Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees
Wednesday, 14 June 2023
Joint Oireachtas Committee on Transport, Tourism and Sport
Security, Recruitment and Training at Dublin Airport: Discussion
Apologies have been received from Deputy Steven Matthews. The purpose of the meeting today is for the committee to discuss security, recruitment and training at Dublin Airport, and the recently announced 15-point plan for the summer period. I am very pleased to welcome, on behalf of the committee, Mr. Kenny Jacobs, CEO of the Dublin Airport Authority, DAA; and Mr. Graeme McQueen, media relations manager with the DAA.
Witnesses are reminded of the long-standing parliamentary practice that they should not criticise or make charges against any person or entity by name or in such a way as to make him, her or it identifiable, or otherwise engage in speech that might be regarded as damaging to the good name of the person or entity. Therefore, if a statement is potentially defamatory in relation to an identifiable person or entity, witnesses will be directed to discontinue their remarks. It is imperative that they comply with any such direction.
Members are reminded of the long-standing parliamentary practice to the effect that they should not comment on, criticise or make charges against a person outside the Houses or an official either by name or in such a way as to make him or her identifiable. I also remind members of the constitutional requirement that they must be physically present within the confines of the Leinster House complex in order to participate in public meetings. I will not permit members to participate where they are not adhering to this constitutional requirement. Therefore, any member who attempts to participate from outside the precincts will be asked to leave the meeting. In this regard, I ask members participating via Microsoft Teams to confirm, prior to making their contributions, that they are on the grounds of the Leinster House campus.
I remind members in particular that we will not be discussing the north runway planning issue, which is an ongoing planning matter, or the whistleblower security issue, because that is related to the Protected Disclosures Act 2014, and we are not in a position to discuss that at the moment. I now call Mr. Jacobs. Has he brought us a presentation?
Mr. Kenny Jacobs:
I have. It is a good way to summarise where we are at, so I thank the committee for that opportunity.
It is good to be here. I thank the committee for the invitation to be here. I was unable to come the first time I was invited, because there were two topics that I do not think I would have been able to talk in depth about, and that would have been frustrating for the members. It is now a couple of months later, and we have started the busy summer period, so I am also able to give members a better description of where we are, and how we see the very busy summer that we will operate through in the weeks ahead.
I am going to take the committee through a presentation. This will take a maximum of 12 to 15 minutes. It will answer some questions and give members a really good flavour of the key things going on in Dublin Airport and Cork Airport and across the wider business. I am very happy to dive in at the end and take any questions members may have.
This presentation will cover general background, a Dublin Airport update, a Cork Airport update, sustainability and infrastructure in the coming years at Dublin Airport, conclusions, where we are at, and how the business will travel forward. Then I will outline some key asks I would have of the committee. From our point of view, we want to grow the business, make it innovative and give a much better passenger experience as we grow the business in the years ahead.
This slide is a great one for Ireland. It shows the position we have in global aviation. The DAA group operates in 15 countries. We are managing five airports: Dublin Airport, Cork Airport, half of King Khalid International Airport in Riyadh, the big terminal at King Abdulaziz International Airport in Jeddah, and we will manage the soon-to-open Red Sea International Airport on the northern coast of Saudi Arabia. We have travel retail operations in 27 different airports, and we employ around 3,500 staff. Members can see some historic former Aer Rianta locations when it comes to retail, but for me this is a really good slide that demonstrates the strength of Irish aviation between ourselves, the leasing industry, Aer Lingus and Ryanair. The Irish are very good at aviation, and we have garnered great respect around the world with regard to how we do aviation.
The next slide explains the economic impact for Ireland of the DAA's operations. Some 116,000 Irish jobs are facilitated by Dublin Airport, and about 10,000 jobs by Cork Airport. We account for over €5 billion in wages in the Irish economy. We make an economic contribution of €9.6 billion in Dublin, and another €1 billion in Cork. We spend around €227 million on Irish suppliers each year. There is a very significant economic contribution from the DAA group here in Ireland.
Moving on to Dublin Airport, I would describe it as a positive performance year to date. We have 190 destinations, more than we have ever had, and 44 airlines in this coming summer. We have recently added Montreal and Vancouver as routes that are being restored post Covid-19, which is exciting news. The Dublin to Beijing route will be operated by Hainan Airlines from China. There are 1,400 flights each week across 30 European cities, and 180 flights each week to the USA. Dublin is now the fifth best-connected transatlantic hub in Europe. We have around 600 flights a day - around 300 flights in, and 300 out - and more in terminal 1 than we have in terminal 2.
When members look at the map, they will see very good coverage. Of course, there are places I would love us to fly to in the coming years, South America being one, India being another. More connectivity to south-east Asia would also be really interesting. We are very strong anywhere into Europe, and very strong anywhere into North America.
Security is strong and stable. The last time I was here at the committee, this was a topic that we spent a lot of time on. I am happy to say that we have really applied our focus to this. For me, the real heroes in Dublin Airport are the operational and security staff who have really put in a very strong performance. We are in a good place, and the operation is stable. The passenger experience, including the time that, critically, is spent getting through security, is and will continue to be the number one focus.
Queue times are stable since the summer of 2022. May 2023 was our busiest month ever in Dublin Airport. We had 3.05 million passengers, 95% of them getting through Dublin Airport in less than 20 minutes. I am delighted to be able to say that. That would be a really strong performance from any major hub airport across Europe. We see that in the feedback we get from passengers and airlines. We are in a markedly different place when it comes to the operating standards at the airport, everything from washrooms, to seating, to being able to get tea, coffee and food. Principally, the biggest thing that annoyed people last year was the anxiety that was created on how long it was going to take them to get through security. Some 95% got through in May 2023 in less than 20 minutes, and 99.5% of passengers, this year to date, have got through security in less than 30 minutes. We are in a very different place.
We are well resourced to meet the demand coming up to the summer. We are now coming into the third weekend of the summer, and every single day in June is a day with over 100,000 passengers. This weekend will be our third big weekend. For me, these are all cup final weekends, but the team is in a very good place and very motivated. We have got very good momentum, and as I said, for me the heroes in this story are the members of the team at Dublin Airport.
We now have 850 people in our security team. The last time I was at the committee, I said we were aiming to hire up to 811, so we have gone over that number. We have improved pay and conditions for the team. For me, it is a very well-motivated team. I can see that every single day when I am up in the terminal. The biggest thing that motivates them is every one of the green days, when one is getting 90% or more of people through security in 20 minutes, and everything else goes well from there to the gate.
We have hired 500 security officers since the start of the year, including 150 seasonal people, who will not be doing the screening and looking at what is in passengers' bags on the screen. They will be doing what we call divesting. Many of these will be students from Dublin City University, DCU, from other parts of Dublin and from other universities, who will be wearing the pink vest and advising passengers that on certain lanes they take liquids out of their bag, and on other lanes they do not.
We ran radio ads about six weeks ago telling the travelling public to please be at the airport two hours before they fly if they are flying short-haul from Dublin, and three hours beforehand if they are flying long-haul. That is back to general pre-Covid-19 travel advice. That is a very good place to be. Last year we were telling people to come to the airport four hours before they were flying. In hindsight, that was not necessary. We ended up with a lot of families sitting on the terrazza waiting for their Ryanair or Aer Lingus flight to somewhere in Spain. It is back now to business as usual. The summer will be a challenge. Big numbers are coming through. There are particular Fridays and Sundays and early mornings where we will have large numbers going through but we are ready. We have worked very hard over the past number of months to get ready. Some 425,000 people left Dublin Airport to go the sunshine on the June weekend and we performed very strongly. As I said, every day in June and in July will be a 100,000-passenger day that we are ready for.
