Airlines face higher passenger charges at Dublin Airport following a regulator’s ruling on Friday.
Airport operator DAA earlier this year sought an increase to €12.58 per passenger, from €8.50 currently, for 2023, with further hikes to €14.58 in 2026 to support a €2.5 billion investment plan.
Air travel consumer watchdog the Commission for Aviation Regulation (CAR) on Friday set an €8.68 per passenger price cap for next year, with increases up to €11.73 in 2026, on condition that DAA meets spending pledges.
A DAA spokesman warned that the ruling undermined its efforts to ensure that passengers waited less than 30 minutes at security, a target set by the regulator, and to avoid the delays and missed flights encountered last summer.
Consultants hired by the commission did not include the cost of paying up to 240 of the extra security staff that the airport would need by 2026, he said.
“The decision disregards the operational lessons learned from Covid-19 and the necessity for even greater staff numbers in key operational areas,” he said.
The spokesman pointed out that this contradicted calls from passengers and politicians to hire more security officers and improve efficiency.
The consultants’ decision to “disallow” the security costs does not prevent DAA from hiring the staff, but it means that it cannot include the extra wage bill in its charges.
Even so, Ryanair, Dublin Airport’s biggest airline, accused the regulator of playing Santa to DAA by gifting it a passenger charge hike.
Eddie Wilson, Ryanair DAC chief executive, calculated that Dublin’s charges would increase 45 per cent by 2026 with no benefit to passengers or tourism.
Mr Wilson highlighted a planned tunnel under one of the airport’s taxiways, which will cost €200 million, as one of the unnecessary “gold-plated” projects for which the DAA was seeking extra cash.
He called on the State airports company’s incoming chief executive, former Ryanair marketing boss Kenny Jacobs, to review his predecessor’s projects and scrap those that do nothing for passengers or service.
David Hodnett, CAR deputy commissioner, explained that the charges reflected that passenger numbers at Dublin would continue growing, to 35.7 million in 2026, after hitting 31.7 million this year.
“With the recovery in aviation it is timely for Dublin Airport to invest significantly in key pieces of national infrastructure,” he said.
DAA plans to expand the airport’s facilities to allow it to cope with a projected 40 million passengers per year by 2030 at a likely cost of €2.5 billion.
The commission maintains that its ruling will allow Dublin to generate €1.4 billion over four years from passenger charges, and the same amount from shops, car parks and property.
It is allowing for total spending of €3 billion, including €425 million to enable the airport meet climate targets. Dublin Airport must invest €2.1 billion of this by 2026.
“We expect the level of service delivered by Dublin Airport to return to pre-pandemic levels throughout the period,” said Mr Hodnett.
DAA argues that passenger charge increases have no “discernible” impact on air fares. However, airlines maintain that they are a cost with consequences for their profitability and which influences decisions on where they base aircraft.
Dublin’s dominant position in the Irish market means that the CAR sets its charges. It takes DAA’s views along with those of airlines, the travel and tourism industries, and others into account.
Aer Lingus, the airport’s other key customer, noted the ruling, saying it would study it in detail over coming days.