Growth may ‘grind to a halt’, says Aer Lingus

Airline will redeploy new fleet away from Dublin if infrastructure not improved


'Aer Lingus has long been at loggerheads with DAA over what it saw as a failure to provide the facilities it needs to create a transatlantic hub at the airport, which has been growing rapidly.'
‘Aer Lingus has long been at loggerheads with DAA over what it saw as a failure to provide the facilities it needs to create a transatlantic hub at the airport, which has been growing rapidly.’

Growth at Dublin airport could “grind to a halt” as early as next year because it lacks appropriate infrastructure and development and investment plans to address capacity constraints, Aer Lingus has warned.

If a deficit in “hub infrastructure” is not addressed “in an urgent manner… the growth opportunity currently planned by Aer Lingus will need to be revisited and the fleet currently earmarked for the growth will have to be deployed outside of Ireland”, it said.

The warning is contained in a letter written by Aer Lingus chief corporate affairs officer Donal Moriarty to the aviation regulator in response to its decision on how much airport operator DAA can invest at the airport and recoup through passenger passengers.

Aer Lingus has long been at loggerheads with DAA over what it saw as a failure to provide the facilities it needs to create a transatlantic hub at the airport, which has been growing rapidly. The airline said that since last November it had “constructive discussions” with DAA regarding these plans and supported a series of infrastructure investment plans proposed. Apart from the €320m runway plan and capital improvements, the DAA is planning to build out €285m of infrastructural developments at the airport by 2021, including new aircraft stands, taxiways and additional immigration facilities in both terminals.

The Commission for Aviation Regulation (CAR) had ruled earlier this year that it would allow DAA to recoup €267.5m of the required funds for the 23 planned projects through potentially higher passenger charges. It has now upped that amount by €1.8m following an analysis by consultants SDG.

Capacity at Aer Lingus jumped 12pc last year as it added more routes and expanded existing services, particularly to North American destinations such as Miami.

New routes announced this year by chief executive Stephen Kavanagh, pictured, to destinations such as Miami are expected to see capacity jump again by almost 10pc this year, putting further strain on the airport.

In his letter to the regulator, Moriarty said that even though the Dublin hub plan had been identified as a significant engine of economic growth by the National Aviation Policy, Dublin airport was not yet functioning as a hub “and is not designed as such.”

“Aer Lingus has outlined to both DAA and CAR its real concerns on future infrastructure development at Dublin airport as set out in DAA’s development plans. It is our view that plans to date have not adequately reflected either the National Aviation Policy aspirations for Dublin airport as a hub airport.”

The proposals were “unaligned with the strategic ambitions and user requirements of Dublin’s home-based hub carrier and anchor tenant at Terminal 2 – Aer Lingus,” it said, adding that although it supported the projects outlined they did not go far enough. It said that the focus of the proposals on developments on the west and north aprons of the airport do not meet the requirements of Aer Lingus and other airlines that wish to connect through Dublin.

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