On security, members can view the diagrams I have provided but the longer term aim I have is that we make a passenger promise to get 90% of people through in less than 15 minutes. Part of that relates to the charge and being able to have the resilience baked into our profit and loss. A big part of that is the new technologies that will come into play. What I am talking about here are the C3 scanning machines. These are fantastic machines from a regulatory compliance point of view. They are very good from a processing and throughput point of view and for the general operation of security. This is like moving from X-ray machines to CAT scan machines. Passengers do not have to take the liquids out of their bags so it is a better passenger experience. It means fewer bags have to be siphoned off for manual check. Passengers will go through a walk-through metal detector and then about half of passengers will be selected for an additional body scan. It is a much more secure and much more future-proofed environment and it also gives us much better throughput and processing so as we grow at Dublin Airport we are able to also get through more passengers through security in faster timeframes using the best of technology, which is also good for compliance. We will be introducing these in Dublin in T1 and T2. We will also be introducing them in Cork. We now have five machines in place and are aiming to have these fully rolled out in T2 for the start of summer next year and then in T1 for the start of the following summer. That is a long enough timeframe because we need to do work reinforcing the floors. If members know what a CAT machine looks like, it is a much bigger piece of equipment than an X-ray machine. These are a key part of the innovation that will allow us to make Dublin and Cork airports much better for passengers and provide a much more seamless passenger experience. There will be a job to do explaining to people that they now do not need to take the liquids out of their bags but so far the five lines we have in Dublin Airport are working very well.
In the run up to Easter, we announced a 15-point improvement plan for Dublin Airport. This is our commitment to get 90% of people through security in 20 minutes or less. We have added 400 new seats in Dublin Airport and we have added new family seating zones in T1 and T2. We have gone back to our pre-Covid-19 cleaning standards. We have 500 washrooms across T1 and T2 at Dublin. Those washrooms get 1,500 hours of cleaning every single day. We have permanent attendants in place at the most-used washrooms that we have in the airport and the scores we are getting from the passengers using the washrooms are much better. We have doubled the Wi-Fi capacity, therefore if people are waiting within the two and three hour travel advisory we have issued, they will be able to stream on their phones and on their iPads. That is a much better experience. A new security fast track has been doubled in T1. There are 20% more charging points for mobile devices. We are adding 25% more taxi permits by the end of this month which will get us close to 2,000 taxi permits at Dublin Airport. Nine out of ten passengers wait less than ten minutes for a taxi but there are particularly acute times such as on Sunday evenings when a lot of our flights are arriving back in and that is when the taxi queue will be at its worst. We would all acknowledge that we have a taxi shortage in Ireland. We are trying to get as many permits as we can issued at Dublin Airport and look at other transportation options to do everything we can to make that a better solution for passengers. We have added new places to eat, with more to come over the summer, and we have added pop-up coffee shops where people can get tea, coffee, water and food essentials at the end of pier 1 and in terminal 2.
Moving on to car parking, I think the members will have some questions on this one. We have 23,000 spaces at Dublin Airport and we are restricted from opening more for a number of reasons, of which Government policy on transport is one. Long-term car park spaces are capped at €15 per day; that is cheaper than four hours parking in the city centre. Hundreds of thousands of bookings made for this summer are for as little as €8 per day for car parking so there is a bit of a myth that it is really expensive. There is also a bit of a myth that people cannot get a car parking space. If someone goes on to the website today and wants to book a space for July and August, they will get one. If you are dropping or picking someone up from the airport this weekend, we have spaces reserved for short-term dropping and picking up of passengers. It is a much calmer and well operated situation when it comes to car parking. I do not think it is the drama that has been portrayed in the media. What is the number one thing I would like? More spaces. We would like to have the QuickPark spaces. If we get those 6,200 spaces, I will give a commitment that we will be operational probably within a week and we will be able to operate those spaces. Then we can say to the travelling public that many more of them will get a car park space. No airport can that say every single passenger group travelling will get a car park space. If we get those 6,200 spaces, our car park spaces to passenger ratio will be quite healthy for an airport. I think we will and it is just a matter of when we get them and when we can operate them. It is about getting those spaces as quickly as we can. If we get that green light, we will operate within a week. I hope that process concludes.
Last summer, we made an offer to the owners of the QuickPark site to operate that site. We have again made that offer while the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission, CCPC, process is running. The owners of the site say they do not want to do that. That is a question for them and that is their choice. We are ready to go as soon as we get the green light and our objective here is to have more spaces in order to take away the anxiety for the travelling public around car parking spaces in Dublin being a very rare commodity. I would like to reassure the committee that there are spaces available in July and August. There are other ways to get to the airport and that is the trajectory of travel in Ireland which we fully support. Dublin Airport is already the biggest bus station in the country and there are new bus routes being added. I have already explained what we are doing on taxi permits and we have the metro north station beside the church at the airport ready to go. We will continue to be fully supportive of metro north and BusConnects in the future as more people will go on their holidays and take public transport as the transportation choice to the airport.
Moving on to charges, I want to reiterate this point. People are asking if we have an ambition to become an expensive airport. We do not. We are not a monopoly. To be a monopoly, an organisation sets its prices and is milking it from its customers. As members will know, the price is set by an independent regulator. The average charge at Dublin Airport today is about €7.60. I am obviously contrasting that with someone paying €9 for a pint in Temple Bar. I also contrast it with €38 being the price of airport charges at Heathrow Airport. We never want to be a Heathrow. We never want to be a high-cost airport. We are a Lidl and Aldi when it comes to airport charges. The average charge at Dublin Airport is less than half of the European average airport charge. We would like to see a modest increase in airport charges so that we can guarantee a resilient year-round operation. If we get that charge up to something like €9.99, we are still well below the European average capital city airport charge. Let us be honest, Dublin is not a low-cost European capital city but we want to stay a very cheap airport for airlines because that is good for us. That is what our model is based on. We have very low operational expenditure and we want to continue to be a very efficient airport but it would allow us to have a very resilient operation and say to our passengers that we could give them a security queue of 15 minutes of less.
I am nearly there. I will quickly touch on drone technology which we did not talk about the last time but since then we have had a number of drone incidents. The Government requested that the DAA procure the counter-drone technology equipment as an interim solution. We purchased the kit in March. Our fire services team was trained and ready to go since early April. New regulatory approvals were then highlighted by the Irish Aviation Authority, IAA, from a safety point of view, and by ComReg from a radio frequency point of view. We have been working through those with the IAA and ComReg. I am happy to say that last week we passed the safety tests with the IAA therefore I am optimistic we will get a green light in the coming weeks. There are three steps to counter-drone measures. The first is the de-drone perimeter system which is something that is working well and is an investment we have made a number of years ago. This tells you when a drone has come near the airfield. Then essentially the Airport Police Service and An Garda Síochána will respond.
That is working very well. We have apprehended a number of individuals and some individuals have been prosecuted for flying a drone within 5 km directly over the airfield. It is a good message to people engaging in this type of activity so they understand it is illegal and they should not do it. The second measure is the counter-drone technology the fire service is waiting to get the green light on. This will allow us to take control of a drone that is in the airfield and send it back where it came from. An Garda Síochána will then work with the airport fire service to apprehend any individual who was controlling that drone. We are weeks away. We have moved very quickly. We are pioneers on this as it is the first time Ireland is doing it. Ultimately we need to have counter-drone technology over Croke Park, Heuston Station, Dublin Port and over other airports. This is something that I would envisage being a problem in the years ahead that Ireland needs a solution for.
Moving on to Cork Airport, it will do about 2.7 million traffic this year. It is in a very healthy condition. New routes are being announced in Cork all the time. These would be new winter routes for Ryanair and new summer routes. I am happy to say that Ryanair and Aer Lingus are both growing at Cork Airport and we can see how traffic here has really recovered. Moving on to the next slide, we can see that Cork Airport is one of the best judged regional airports across Europe in the eyes of the passengers who use it. We are very appreciative of recent Government funding for the electrical substation. The C3 scanning technology I have already described will be installed in Cork over the years ahead. Ultimately, as Cork city and the region develop I see a very strong future for Cork Airport. There is very strong demand there as businesses locate in Cork and the population grows. We see great potential for Cork Airport to grow in a sustainable way in the years ahead. Moving on to our Cork regional airport policy submission, our key ask here is that the Irish state aid limits for regional airports are aligned with the relevant EU limits on operating aid and investment capital aid in the years ahead.
