The Dublin Airport Authority has said it will provide a refund to passengers who missed their flights as a result of long delays on Sunday, as ministers expressed “deep dissatisfaction” with waiting times.
An urgent meeting between the minister responsible for aviation and the Dublin Airport Authority is due to take place on Monday morning, as Taoiseach Micheál Martin described the situation as “unsatisfactory”.
Earlier on Sunday, the DAA warned passengers that they could miss their flights due to long queues and problems related to check-in and security screening at its terminals.
Minister of State for Transport Hildegarde Naughton, who is responsible for international transport, said she had moved up her meeting with the DAA chief executive to early Monday morning. She said that she should try to get clarity on the reasons behind Sunday’s events.
Both Ms Naughton and Transport Minister Eamon Ryan expressed their “profound unhappiness” with what they described as excessively long queues.
“The passenger experience at Dublin Airport falls far short of the service our citizens and visitors should expect at our largest state airport,” they said in a joint statement.
Both said it was unsatisfactory that some people, who were following DAA guidelines, had made it to the airport to check in on time but still missed their flights.
“The situation is causing undue stress and potential cost to people, which is simply not good enough,” they said.
Ms Naughton said she would also seek guarantees for potential passengers ahead of the upcoming June bank holiday weekend, where a further increase in numbers is expected.
Minister Naughton has held daily meetings with the DAA chief executive at the height of the security backlog issues when they first surfaced in March, and has held meetings twice a week since then.
A Dublin airport spokesman said 50,000 passengers were expected to pass through on Sunday.
“Queuing outside both terminals has been implemented from early morning as part of Dublin Airport’s contingency plans for the increased number of passengers travelling,” the airport said in a statement.
“Due to significant queues inside the terminals, passengers queuing outside the terminal have been advised that they may not make their flight and may need to contact their airline to rebook. Dublin Airport sincerely apologizes for the obvious frustration and inconvenience this is causing.”
Graeme McQueen, DAA’s media relations manager, acknowledged that passengers were waiting “two to three hours” to access the terminal at some points on Sunday.
“It comes in waves, but at 11 a.m. this morning, the queue for Terminal 1 was right at the bottom of the ramp.”
Long queues and wait times of several hours to get through security at the airport have been reported several times in the last three months.
“Ever since the scenes we had in late March, we’ve been trying to get ahead of the numbers. Unfortunately, today the numbers caught up with us,” McQueen said.
The authority was “increasing” the number of employees at the airport, he said, but many recent recruits were still going through vetting and training procedures.
“Originally we were hiring 300 employees, we’ve increased it now to 370 and we had 5,000 applications for the jobs, so it’s really positive demand.”
Of the initial 300 new recruits, 200 had either started or been given start dates, he said. “There’s a pretty onerous security clearance process that needs to go through, but we should see the numbers go up very soon.”
Last month, DAA said it would work to “refine and adapt” its operations after passengers were forced to queue outside the terminal building during the Easter holiday period.
Travelers intending to use the airport on Sunday shared images of long queues outside both terminals and expressed frustration over the situation on social media.
Daire NicAonghusa checked Ryanair and airport advice online in the morning before arriving at the airport two and a half hours before her flight to Edinburgh from Terminal 1. “It was actually quite scary to drive… there was a lot of of people outside. It seemed that the airport had been evacuated.”
“We spent about 45 minutes trying to figure out what was going on. I joined the queue… this queue was doubled in the tunnel [from the car park]doubled outside the building and security is not allowing anyone else to enter the building at this time,” he said.
“There are thousands of people in this queue…no one manages the queues, there is no advice on what was going on…there was just one security guard saying ‘get in the queue’.”
Ms. NicAonghusa said that the queue barely moved at that time and that her flight was about 90 minutes away and opted to stop trying to enter the terminal building. Instead, she rebooked on another flight to Edinburgh from Belfast on Monday.
“I would not go back [to Dublin] … I could have gotten other cheaper flights from Dublin, but I thought ‘no’… it’s a joke… I never went near the building”.
On Sunday afternoon, An Garda Síochána confirmed that members of the airport garda station force were assisting with crowd control in the terminals.
Also on Sunday, Sinn Féin transport spokesman Darren O’Rourke TD said the DAA, the airport’s operating body, must ensure passengers are compensated for missing their flights due to delays.
“We have witnessed chaotic scenes at Dublin Airport today with the likely consequence of passengers missing their flights. This is completely unacceptable. It is a management failure. It is a failure to prepare for known demand,” O’Rourke said in a statement.