Government Ministers ‘deeply unhappy’ as meeting with airport officials is organised

An urgent meeting will take place on Monday between Dublin Airport officials and Junior Minister for Transport Hildegarde Naughton to discuss the issue.
Government Ministers ‘deeply unhappy’ as meeting with airport officials is organised

Dominic McGrath, PA

Government Ministers have expressed their unhappiness with the ongoing chaos at Dublin Airport as passengers missed flights on Sunday over lengthy queues.

An urgent meeting will take place on Monday between Dublin Airport officials and Junior Minister for Transport Hildegarde Naughton to discuss the issue.

It comes as concern is growing ahead of the bank holiday weekend in several days’ time.

On Sunday, Dublin Airport admitted that mistakes were made after it was forced to warn passengers that some could miss flights due to lengthy queues.

Meanwhile, both the Taoiseach and the Minister for Transport asked for answers about the disorder at the airport.

In a statement on Sunday, the Department of Transport said Minister for Transport Eamon Ryan and Ms Naughton have “expressed deep unhappiness” over the scenes at the airport on Sunday.

Ms Naughton, who has held twice-weekly meetings in recent weeks with the DAA chief executive, will meet Dalton Philips first thing on Monday to discuss the issues.

The statement, issued on behalf of the ministers, said: “The passenger experience at Dublin Airport is falling far short of the service that our citizens and visitors should expect at our largest state airport.

“They said that it was not satisfactory that some people, who are following DAA guidelines, are turning up to the airport for check-in on time, but are still missing their flights.

“The situation is causing undue stress and potential cost to people, which is simply not good enough.”

Officials pledged to try to compensate all passengers who have missed flights or had plans disrupted, if additional costs are incurred.

Speaking to Newstalk, Jennifer Graham, a passenger, described how she queued for three and a half hours before her flight but still missed it due to the delays.

"The queue was absolutely insane from the entrance to the airport, all the way down to the junction, all the way back and then doing a couple of loops... into the car park," Ms Graham said.

"When they told us then that any flights before 12pm were cancelled, we turned around, and you could feel that if you were there any longer a fight probably would have broken out.

"And there was no information given out, so people didn't know why [this was happening]".

Unable to cope

Kevin Cullinane, the group head of communications for DAA, the body that runs the airport, admitted they had got things “wrong” on Sunday.

“Significantly, we did not have sufficient staff manning sufficient posts throughout the airport to cope with demand early on and hence queues built up,” he told RTÉ radio.

“We clearly did not have enough lanes open in security from early on this morning, for the numbers who presented themselves at that hour of the morning. And that caused obviously a compounding effect throughout the morning.”

Mr Cullinane also said airlines were providing passengers with the option of booking different flights later on Sunday or Monday, without an additional cost.

“We will look at each case on a case-by-case basis, but we’ll be doing our level best to make sure that nobody will be out of pocket for missing a flight today as a results of these queues at Dublin Airport.”

The airport previously said it is trying to rebound from the impact of the pandemic and has blamed delays on shortages in fully trained staff working at the country’s busiest airport.

Mr Cullinane said there will be an additional 370 security staff in the airport from June.

“Clearly we didn’t have, and we still don’t have sufficient numbers to cater for this,” he said.

“We have to put our hands up and say we got that wrong, and we wish we had more staff available this morning to rectify that situation quicker than we did.”

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