IAG Group pushes for increased annual passenger cap at Dublin Airport

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Jordi Pla Pintre, the director of the Spanish low-cost airline Vueling, has urged the Fingal County Council to raise Dublin Airport’s annual passenger cap from 32 million to 40 million. Vueling is a part of the IAG Group — which includes Aer Lingus, British Airways and Iberia.

Pla Pintre informed the council in a submission that keeping the current cap of 32 million passengers per annum limits airlines’ capacity to increase flight volumes into Dublin.

“The lack of certainty over the cap makes it challenging to forecast effectively and may compel IAG carriers to focus on other destinations or airports if a decision is delayed,” Pla Pintre said.

Residents in north Dublin are opposing the expansion proposal for the airport, partly due to the potential “increase in noise exposure” for the residents. Fingal County Council is set to decide on the application next month.

Pla Pintre emphasised the urgency for Fingal County Council to decide promptly on increasing the passenger cap. He highlighted the economic risks for Ireland if the decision to increase the passenger cap is delayed.

“Fingal County Council should consider granting an immediate interim increase in the passenger cap at Dublin airport pending the consideration of the full planning application,” said Pla Pintre.

He highlighted that the increase in the passenger cap would serve as a catalyst, strengthening the viability of current routes, encouraging the creation of new ones and providing the certainty needed to consider additional flights on existing routes and explore the establishment of new routes into Dublin.

Retaining the existing cap of 32 mppa restricts airlines’ ability to grow volumes into Dublin

Jordi Pla Pintre, director of network strategy and long-term planning at Vueling Airlines.

Other airlines support expansion

Besides Vueling, other airlines, namely Emirates, Jetblue, WestJet, Hainan Airlines, and HiSky Europe, also pushed for Dublin Airport’s passenger cap increase.

Emirates stressed the importance of increasing Dublin Airport’s passenger capacity for the growth of their services in Ireland, highlighting that proposed infrastructure improvements will enhance airport efficiency. The airline also warned that the situation might lead it to explore other destinations or airports.

Jeffrey Goodell, vice president of government and airport affairs of US carrier JetBlue, informed the council that raising the passenger cap will enable JetBlue to initiate or expand services in Dublin, resulting in more competitive and diverse offerings for consumers.JetBlue is set to start transatlantic services from Dublin to JFK New York, and Boston next month.

Hainan Airlines plans to restart flights between Beijing and Dublin in April. The company’s representative revealed that the route will initially operate next Tuesday and Saturday, with a target to increase the frequency to four flights per week. However, they face a challenge due to a lack of available slots attributed to infrastructure constraints.

WestJet director Jared Mikoch-Gerke cautioned that sustained growth in Dublin Airport’s infrastructure is crucial. He emphasised that without it, adding capacity and new routes to the market would be challenging in the long term.

WestJet runs flights between Dublin and Canada. Mikoch-Gerke said that WestJet anticipates flying around 84,000 seats from Dublin in 2024, a substantial increase from the 18,000 seats operated in 2014.

“Dublin Airport is already facing critical capacity constraints as was demonstrated by the DAA’s challenge and requirement to limit capacity growth in 2024 as a result of approaching their current passenger cap of 32 million passengers,” said Mikoch-Gerke.

HiSky deputy chief executive Victor Sula informed the council that the airline’s flights between Dublin and Romania and Moldova could utilise Dublin as a connecting hub for transatlantic flights. Sula explained that their operations in Dublin couldn’t expand further due to airport capacity limitations.

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