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The ease of access through Shannon Airport has been amply demonstrated in contrast to Dublin Airport. Photograph by Eugene McCafferty

Dublin Airport crisis a tipping point for Irish aviation policy

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THE crisis at Dublin Airport is due in part to short-term failings, but also flawed aviation policy which saw it cater for approximately seven out of every eight flights into and out of Ireland, according to Clare TD Michael McNamara.

“If you put all your eggs into one basket and it breaks then you’ve got a big problem and that’s what the country has done. But the management of human resources at Dublin has also been inadequate, to say the least,” he said.

He said that there are policy levers that can be pulled to rebalance aviation, taking pressure off Dublin and giving more traffic to the other airports that need it.

“You could set a cap on the number of flights going into Dublin Airport or alternatively you could set maximum percentages.

“For airlines, you could say that a maximum of 75% of your flights can be into Dublin, so if you have 100 flights a week you have to have 25 into the other airports, into Cork, Shannon or Knock.”

He said this is done elsewhere in Europe, referencing the Netherlands where he he noted the Dutch authorities have done something similar; airlines that fly into Schiphol also have to fly into other regional airports.

Deputy McNamara said the current crisis in Dublin shows that Shannon is a better option for a huge part of the country.

“Obviously it doesn’t make sense for people from Dublin City to come to Shannon to fly, but for people from the Midlands right up to Kildare from leaving home to being on a flight you’d do it far more quickly to Shannon than Dublin. That’s in normal times, not just now. I’m not sure there’s a sufficient awareness of that.”

A new national aviation policy is to be devised, and he said it’s up to Government TDs to make sure it is supportive of smaller airports, such as Shannon.

One of those government TDs is Cathal Crowe and he said he favours limiting Dublin’s dominance, which was increasing prior to the pandemic.

“Prior to Covid, 86% of all inbound and outbound flights in Ireland were through Dublin Airport.

“This was the highest amount to a capital city airport throughout the European Union bloc.

“Countries such as the Netherlands and Finland foresaw the difficulties that an overdominance of one airport would have on their national aviation landscape and they have devised policies that ensure that landings and take-offs at their capital city airports are capped and that aviation is given a more regional spread.

“I think this is a fantastic idea and could work very well in the Irish context.

“Airports like Shannon, which has the longest runway in Ireland, low parking charges and one of the most modernised security systems in the EU, are ripe for growth and have huge capacity to take on additional airlines and carriers.”

He said he would be holding a series of consultative events to engage with the public, prior to the drafting of the new aviation policy.

Cathaoirleach of Clare County Council PJ Ryan said the current crisis at Dublin shows the folly of the acquisitive approach it took in recent years, looking for a greater and greater share of the Irish market.

“We’ve been calling for it for a number of years, that there needs to be a serious change to aviation policy in Ireland. This has really highlighted it.

“Dublin wanted it all, it got it all, it’s not able to manage it. It’s a disaster for Dublin Airport and for Dublin city.”

He also called for the Government to put limits on Dublin.

“In a number of other countries they have a model where 60% of traffic goes into the capital and 40% goes to other regional airports. That’s what we’re looking for. It’d make a massive difference to Dublin Airport and Dublin city.”

He called for action to be taken quickly: “There’s no point in waiting until this happens again. It’s a decision the Minister for Transport can make tomorrow, that 60% of traffic goes into Dublin and the remaining 40% into the rest of the country.”

About Owen Ryan

Owen Ryan has been a journalist with the Clare Champion since 2007, having previously worked for a number of other regional titles in Limerick, Galway and Cork.