Dublin airport operator says 'wildly wrong' on travel rebound

The forecast on which Dublin airport based its 2022 staffing needs has proven "wildly wrong" and the airport cut too many staff during the COVID-19 pandemic, its chief executive said on Wednesday as he apologised for a weekend of travel chaos.

More than 1,000 passengers missed flights at Ireland's main airport on Sunday as staff shortages forced travellers to queue for hours to pass through security, a scene replicated in other parts of Europe as airports struggled to meet a strong recovery in demand. Read more

Dublin Airport Authority (DAA) CEO Dalton Philips said airports were running on "very, very fine margins" and that higher than usual staff absences and the accidental rostering of trainee security staff compounded the queuing issues on Sunday.

"We felt going into 2022 with 70% of our (pre-COVID) staff we'd be OK and we were wrong ... We were wildly wrong in terms of the recovery levels," Philips told a parliamentary committee.

He said no industry analyst believed that traffic would come back to pre-pandemic levels until 2024 or 2025. In Dublin, it has returned to 90% of pre-COVID levels in recent weeks and is set to pass that mark in the coming year, he added.

The DAA made 25% of its staff redundant at the height of the pandemic, which Philips accepted was too grave a cut.

He said the airport would increase its number of security screening staff - a particular pinch point - to 702 by the end of June from 535 currently and hoped to add another 100 during the summer to reach pre-pandemic levels.

Philips also said he does not envisage a repeat of Sunday's problems during the coming bank holiday weekend with 10% more staff rostered through a combination of offering triple pay for overtime, releasing security staff from other activities and adding others from smaller, regional Irish airports.

It will also set up a holding area outside the terminals in the coming days to be used for those who arrive too early for flights if the airport becomes too busy. Passengers are advised to arrive 2-1/2 to 3-1/2 hours before their flights.

Source: Reuters

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