Airport operator DAA will submit a planning application within weeks to increase the passenger cap at Dublin Airport, its chief executive has said.
Kenny Jacobs told Newstalks’ Anton Savage Show that reduced capacity was likely in the short term, with the airport allowed to handle a maximum of 32 million passengers a year, “which we are close to achieving this year”.
The state-owned company reported more than 25 million passengers in Dublin in the first nine months of this year, with the number of travelers returning to levels not seen since the coronavirus shutdown. This has increased the likelihood that the cap will be exceeded by the end of the year.
“We may be looking at a few years where we will have limited capacity growth,” Mr Jacobs said, adding that this was not new news and he shared the frustration over the issue expressed by Aer Lingus chief executive Lynne Embleton .
“This is something we would like to have fixed quickly so we can continue to grow because Ireland needs this.”
The restriction dates back to 2008, when planners approved the airport’s second terminal, and is based on land access, or the number of vehicles allowed in and out of Dublin Airport.
“It’s a planning constraint…we’ve been trying to change it since 2008 but a few things got in the way. There was a delay with the 2008 financial crisis, then came the Covid pandemic,” he said.
“We will be submitting a new planning application to Fingal County Council in a few weeks. Once approved, we can grow to over 40 million in the coming decade and beyond.”
Mr Jacobs said that to keep up with population changes, Dublin Airport would need to be able to handle 36 million or 37 million passengers a year by 2030.
“I think we’re going to have two years where it’s going to be difficult for anyone who wants to come to Dublin airport – I’m talking about airlines – to do so,” he said. “If I had a magic wand I would say if we got planning permission on January 1st everything would be great. I think it will probably take two years.”
He added: “The risk for Ireland is that the airlines will simply not say, ‘Okay, this suits us, we’ll wait’, but they will take capacity elsewhere.” Elsewhere, in reality, it will not be different Irish airports, but places like Manchester and Edinburgh. This means we will lose jobs.”
Ms Embleton last week described as “totally unacceptable” Dublin Airport’s request for the company to consider reducing the number of “ad hoc” flights it operates to and from the airport over the next year so that it can can meet its passenger limit.
She said the situation was “frustrating” and should have been addressed sooner. She added that it was in the national interest for the matter to be resolved, considering how much aviation brings to the economy.