Dublin Airport has installed rain protection outdoors outside Terminal 1 ahead of certain parts of the airport management’s contingency plans to handle large numbers of passengers being tested this weekend.
Truckloads of materials and workers arrived to build the tents this afternoon.
The road outside the terminal building has been closed to traffic and the delivery of passengers has been moved to Atrium Road.
This change will take effect in the coming weeks.
The covered waiting areas will be available to passengers from early Friday morning.
Kevin Cullinane, group communications manager for the airport operator daa, said that people arriving within the recommended time will be given preferential treatment to enter the terminals and proceed to baggage and security.
Daa says it is convinced that the measures it has taken regarding staffing, safety lanes and queue management will be enough to keep things running smoothly, and it is not expected that they will have to use these contingency plans this weekend.
“As we enter the hectic summer months, we may need to deploy them in the coming weeks,” Cullinane said.
Part of that plan is to set up residential areas in other parts of the airport. People arriving outside the recommended time may be asked to wait in these designated areas near the terminal buildings.
“They will be covered areas like the Atrium building opposite the T1, or the multi-storey car parks next to the T1 and T2. They are both protected from the weather and wind,” he said.
Mr Cullinane said work would be done to make these areas comfortable for people.
“They will have toilets, they will have refreshments.”
Mr Cullinane said the DA was trying to “maintain this as a Plan C, if we had to extend beyond the structures outside the terminals directly”.
He said that there are protocols in place to trigger any or all of the above contingency plans. He urged the public to follow the advice and not to come too soon.
Mr Cullinane said daa was “acutely aware of the reputational damage it caused” last weekend, and that the operator has a key role to play in fixing it in the coming weeks.
The airport will handle about 100,000 passengers per day during the weekend in June.
Safe of “no missed flights”
At the same time, a spokesman for daa said that he is convinced that the new plan will mean that there will be no “no missed flights” this weekend.
Graeme McQueen said he wants to make people traveling this weekend “satisfied” because he acknowledged that management “fell down” last weekend.
Speaking at RTÉ’s Morning Ireland, he said that the advice for those departing at short distances is to arrive up to 2.5 hours in advance and for long distances to allow 3.5 hours.
He said that “a warning” is that people checking in a bag should arrive another hour earlier.
Before the weekend, the airport management hopes to be able to prevent a recurrence of last Sunday’s problems.
About 1,400 people missed their flights due to long queues that stretched outside both terminals.
Passengers waiting in queues described the handling of the airport as shameful, ridiculous and a mess.
The airport operator’s plan to improve the situation comes before one of the busiest travel weekends, with 100,000 passengers expected every day.
More lanes will be opened to cope with the increased number of passengers and additional security personnel will also be deployed.
Daa said that it could still take around an hour for people to get through the security check, but he was sure that the measures taken would work.
The plan also includes a “contingency overflow queue” where passengers may have to wait outside the airport terminals in a triage queuing system.
Poor weather protection, seats and toilets at the stop are set up to receive those standing in line outside.
Mr McQueen said: “If it gets busy on the ramps and around the terminals we have somewhere for people to go if it is too early. And that is causing a big problem at the moment.”
He said that while it is understandable that people arrive early because they do not want to miss their flights, this has a “consequence” on those arriving on time for their flight.
“What we are trying to do is get the flow back to the way we want it to be so that we can get people through in an orderly way,” he added.
Secretary of State Hildegarde Naughton said she met with DAA officials this morning and will meet with them again over the weekend to ensure all resources are in place to ensure passengers receive their flights on time.
Speaking in Galway, she said there could be delays of up to an hour during rush hour, but that passengers will be kept informed at all times so that they can move safely and efficiently through the airport.
At the same time, Minister of Further Education and Higher Education Simon Harris said that the daa plan must work.
Speaking on RTÉ’s Today with Claire Byrne, he said: “I think it’s important that they have published their plan, but at the same time I do not write blank checks for the daa management.
“They have a job. It’s their job to get people on flights and get them to their destinations.
“So, it’s really important that the plan that they have in place now is implemented, that it works.”
Yesterday, then CEO Dalton Philips acknowledged that the passengers waiting for flights in triage areas this weekend can be left out in the rain.
He told the Oireachta Transport Committee that he was “deeply embarrassed” by what happened at Dublin Airport last weekend and apologized “unreservedly” to the passengers and staff involved.
Calls for an “aggressive approach”
Denis Naughten, Independent TD for Roscommon, has said that this weekend at Dublin Airport “must go well” and accused daa of “object failure” and said that this issue had been going on for ten weeks.
He said an “aggressive strategy must be taken once and for all” by the government, whether it involves involving the army or using regional airports.
He said people can not get a passport, they lack flights and wait hours to get their bags.
Mr Naughten also said that people who holiday at home are priced, they can not get a taxi in the city and there is a huge frustration.
“The government must take a leading role,” he said.
He said the most frustrating thing was that it was flagged months ago and that daily daa reviews were given to Hildegarde Naughton and officials at the Department of Transportation but “no one is being held responsible for the mess that was last weekend”.
Similar problems at other airports
The chairman of the Irish Tourism Industry Confederation said that the problems at Dublin Airport reflect what is happening in travel in general, with similar problems in Manchester, London’s Gatwick and Amsterdam’s Schiphol.
Ruth Andrews said that the message from daa is welcome and that it provides “an opportunity to resolve the situation and improve the process of advanced communication, which we expect will ensure a much better situation this weekend”.
Andrews added that it should solve the problems in the long run, which will be “very important for the rest of this year this season, especially given the demand that has returned so strongly after two devastating years of Covid”.
Speaking at RTÉ’s Morning Ireland, Andrews, chair of the Tourism Recovery Task Force, said that Ireland was subject to the strictest deadlines due to Covid and that it was difficult to see when the tourism sector would return to pre-pandemic levels.
Additional reporting: Micheál Lehane, Teresa Mannion
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