I will touch on sustainability and infrastructure before wrapping up. Aviation has to be and is part of the world's tackling the global challenge we face on sustainability. We have made a commitment to be net zero by 2050 and will cut our carbon emissions by more than half by 2030. We are introducing a solar farm at phase 1 and that project is under way. That will give us about 12% of our energy needs at Dublin Airport. These will be fields near the airstrip. We recently announced a 25% discount on airport charges for new quieter and cleaner aircraft, these being the Airbus neos or Boeing MAX aircraft. We strongly support airlines transitioning to sustainable aviation fuels. More needs to happen globally on sustainable aviation fuels. It is something that gets a lot of talk and it is part of the future but globally there is not enough sustainable aviation fuel to power the aircraft flying to and from Dublin Airport. A lot needs to happen with the fuel manufacturers. We will also achieve zero waste to landfill across our business by 2050. We are putting a strong focus on air quality, water, noise, biodiversity and local communities as part of our sustainability plan.
We have a €2 billion capital plan to grow and enhance the experience for passengers and airlines. A key element is the north apron, item 1 on the diagram. That is principally pier 1 where Ryanair is the main airline operating. The south apron will be a new pier and an extension to US pre-clearance. It will benefit all the airlines flying transatlantic and will allow us to have additional transatlantic frequencies, reduce some bottlenecks and improve things operationally. In the terminal there are plans for new C3 machines which I have described. There is a plan to extend the mezzanine in terminal 1. I assume everybody flies from time to time from terminal 1. There is that great upstairs area and we have a lot of space that we could use there. We intend to put fast-track up there, build a new lounge and have some new retail there. That allows us to fully utilise the terminal 1 asset as we intend to grow. It will give a much improved passenger experience as part of the work we see happening in terminal 1. In the airfield, we need an underpass for safety, operational and sustainability reasons. There are plans for new drainage infrastructure. Landside, we plan for public transport infrastructure, parking and new car hire facilities. It is a big capital infrastructure plan which is very much contingent on the infrastructure application we will be lodging later in the year.
My last slide is about key asks and dependencies. On national aviation policy, the ask is to support Dublin as a hub and increase connectivity. The last time I was at the committee, and I say this as someone from Cork, I said that really Dublin is the national airport. That is the way we should describe it. As a former aviation person, I would say that is the way the airlines view it as well. Dublin is a national hub that happens to be called Dublin Airport. Then we have the regional airports. I am a supporter of all of the regional airports operating well and growing well. We have to view Dublin Airport as being a different type of airport. It is Dublin's airport and Leinster's airport but it is also the national hub.
We need to rethink the regulatory model. I am not criticising the regulator. I am just saying that when it comes to the regulatory model, Dublin is a high-cost capital city. We have a regulated charge that is less than half of the European average. I can mention Sofia, Rome, Warsaw, or any European capital where they are talking about a much higher charge. That has a direct impact on our resilience, our infrastructure plan and the type of airport we want to operate for our passengers. We would also ask for support when it comes to non-aero investments, things like arrivals duty-free which we think will be a very interesting product in the years ahead. Another ask is reform of the planning legislation. Planning is central to infrastructure development. We all know that planning needs to go faster when it comes to housing but it also needs to go faster when it comes to infrastructure and sustainability. For Ireland to hit its sustainability targets, planning needs to work and deliver on time. We need to strike the right balance between sustainability and connectivity. I know the committee will have questions on this. We need to align national bodies and policies around that and get planning moving faster. A key thing for me is that Dublin Airport is capped at 32 million. The population of the Republic of Ireland today is 5.033 million. If for sustainability nobody travelled more and we all just continued doing the amount of travelling we are doing today, we would still need Dublin Airport at about 38 million just to keep pace with the population. The natural increase in capacity at Dublin Airport needs to get us to an airport of about 38 million by 2030, just to keep pace with our very strong population growth. That is a key fact that everybody needs to bear in mind. We can grow in aviation in a more sustainable way. I refer to newer aircraft; electric taxiing of the aircraft whereby they are electricity-powered when they are on the ground instead of using their engines; and running a very efficient airfield operation. All of these things matter and help when it comes to reducing the amount of carbon dioxide per passenger kilometre. Not all flying is the same. Not all flying is as bad as other types of flying. We certainly want to incentivise the right type of flying, which is newer aircraft and higher load factors - that is a much more efficient model. On surface access, we would highlight prioritisation of the key public transportation projects which will allow more people to use metro north and BusConnects to get to Dublin Airport. I thank the committee for the opportunity to present an overview of where we are for the summer. I am very happy to take questions from members.
I thank Mr. Jacobs for a very comprehensive 26-minute presentation. It covered a lot of issues and I am sure we will have plenty of questions. I have to go to a vote so I will ask someone to take over the Chair. Deputy Lowry has the first slot and he has ten minutes with a further two to conclude.
I welcome Mr. Jacobs and thank him for his presentation and the information he has forwarded to us. We are happy to hear that plans for the summer are positive. A lot of work has taken place and hopefully we will not have a recurrence of the issues we had at the airport last year. Based on what I hear from people who travel through Dublin Airport on a regular basis, the experience has improved. The facilities that are available at the airport are far greater than they were in the past. They seem to be improving all the time. The area of contention for people who travel from outside Dublin is overnight accommodation. It is a serious issue as regards availability and cost. This summer the big issue is parking. We have people finding themselves paying more for car parking for a week than they pay for their flights.
It is a big issue and is off-putting. People from regional areas are looking to their regional airports rather than going through the main airport in Dublin because of the cost of parking. It is a huge issue.
I have read about the land that is becoming available and is on the market. I think it amounts to 260 acres. What is Mr. Jacobs's intention in relation to that? Does he have any plan for that? Does it form any part of DAA's plan to develop and expand facilities at the airport?
On another matter, Mr. Jacobs mentioned that DAA will be charging less for newer, quieter planes. Will Mr. Jacobs explain that in more detail? He referred to the fact they can be more efficient and reduce CO2 emissions. How near are we to that happening? Is that kind of aircraft available? When Mr. Jacobs said "charge less", what did he mean? Is it landing charges? Will he explain what he has in mind for that?
Mr. Jacobs mentioned one of the serious issues. He was careful not to criticise the regulator. Will he outline the changes that are needed for the regulatory model? What would assist DAA in relation to the changes that we should be promoting in that area?
Mr. Kenny Jacobs:
I thank the Deputy for his positive feedback. As I said at the start, the heroes in Dublin Airport have really improved things and I am delighted the Deputy has received feedback from his constituents that the situation is better. We are giving our commitment that it is up to us now to maintain it. The real heroes are the operations team and the security team and everybody working hard, and they have worked hard. They are certainly in good spirits looking to maintain that standard going forward.
Taking the Deputy's questions on hotels, we hear the same from some passengers. There are hotels at Dublin Airport and I can see more hotel capacity being added around Dublin Airport in the years ahead. I think that is generally an issue across Ireland. You hear that in the cities. We certainly hear it from passengers as well, who have said they thought they would be able to stay downtown but they end up in Kildare or Meath. That sometimes suits but it does not suit other passengers. In regard to hotels across Ireland, it is generally an Irish issue in terms of the capacity of those hotels, the result of which is prices going up in these hotels. All of us who stay in hotels would see that ourselves. I can echo those comments. There is nothing we can do about that other than to acknowledge the same issue that is occurring across Ireland.
