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Passengers face queuing in car parks at Dublin Airport

Social distancing requirements will reduce capacity at Dublin Airport by 70 per cent once air travel recovers from the coronavirus pandemic, while travellers face queuing outside in repurposed car parks before gaining access to terminals, the airport’s owner has said.

DAA, which owns and operates Dublin and Cork Airports and has operations in 16 countries, said on Friday that the global pandemic had affected all of its businesses. Traffic at Dublin and Cork has collapsed, with passenger numbers down by 99 per cent in April and May. The group is implementing a major restructuring, which could involve 1,000 job cuts.

However, with the Government examining ways to lift the lockdown and reopen the economy, passenger levels – both incoming and outgoing – at the State’s ports are expected to rise again in the coming months.

Requirements

DAA chief executive Dalton Philips said, however, that social distancing requirements as they currently stand would reduce terminal capacity by 70 per cent, and completely reshape the passenger experience at airports.

“The material cost to our business will come from physical distancing measures,” he said. “The two-metre rule will reduce terminal capacity by 70 per cent.

“It will involve people queuing outside and in car parks. We will have to repurpose some of our car parks to stage people. The number of passengers we will be able to process will be much less, which will hit our bottom line.”

Passenger numbers for Dublin and Cork Airports could be as low as 9 million for this year, compared with a combined 35.5 million passengers last year, according to Mr Philips.

Passenger numbers for 2021 may be about 21 million, which would represent a 40 per cent decline in traffic compared with 2019.

“When Dublin and Cork Airports last had that level of passenger numbers, they had between 750 and 1,000 fewer employees, so unfortunately we have to take unpalatable measures to lower our costs across all areas of the business,” Mr Philips said.

“We’re significantly over-resourced. The job losses will be across the board. Staff is broken down into two categories: support areas and frontline roles. We’re looking at both.

“Frontline staff are passenger-facing roles, such as security, customer service, retail, facilities – all those roles are going to be impacted. Everything, right across the board.”

DAA has placed employees on a four-day week and a programme is under way to right-size the business through a voluntary severance scheme, career breaks and reduced working hours.

Expressions of interest in relation to these options – as well as the option to remain as is – have been sought from staff. This process began last week and staff have until June 17th to let the company know their wishes. A quarter of staff have so far responded.

Mr Philips said the job losses would be implemented throughout the summer. “We’re losing €1 million a day so we have to move at pace,” he said. “We can’t afford to wait.”

The semi-State company said the pandemic had cost it an estimated €160 million in lost turnover so far and would see the company record significant financial losses this year.

Crisis

“This is the most serious crisis that has ever faced the international aviation sector and our business,” Mr Philips said.

“Our business and the wider sector have weathered many previous upheavals, such as the recent recession, the impact of September 11th, and the 1970s oil crisis, and it will eventually recover from the economic impact of Covid-19.

“But it is likely to take some time as the short-term future is bleak, and the post-Covid industry will be very different.”

DAA’s results for 2019 show turnover increased by 4 per cent to €935 million. Earnings before interest, taxation, depreciation and amortisation increased by 4 per cent to €302 million, while profit before exceptional items increased by 13 per cent to €150 million.

From The Irish Times