary, who called on the Government to draft in 250 Army personnel to help deal with security delays at the airport.

The Dáil committee members also expressed reservations to the DAA executive about plans to charge the public for dropping off and picking up at the airport from August.

Committee members spent 2½ hours at the airport, during which they spoke to staff and met DAA senior management.

“We wanted to come out and see first hand for ourselves. The staff are under huge pressure, very hard-working,” committee chairman Kieran O’Donnell said.

"We had a frank exchange with [DAA chief executive] Dalton Philips and his managerial colleagues. They were quite honest about it. I'd have to give them that.

“We’re going to have a follow-up with Dalton Philips. He’s going to update where we are on Wednesday,” the Fine Gael TD said.

“The airport is now operating at 80-90 per cent of what it was in 2019. DAA expected that to be about 60 per cent. I understand that Ryanair’s passenger numbers are higher now than they were in 2019. [The DAA] need to recruit an additional 300 staff on top of the 100 they recently recruited.”

Redeployed staff

Over last weekend “the longest delays were 50 minutes at check-in. They say the average was 20 to 30”, Mr O’Donnell said. “They had redeployed staff but I don’t believe that’s sustainable. They key thing now is: how can we as a committee assist in expediting the recruitment of staff?”

New staff “have to get Garda vetting clearance” and those who worked abroad at any stage “will need enhanced clearance. Strides have been made in terms of reducing Garda vetting and that is now down to about 10 days”.

The committee questioned the DAA about the pay rates it was offering, which were in the €14-€21 per hour range. Last week in the Dáil, Social Democrats TD Cian O’Callaghan accused the DAA of “engaging in a race to the bottom”, saying it was seeking security staff to be available for 40 hours per week but they were only being guaranteed 20 hours’ work with a minimum weekly salary of €283.

Mr O’Donnell said the DAA had “to ensure that whatever rate they provide is attractive to recruit staff”.

He added: “Our main concern is that we are coming up to the Easter break and they are expecting high numbers – 40,000 per day – and that will go on into the following week, when you have families on holidays with children.”

Long delays

The possible use of Army personnel at the airport “was discussed. We basically stated that everything has to be considered by this committee”. As a committee, “we they believe that whatever is required should be put in place, but we want to see what the DAA is coming up with on Wednesday”.

The airport operator is “looking at up to two months to recruit all the staff. This could be going into May, June and certainly into May”, Mr O’Donnell said.

Other committee members accompanying Mr O'Donnell were TDs Michael Lowry, Darren O'Rourke, Ruairí Ó Murchú, James O'Connor, Cathal Crowe and Duncan Smith; and Senators Jerry Buttimer, Gerry Horkan, and Gerard Craughwell.

The DAA has said it continues to advise all passengers to be at the airport at least two hours before boarding a short-haul flight, and three hours prior to boarding a long-haul flight. However, it also warns 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 3½ 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.

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry is Religious Affairs Correspondent of The Irish Times