On car parking, as I said at the start, there are still plenty of spaces available in July and August. People can go onto the Dublin Airport website today and see spaces in July and August. People can drop off this coming weekend as there are still spaces reserved for that. We have put more staff in to manage the operation. There is increased demand for car parking but I do not think it is the drama that is being played out by some of the media. It is not as bad as that. There are spaces available. Hundreds of thousands of bookings that were made for this summer were for as little as €8 per day. The maximum charge we have on a long-term space is capped at €15. That amounts to about three or four hours of parking in Dublin city centre. The value is good. We would love more spaces. The only thing in regard to car parking that I would like is that there would be more spaces. That is why we are trying to buy the QuickPark site that will give us 6,200 additional spaces. We then think we will have enough spaces to operate in the years ahead as public transport plays a bigger role in people getting to and from the airport. As soon as we get that green light from the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission, CCPC, that is, going ahead with our planned purchase of the QuickPark site, we will operate that car park within a week. We are ready to go. It is just about getting those additional spaces. I do not think the travelling public needs to be as anxious as some say they need to be about car parking spaces. There are still spaces available. People will still be able to drop off. My advice would be that if you are travelling in the middle of August and you are going for two weeks, do not assume that you can come on that day and pull a ticket. It is a limited resource, like seats on an aeroplane are a limited resource. My advice to people is to go to the website and book as quickly as you can because plenty of other people are looking to do the same. We will do our best to manage it. We have been trying to get the 6,200 QuickPark spaces for more than a year.
As to the McEvaddy land and the bigger parcel that has become available, are we interested? Yes, we are. We do not want to pay a crazy price for it because then I will end up back at another committee explaining why we paid a crazy price. We only want to pay what is a sensible and appropriate price for the land. It is not featuring in our plans at present. What we will do next is we will take a look at it. We will evaluate the land over the summer period. Then the board of DAA will determine if we are going to make an offer or not. We may end up being the only bidder for the land but we are not in a rush to do so. It is not at the top of my list. At the top of my list is keeping Dublin Airport right throughout the summer. However, we will certainly take a look at it. I will take a look at it myself. We will evaluate it and then bring it to the board if we are going to make a bid for it, but it will only be at what is a sensible price. I have heard some crazy prices knocking around for the value of the land linked to a big strategic purpose. I do not see it being the piece of land where a third terminal would be based. No one has applied for planning permission for the land for three decades. If it was really strategic, that would have happened by now. We will take a sensible look at it and if we are going to make a bid for it, it would be a sensible bid for it as the summer concludes, subject to board approval.
The newer planes are operating already, which is good news. If I take Ryanair, for example, it has 32 aircraft based at Dublin Airport. Some 16 of those aircraft, that is, half of the Ryanair fleet, are made up of the newer aircraft I described. That is a MAX aircraft which will have a very low CO2 per passenger per kilometre flown. That is the key metric. That is a newer aircraft, with new engines and a high-load factor. It has a lot of seats packed in but this means you get a larger number of people travelling with a lower CO2 output per passenger per kilometre travelled. Aer Lingus is adding a new Airbus neo aircraft to its fleet. These airlines are replacing older aircraft with these newer aircraft that have a much lower noise output. They also have a lower carbon output.
On the regulatory model, which was the Deputy's final point, we are going for the ball and not the man on this one. The part of the ball we are going for is opex and not capex. We are generally satisfied with the modelling part when it comes to capex projects. On the opex piece, we would challenge some of the modelling assumptions that are made. On security, the regulatory charge is based on an assumption that we need 750 staff to run security. When we implement the C3 technology, it will be a much better experience for passenger. We think we will need more than 1,000 staff for security. There are other areas like that that are more operational, that are linked to operational resilience where we think the modelling needs to be opened up again so that we are able to get a modest increase in charges. The key point I want to keep reiterating is that we are never looking to be an expensive airport like Heathrow. We want to stay as a discounter. We want to stay very cheap for airlines. We are looking to move to something that provides a modest increase in charges that gives us the resilience that will allow us to guarantee a much better passenger experience all year round, as we have improved over the past year.
I wish to put on record at the start, because it is a big issue for me locally, the frustration that I am unable to ask questions on the north runway and the planning. That is the issue locally for me and it is the issue of frustration. I hope we can come back and talk about that sometime very soon.
In his presentation, Mr. Jacobs referred to the McEvaddy land and said that he would not envisage use of it for a third terminal. Is that correct? Is the strategic plan for Dublin Airport explicitly to develop a third terminal?
Mr. Kenny Jacobs:
A third terminal is part of the functionality and modularity of how Dublin Airport could develop. To get to a 40 million airport, hypothetically, do we need a third airport? No, we do not. To get to a 50 million airport, decades away, is there a need for a third terminal? Probably. That is something I would see as being on either side of the existing two terminals. Much of this is being driven by a public transportation strategy going forward. To take the far side of the airfield and to have a third terminal there, would require public transportation. We are all trying to make metro north and BusConnects go faster in terms of their delivery to the existing front door of the airfield of Dublin Airport, on the east side of airport. We are better off focusing on doing that first. The logical place for a third terminal is alongside the existing T1 and T2, not on the far side of the airfield. That is why I am saying we do not see it immediately.
We do not look at the land and say that is where the terminal should be. In any event, a third terminal would not be between two runways.
Mr. Kenny Jacobs:
We do not have plans. Airports will have lands they acquire with which they do not do anything. It is land within two runways, but we do not have plans at the moment. It is not part of our strategic planning. We do not look at the lands and say that, to become a 40 million-passenger airport by the end of the decade, we will have to use those lands. That is not our view, position or strategy.
As for the proposed underpass, there is a lot of conversation locally to suggest the development of that would involve opening the western side of the campus for further development in line with a third terminal. I acknowledge Mr. Jacobs is saying it will have to be brought in for safety reasons, but would another outcome of developing the underpass be that it would open the western side?
Mr. Kenny Jacobs:
Yes, it will certainly open it for remote stands in that part of the airfield. Remote stands are becoming a much more commonplace feature of European airports. Developing the underpass will open the western side of the airfield for remote stands, which could be used by charter flights and so on. The underpass is something that gets a lot of attention but it amounts to about €200 million within our overall €2 billion capital expenditure programme and is just one of 60 projects.
We have looked at all the options. They included using the perimeter road but that is a long drive that would involve tugs and other essential operational vehicles driving for 20 minutes to get from one side of the airfield to the other. The other option we considered was a barrier, which operated during the construction phase of the north runway, but the IAA safety regulator said "No" to that. The underpass is really the only option that is safe, operationally efficient and good for sustainability. As the airport grows, having a lot of airport vehicles driving long distances to get to the far side of the airway would not be good for sustainability. If you travel frequently, you will see underpasses at Heathrow, Frankfurt and many other hub airports. The underpass is not a novelty project. For me, it is an essential part of the infrastructure. It will open the western side of the airfield for remote stands but we do not envisage it, at this point, opening the western side for a third terminal.
The DAA's sustainability slide on local environments refers to placing a “strong focus on air quality, water, noise, biodiversity and local communities”. What is the DAA doing in respect of the air quality aspect? I have been working with residents of housing estates in the southern end of Swords, for example, who have experienced increased levels of odour and particulate matter on their windows from aviation fumes, given there is more activity on that side of the airport. What focus does the DAA have on air quality and what practical measures is it looking at developing in that regard?
Mr. Kenny Jacobs:
I will revert to the committee on that and clarify what we and the EPA are both doing and whether there is any overlap. We are monitoring it. It will be part of our community engagement, along with topics such as noise, biodiversity and so on, and it is a key part of our sustainability plan. On the air quality initiatives and in regard to what we do and how that overlaps with the EPA, I will revert to the committee.
I thank Mr. Jacobs. Turning to the DAA's key asks and the issue of airport charges, I found it an interesting tactic to highlight the price of a pint of Guinness in Temple Bar, which is something that instinctively makes everyone really angry, and I appreciate Mr. Jacobs was trying to contrast the airport charges with that. I do not want Dublin Airport to be a low-cost airport, and I agree with the argument for increasing charges if we are going to provide a better service within the airport. It should not be just, as I have said previously, a big building through which we just try to plough people. I understand that argument and I can go in that direction. Nevertheless, Mr. Jacobs mentioned €9.99. Did he just throw that out as a suggested figure?
Mr. Kenny Jacobs:
I am throwing it out as a typical number. We would like a modest increase. I have read reports of some people saying they want the airport to be a Heathrow. I am saying we never want to be a Heathrow. I would never envisage a charge like that; this is a totally different thing. We are a proud discounter when it comes to charges and we want to remain an effective discounter. The modest increase will allow us to deliver year-round resilience for our passengers and deliver our capital infrastructure plan and sustainability plan, but we want to remain a proud-to-be-cheap airport when it comes to charges.
I note Mr. Jacobs did not include in the presentation the price of a pint at the airport, another issue on which some people will have strong opinions.
A few days ago, I was asked about the growth of Dublin Airport. Mr. Jacobs referred to striking the right balance between sustainability and connectivity. The airport will grow naturally based on population increases, but we have a strong climate responsibility and aviation is part of that. I am on record as saying I do not want there to be an exponential growth in aviation or the airport just for the sake of beating monthly or yearly records. Does the DAA have work to do to communicate what real, sustainable growth is versus just trying avariciously to grow to get massive market share, increased profits and increased dividends back to the State? The DAA, unlike many other State assets or private enterprise in this country, has a responsibility to balance being an economic driver against being a minder of our climate and being a leader in that regard. I have been receiving brochures in the post for years, and there is always a reference to how successful the airport has been judging by the number of passengers. Surely that cannot be the growth strategy in and of itself.
Mr. Kenny Jacobs:
In a nutshell, I would like to do both. Aviation has to do its part to reduce carbon globally and in Ireland, and that is the wider aviation industry, including airports, fuel providers, airlines and lessors. Everyone has to be involved in the landscape. Ireland is different. We are an island. Any time I go to Brussels, it is clear there is a demand-management approach in continental Europe whereby people decide to take the train instead of domestic flights, such as from Amsterdam to Nice. That is a great option for someone who lives in Amsterdam, but we are not able to do that from Dublin, Cork or Shannon. As an island nation on the periphery of Europe, we have to have the right strategy for Ireland. Ours is a very open economy and we have to find a way that will allow us to get the right balance between both.
Aviation, in general, should have done more work ten years ago to explain how it operates. An airport could grow in size but have higher carbon outputs. It depends on where the flights are going, the types of aircraft, the load factors and so forth. There is a way to grow as an aviation system, using newer aircraft with higher load factors, that allows an airport to stabilise, maintain and shrink over time the CO2 per passenger-kilometre. This is the bit that aviation has been figuring out and needs to continue to figure out.
As for whether we are avaricious in respect of just growth, I do not think we are. Every month now, we publish our traffic statistics, and we will publish our monthly sustainability performance. We are proud of the fact we have reduced our energy consumption at both Cork and Dublin by just shy of 20% in the past half-year. They are the types of metrics I think an airport needs to start talking about such that, as well as giving passengers choice as to where they can fly and the number of people who can travel, we show what we are doing to reduce our own carbon use and support the wider aviation system to reduce the CO2 output.
This is a big discussion in Ireland because, as I said earlier, it is important for people to realise Dublin Airport is capped at 32 million passengers. If we keep it capped at that in 2023 and the population grows as we approach 2030, when Ireland is just shy of 6 million people, that implies we will all be flying 25% less often.
Therefore, if we just want to do the amount of flying we do today, and as the population increases, Dublin Airport will need to grow. We also want to look beyond that because good infrastructure planning means taking a longer-term view. That is what we do as a big infrastructure business but it is a national conversation. How do we strike the right balance as a periphery nation? We love to travel. We also love to welcome the diaspora back. Also, you will never be able to take the train from Dublin to Nice, so we have to get the balance right. I am thinking of a wider aviation approach, with newer aircraft, sustainable aviation fuel and airports doing what they can do to support and do their part within that ecosystem. Then we make the choices we need to make in and around national policy as to what we want to see happen. Plenty of people are choosing to fly less; many other people want to fly more. However, just to keep pace with population growth, Dublin Airport will have to grow.
Mr. Jacobs and Mr. McQueen are very welcome, and I thank them for the presentation they have given us so far. The information is very welcome. I have a number of questions. I will just put them all together to the witnesses and they might answer them briefly thereafter.
First, I know we are not allowed to talk about the north runway but when do the witnesses think we will be able to talk about it and when do they envisage a resolution, not just for DAA but for the council and all the people who are waiting for that resolution?
Second, we have talked about the development of the third terminal being based on proper and improving public transport links. Obviously, BusConnects is being worked on but, from the witnesses' perspective and from a planning perspective, given that - and I do not say this ironically - previous governments have delayed the metro so often and that now we have a date probably ten to 12 years away, how does that impact the development and the growth and the potential for a third sector in the airport?
Third, Mr. Jacobs mentioned briefly that it is Government policy that is stopping DAA adding more car parking places, yet it is ready to buy that particular section of land if that deal can be done. Can the witnesses just explain that to me? How quickly do they think those car parking spaces can come online? I acknowledge what has been said insofar as that sometimes what we see in the media - I will not call it hysteria, but sometimes the reactions are not reflective of the reality on the ground. I have used the car park myself in recent weeks. There was no problem and there were plenty of places. Maybe May is different from, as Mr. Jacobs said, July and August and, obviously, people have to be forewarned to be forearmed and to make those plans. How quickly do the witnesses envisage being able to add those extra spaces? What is the Government policy they think is hampering that?
I have to ask the witnesses two last things. For some reason when the DAA makes announcements, they tend to attract controversy in the media, whether from popular airline personalities or from politicians or from the media themselves. I refer to the drop-off plans and the planning permission DAA has received to make those changes to be able to stop people from going right up to drop their Johnny or their Mary to the airport and then leave. What are the short-term and the medium-term plans in the coming years? Not ten years away, because I know what the response was. It was given on radio and was that there were no immediate plans. There are changes coming, however, and I would like to know what DAA's plans for those changes are.
Finally, I thought it was most interesting that arrivals duty-free was mentioned. It is something we see in other, far-flung parts of the world. What plans does DAA have and how soon would it see them materialised?
Mr. Kenny Jacobs:
I thank the Senator for those questions. It was a really interesting set of questions. I will take the drop-off one first. The Senator is absolutely right that it gets a lot of attention. We do not plan to do drop-off. I certainly would not support drop-off in the short, medium or long term. I have six and a half years of my tenure left. I would be very surprised if I were ever back talking to the committee saying drop-off will be a great thing. If the media can drop drop-off, I think we can strike it off the list of things we need to talk about. There was a reason for it, and it exists in Cork Airport and other regional airports in Ireland, but we will try to find a way that solves the operational issues we have with people using the ramp. That is just getting cars moving on the ramp and asking people not to park there for two hours while waiting for someone. That is not how it works. However, we do not plan on charging drop-off any time in the near, medium or long-term future.
On the additional spaces and the QuickPark site, to clarify, this would just bring capacity for car parking back to what already existed, so these would not be new spaces. These spaces existed in 2019, so this is just bringing us back to where we were at that time. It is not a new site that will develop new spaces. If we get the green light on that, we think we will be able to operate those spaces within a week, so we will move really quickly, but the Senator is right to point out that hysteria is not required. There are plenty of spaces still available - hundreds of thousands of spaces, as I said - from as little as €8 a day. The maximum price you can pay for a long-term space is €15. I would love the media to talk about us less. I think we made ourselves a story last year. I look forward to the time when they are just writing about the quality of an egg sandwich at Dublin Airport because we have become boring again because we are giving passengers an improved experience. That is what the mission is and that is what we will continue to focus on.
As to when I think we can come back and talk about the north runway, I suspect that will be the end of the summer, so probably in September we will be in a position to come back and talk about that.
As for the third terminal, if planning, metro north, BusConnects and so on go faster, I think we all agree that is a good thing. That would allow Dublin to take its rightful place as a European capital city with very strong public transportation options from the airport to downtown, something we know and experience when we go to any European capital city. That is obviously what we would like. We have our part ready, and the faster it goes the better for passengers, the better for the public and the better for sustainability. Our plans are critical to how fast infrastructure planning will go in Ireland in the years ahead, but also our plans of sustainability are vital to that. The faster that goes the better, from our point of view.
Mr. Kenny Jacobs:
I am sorry. It is the sooner the better. I would love to be selling to American passengers while they are still in the States browsing the Dublin Airport website and buying arrivals duty-free and picking it up at the Loop when they arrive at Dublin Airport. That is something that exists in other European jurisdictions. It is a great retail opportunity. Those passengers would like it themselves. Also, from a sustainability point of view, if you are from Boston and you want to buy four bottles of Jameson for your month in Ireland, I would prefer you to buy it here, rather than that Jameson travelling all the way transatlantic and back again in the overhead compartment of an aircraft. It is not a good choice for sustainability, so it makes sense-----
Chair, may I finish just by saying to Mr. Jacobs that I have used the airport a number of times for both work and pleasure in recent months. The staff members and how they interact with people, particularly people who might be tired or who have babies, are an absolute credit to the airport. I know that sometimes in the media all you hear are the negative stories. All I have experienced in the last number of times using Dublin Airport is very positive, and I think that is down to that human interaction, so credit where credit is due.
I happened to be in the airport last Thursday. I did not let anyone know I was coming or anything and I was through security in three minutes. I was more than pleased to be able to not have a bad experience in advance of this meeting and to have a very positive experience. It is, I think, becoming more than the norm than the exception to get those kinds of times. That is very good.
Deputy O'Rourke did join us earlier.
I just wanted to make that point about the three-minute security clearance. I did touch on the baggage handling when I met the witnesses initially. We had an awful lot of issues with that. I know it is not a DAA service, but at the same time it is the passenger experience.
Everything that happens, whether it is a bad burger, a good burger, a good coffee or whatever, ultimately reflects on how we perceive the Dublin Airport experience. Where are we with baggage handling generally? I do not just mean the transit stuff. I was coming back from the flight yesterday and I was in quite early. The plane was in early, which was great. Passport control was excellent. There was no queue at the e-gate so it was straight through, but then I was probably waiting 20 or 25 minutes. It was about 14 minutes from when we were on blocks before the bags arrived. I had done that because I needed a bag as I had liquids and so on. I try not to bring a check-in bag if I do not have to, but sometimes one does. Where are we on that? What are the statistics on baggage handling?
Mr. Kenny Jacobs:
It is an interesting question and a good one to be discussing as we come into the summer peak. We can take it from blocks to belt, as the Leas-Chathaoirleach described. The time between the aircraft coming on blocks to when a passenger can expect his or her hold bag to be going around the belt and into his or her hand is typically approximately 18 minutes, year-round.
Mr. Kenny Jacobs:
Including all outliers, like that number, we are typically about 18 to 20 minutes from the aircraft being on blocks to the bag being on the belt. That is a very good metric and it is all year round, all handling, for all airlines in both terminals. Dublin Airport is actually good at that. In contrast, most European hub airports are at more than double that number. It is regrettable the Leas-Chathaoirleach had to wait 38 minutes.
It was perfectly fine and I did not mind. I was just a little surprised. I have not taken that many flights post Covid and on most flights I do not bring a check-in bag, so I was interested to see what the experience is. I think people would like to hear what the experience is.
Mr. Kenny Jacobs:
The free bag with Aer Lingus and the long-haul element means people having bigger bags and always putting them in the hold. We thus end up with more hold bags in terminal 2 than in terminal 1. It is now the peak of the summer. There are couple of outliers I would call out. There are a few individual handlers and airlines that face a more challenging time on it. Then there are a few inbound airports. Canadian airports featured last year. I suspect they may feature as having issues with inbound bags where they are getting the bag on the aircraft more slowly and the aircraft is taking off from Canada without all the bags on board. A little bit of that may be replayed but I do not think it will be the same drama as it was last year. Generally, Dublin Airport is good as measured by that metric of blocks to belt. We will be looking to maintain that 18 to 20 minutes figure year-round, but the summer is the challenging part of that.
Mr. Kenny Jacobs:
It is working very well. The inbound aircraft piece generally works well as judged by that metric, but it is always one we look to improve. It is one we are looking to add to our monthly performance statistics we publish. I love calling this one out because I can say to airports in Frankfurt-----
To pay tribute again, I happened to be a long way away and spotted The Loop in the southern hemisphere and was slightly proud of the fact it is a DAA facility. The expansion of the number of routes is impressive. The summer brochure came out and I think there are 56 flights a week to Málaga alone, which is a huge number. Some of them are wide-body aircraft with Aer Lingus. People should realise just how big an operation it is and Mr. Jacobs touched on that in his presentation.
The committee flew to Donegal Airport and the bus trip was almost as long as the flight. One goes to the south terminal, gets on a bus and gets brought to the plane. There is an awful lot of that going on, as opposed to with Ryanair, where one can almost walk to the end of the pier and out onto the plane. There seems to be a lot of that. There are the south gates for Aer Lingus. People find it frustrating when they are coming in at night and instead of the plane turning left and heading for the terminal 2 pier it is turning right and going to the south gate, so passengers are getting off a bus. Where are we on having more "gate" gates and less of the bus stuff?
Mr. Kenny Jacobs:
More gates are critical. More gates are part of the plan. The south gates are in use for domestic flights, as the Leas-Chathaoirleach described. I have flown it and if you do not do it that often, it is different. It is not the straightforward product it is in other parts of the airport. It works. We do not see it as something that would grow. It is kind of maxed-out now given what it is. It is limited. It is why we want to have the infrastructure application and add new gates, so it is a more straightforward experience for passengers.
Rather than buying the items from DAA's operation in Saudi Arabia or wherever, people are buying them from Dublin Airport. Also, they are not carrying the liquid, which is sensible. There is no duty-free within Europe, but could it be done from the UK?
It would be interesting to develop it. As for the 100 ml limit and these new C3 machines, when the airport is fully compliant in terminal 2 and terminal 1 in 2024 and 2025, will we be able to bring more than 100 ml bottles through the system?
Yes. Obviously, it would not be much use for the return flight. At the same time, were the limit gone, one could bring somebody a gift and not have to worry about having a check-in bag but if it is there, it is there.
Mr. Jacobs mentioned the 850 staff and said 500 were hired since the new year. Does that suggest only 350 of them are there longer than that? That seems a very high turnover if it is the case.
The way in which it was phrased looked like more than half the staff are gone. I am not saying they are not well trained. If that is the case, then an awful lot of people who were there before have been lost. Maybe that is not the case.
Mr. Kenny Jacobs:
It is not the case. The last time I was here turnover was higher than it is today. We have introduced a number of measures to improve retention of staff. It went from being stabilised to being now in a positive place. There is always a degree of retention issues with such a big complement of staff. Generally, I am satisfied with where the number is and that we beat the target we set for the number we had to hire. It was a big ask. Over the past 12 months across the full operation, we had to hire more than 1,000 staff. Anyone in Ireland would say that is a big ask. We worked hard to recruit people, get them through the vetting process, train them and get themin situ.
Before I bring in Deputy Crowe, Mr. Jacobs gave us a very nice passenger satisfaction figure for Cork Airport. We do not have the passenger satisfaction figure for Dublin Airport. I would be interested in that if it is available. It may not be as high as Cork Airport. I would be interested in that, if that is possible.
In regard to the long-term expansion plans, Mr. Jacobs said 32 million passengers heading towards 38 million. Is that the aim? His point was there are 32 million passengers and even if we just let the economy drift along as it is, we will need to have capacity for 38 million. He also said he has six and a half years left. Where would he like to see Dublin Airport in seven years when he is thinking about a second term or whatever in terms of numbers?
Mr. Kenny Jacobs:
That is a huge question. The answer is that in 2030 I would like Dublin Airport to be a 40 million passenger airport with a good plan on sustainability that is delivered in much lower CO2 output per passenger kilometre. However, 40 million is the answer to the question. It is 32 million growing to 40 million by 2030. Within that, the key point I am highlighting is, for people just to fly the way they fly today, at the volumes at which they fly today, the natural increase in capacity is 38 million but we should look beyond that.
Mr. Kenny Jacobs:
I will come back and confirm but I think it is a NAMA property.
Last week I saw online that some of the buses that go to the airport, the route 16 I believe, was not letting people on with luggage. It goes to the airport but is not an airport bus. Someone was refused to take on luggage. Where are we in terms of Dublin Bus making sure that the buses it routes through the airport can take luggage? Clearly if a person is getting the 16 bus to the airport, he or she will want to bring on bags. If the bus driver says there is not enough capacity for bags, that is not much use to the person who is waiting for the bus.
On Dublin Bus routes, and we can have Dublin Bus in on some other day, if the bus is going through the airport facility the vast majority of passengers are not just employees and many will want to bring bags, some of them sizeable. It would make sense that the bus would have facilities and be designed to cater for passenger luggage.
I am not having a go at Dublin Bus or at DAA. It makes sense that more people use buses. I always try to use the Aircoach if I can because it is efficient and gets through the traffic in the bus lanes far quicker than anyone else can. I appreciate many people do not have Aircoach access near where they are. I call Deputy Crowe.
I welcome Mr. Jacobs and Mr. McQueen. I have a number of questions on airport security. There have been many debates at this committee about the delays involved there. Approximately 12 months ago, European Commission staff visited Dublin Airport. They undertook an audit of how screening works and how efficient and, more importantly, safe, it is. Of the improvised explosive devices, IEDs, test pieces fed through baggage as part of the drill exercise to see how good detection was at Dublin Airport, seven out of ten passed through undetected. Alarmingly, one of the ASU’s security screening staff was not able to explain the constituent parts of an IED when challenged by the Commission’s inspector. I would like to know-----
At the start of the meeting, and I appreciate the Deputy was not present, it was agreed that we are not in a position to discuss today matters relating to certain issues relating to security and the operation of the north runway. I advise him to take his questioning in a slightly different direction. I will see what Mr. Jacobs says but it has been agreed that particular matters related to protected disclosure cannot be discussed at the moment because there is an ongoing Irish Aviation Authority, IAA, investigation. We are not in a position to deal with that at this point.
Can I ask then, if a specific question cannot be asked, in general terms as a couple of million people will fly out of the airport this summer and they want it to be a speedy and comfortable process but they also want it to be safe? A certain angle of questioning along this line would be-----
Mr. Kenny Jacobs:
I thank the Deputy for the question. I am somewhat limited in what I can say. I can add some information and a couple of key points. Aviation, for an airline or for an airport, is one of the most audited and regulated industries in the world. We audit security ourselves and do those covert type of tests to which the Deputy referred. The IAA will do those. They will also be done at a European level. It is a very regulated industry. We constantly do those types of tests. Any findings will be worked through by the relevant regulator, be that the IAA or a European regulator. I am satisfied that Dublin Airport is a very secure and safe airport for passengers this summer and for every summer.
One key issue I will highlight in conclusion is that in Easter week this year, a key critical week of inbound and outbound travel, we had President Joe Biden and an entourage of 600 people and 14 aircraft at Dublin Airport for five days. If there was an issue with security at Dublin Airport, that would not have happened. The security team is in a good place. The security culture is strong. There is a huge level of oversight by Irish and European regulators. We constantly manage that and make any corrections that need to be made. Some 95% of people got through security in 20 minutes or less. The operational performance is very good. More importantly, compliance performance is something we constantly manage. We constantly do those covert tests at Dublin Airport and at Cork Airport to make sure we are maintaining a high standard. The C3 technology I mentioned in my presentation is a key part of improving that compliance because while it is better for passengers not to have to take the liquids out of their bags, it is a much more secure environment and product for those bags to go through. It is much more secure. That is a key part of the direction of travel that we have.
I read the opening statement. Investing in new technology is always good. That has happened in Shannon Airport in my own locality. It has been successful. Generally, that is the smart way to go. However, there are compliance obligations on all airports. It is called NCASP in the industry, the national civil aviation security programme. It sets certain standards. Thankfully, 99.9% of passengers are well-intended holiday makers or business travellers, not wanting trouble, just wanting to get to their destinations safely. Passengers need to know that the other passengers on the plan are also bona fide. My understanding is that European airports have to be to 5B standard under that full regulation. Is that where we are at the moment?
Mr. Kenny Jacobs:
Originally there was a reduction but, as I mentioned earlier, part of our plan is to add a new mezzanine area so we will maintain the number of lanes. We will have approximately 30 of these new C3 lanes across T1 and T2 in Dublin Airport, which is a big deal. Dublin Airport is a big airport. Many big airports have not done C3 on that scale. All the lanes in T1 and T2, approximately 30 in total, will be C3 and we are looking at some new places where we could add lanes.
On the model of detection and follow-up, we have all had our case shoot over to the other row and been asked to open it so that someone can go through the bag. All going well, we travel to the gate and on we go. However, occasionally, airport police have to be called to go through a particular bag to get items out of it and perhaps someone may have to be arrested in the airport and taken off site. Has rostering for that been examined? A huge component of what we hear about is the level of staffing. At times, I believe there are only ten airport police in the airport terminal building as they also carry out a lot of exterior functions around the runway and apron. At times, in the vast complex of the airport, they could be down by the retail units. A team of people is needed by these lanes, if there will be thirty-something lanes and potentially thirty-something bags being withdrawn from the queue. Are there enough airport security staff to deal with that?
Mr. Kenny Jacobs:
Yes. We have added a new role, which is a supervisor role. How that will work in the future is that there will be a supervisor on the scene to say which bags that are being siphoned off we need to take a manual look at. It is a different type of experience. Ultimately, it is higher on compliance, but fewer bags get siphoned off because the technology is a big step up and we can see a totally different type of bag in front of us. On a busy day, with the X-ray machines, approximately one third of bags could be siphoned off and have to be manually checked. It will be a big step change because the same does not have to happen. In our structure, the supervisor is the person on the scene, rather than the airport police. At the moment, unless we need to take a bag and a person away, the airport police are not the people who say we need to interrogate a particular bag further and do a manual check. That is the role of a supervisor, not of an airport police member. We have approximately 100 airport police at the moment. We are looking to increase that number. An Garda Síochána is also on site and it has increased its numbers at Dublin Airport. The relationship between the airport police and An Garda Síochána is a key collaborative working relationship and a good one, between handing disruptive passengers in the terminal and landside; and working closely on drone incidents, which I mentioned previously. Airport police do not really do the work on the lanes but they play a vital role. We are looking to increase their numbers. They work closely in co-operation with An Garda Síochána.
Are passengers who arrive at the airport who are small private jet business travellers still taking the long circuitous 8 km route around the airport curtilage? What I am really asking is whether platinum services is the only point where these passengers can be received at the airport?
Have any of the private jet carriers looked to build its own facility or to have an independent place elsewhere in the airport campus? It seems to be a little monopolising of the Dublin Airport facility to draw everyone through platinum services. Surely the airport should explore alternatives.
Deputy Cathal Crowe: as any
Mr. Kenny Jacobs:
We always explore alternatives. We look to standardise things from a security point of view. Would we generally support anyone opening up a way in and out of the airport in any part of the airfield? No, we would not. That is a whole different type of security and safety conversation. We look to standardise the operation. It is up to the individual agent to say whether it wants to use platinum services. Other options are available, but I would need to come back to the Deputy to be able say what all those individual options are. It is up to the handling agent to decide how it wants to do it. It is part of its operation, so it is probably more a question for handling agents than for me. There are other ways they can do it. I can come back to the Deputy to highlight how it works in general.
My last question is about the mechanics of a process. I hope it can be answered. We do not need to get into detail. I missed the beginning when the Chair said there were no-go areas here today. I respect that. I respect the rules of this forum. At what point can that be discussed or can either the Chair or Mr. Jacobs tell us anything about how we can engage on that in the future?
My understanding is that an IAA investigation is in process and until it is concluded, we cannot discuss the matter. The committee will write to the IAA to ask the status of the report, when it might be concluded and what sight or otherwise we may get of it.
The CEO has alluded to the fact that he thinks he will be in a position to discuss the north runway in September or thereabouts in a way he cannot at the moment.
I have one last question. This matter will involve less heavy questioning. Some of the plane spotters in Dublin Airport contacted me recently. They pointed out that at other European airports, the airport authorities embrace the fact that these men, women and children go out with binoculars and cameras and photograph planes. It is good public relations for the airport. Some nice Instagram and Facebook pages show what is taking off and landing at Dublin Airport. Can DAA do anything for them to make it a little more comfortable, perhaps get them into the terminal?
In an era when people pay social influencers to project a good image, DAA could not get better advertising than these men, women and children provide on their social media channels, putting out a good image of Dublin Airport.
Mr. Kenny Jacobs:
We can. As a former plane-spotting child, I love that idea. I will take it way. It is definitely exciting. My children and everyone loves watching planes take off and land so I will definitely look at it. As the Deputy said, it is made for social media. Every airport should look at that. I thank him for the suggestion.
I thank Deputy Crowe for his comment. Before I bring in Deputy O'Reilly, I will touch on that. Is the big structure that is above T1 - it is a multistorey car park that was never used - just empty or is it full of offices? Is there an opportunity to do plane spotting there or is it just an empty car park?
I thank the witnesses for the information they have given the committee so far. I have a few questions. Some relate to my constituents and others are more general. The first relates to the community liaison group with which there has not been any meeting in quite a while. I understand there is an issue we are not discussing and the witnesses will be aware that it is the issue that is most pressing for that group. We will not discuss it perhaps until September. Is there a reason there cannot be any engagement with the liaison group to discuss the concerns with the people who are my constituents and DAA's neighbours? I understand from public commentary that DAA makes it clear it wants to be a good neighbour but that is not how they feel and they are DAA's neighbours. If you want to know if you are a good neighbour, there is no point in asking someone who lives on the next estate, you should ask your neighbours. DAA's neighbours say that they do not believe it is a particularly good neighbour and communication is a serious issue.
Is it the intention to hold a meeting of the community liaison group in the near future? Can this be facilitated? I appreciate that we are in a public forum and that there are issues the witnesses have requested we do not discuss. That is grand, and we will not do that. Those liaison meetings are not a public forum. They are a forum where one would not need to wait until September to have a meeting with the community liaison group to discuss the issues relating to the runway and its operation.
Mr. Kenny Jacobs:
I thank the Deputy. I will add some information, but I am limited in exactly what I can say on this because it is part of the regulatory process. We have ongoing engagement and we will have engagement with the community over the summer. We continue to engage with the community. We are a good neighbour. This is something we need to keep working on. We intend to keep working at being a good neighbour and will continue to listen. We will engage with the St. Margaret's community and with the Dublin Airport Environmental Working Group. There is a meeting on that later today. We will maintain the engagement levels that we have. I do believe we are a good neighbour. We want to remain a good neighbour as the airport grows and as we move through the issues we have at the moment in respect of planning and noise. I should probably just leave it at that.
These are not my words by the way. I live in the area but I do not live close to the airport. The airport's neighbours, however, say that the level of engagement has been nothing short of atrocious. They say that there has been no effective engagement. That is what they are saying. I have spoken to them. I appreciate that Mr. Jacobs will say the airport is a good neighbour, and that is fine, but the airport's neighbours hold a different view. Perhaps Mr. Jacobs could come back to me directly and as soon as possible with a timeline for when a meeting can take place. There are genuine concerns that people want to share. It is a condition that a community liaison group be established involving representatives. The witnesses know all of that. They are entitled to that forum, but there is no point in going to the meeting on their own. The DAA needs to be there. We need to hear from Mr. Jacobs on when that meeting will take place. I appreciate that Mr. Jacobs is going to come back to me on that. I very much appreciate that because it is something that will keep coming up. A number of public meetings were held recently and they were incredibly well attended. It is not easy to get people to come out to public meetings and especially post Covid. These meetings are incredibly well attended. At every meeting I attended, we have required additional seats to be put into the rooms. I just wish to convey to Mr. Jacobs the level of concern that exists. There is a very serious wish for the community liaison group to meet sooner rather than later.
I know. I am sorry if I was not clear. It was not a general meeting, I refer to a meeting specifically to discuss the runway issue. I am aware that we cannot discuss it here because we are in a public forum, but the DAA will not be in a public forum at the community liaison group. I do not believe there are any constraints on that. As Mr. Jacobs has said, the DAA will liaise with me and let me know when it will take place. I can then convey that information to the community liaison group, or the DAA can do so.
For the benefit of everyone who is watching, the witness confirmed that he felt the DAA would be in a position to talk about the north runway in September or thereabouts, once the planning processes in train are concluded. Is that correct?
Absolutely. To be clear, the people I represent have been looking for this meeting for months. The witnesses from the DAA will know that because the people have been seeking it from them. I just want to say that.
I will move on to the issue of staffing. Reference was made to a recruitment campaign that is under way to recruit airport police. There was an issue with staffing. We do not want to rehash everything that happened last summer, but some of it was down to staffing. Are the witnesses confident now that the DAA is fully staffed to cover all contingencies? Good luck to the DAA if it can find people who never get sick or have family emergencies. It is not just about the staffing levels; it is also about staffing to cover contingencies. Will the witnesses confirm the position in that regard?
Mr. Kenny Jacobs:
The Deputy is absolutely right that it is part and parcel of running any operation. We now have 850 people in the security team. We have hired more people across the operational team. I am confident about where we are at with staffing levels. Of course, one builds in an element of resilience to cover absence or whatever happens in any big operation. We are confident with the staff numbers we have so that we are able to go out and issue the travel advisory that we have issued: for short- or long-haul flights people should be at the airport terminal two or three hours prior. That is just us saying that we are there and we have the right number of staff to operate in the summer. Our goal is to get 90% of people through security in 20 minutes or less. So far in May we have had 95% through in 20 minutes or less. The performance is good. This will be our third weekend of the big step up in the summer, with two very good weekends under our belts, but two weekends do not make a summer. We will never be complacent. There will be a couple of challenging times but that is the case in every airport. No airport would sit here and say they would guarantee that every single morning is going to be plain sailing.
Mr. Kenny Jacobs:
We are in a very different place. That can be judged by the key metric that 95% went through in May. The latter was our busiest May ever. That is a very good performance and what we are looking to maintain. The team were very highly motivated: 95% of our unionised staff voted in favour of the last pay deal and of our unionised staff the average pay is €22 per hour, which is well ahead of the minimum wage. That reflects the very competitive market out there. We have to work hard to get staff and keep them. Coming in to do security and being on a lane at 4 a.m. is tough. For me, they are the heroes of Dublin Airport and they will continue to be. We are in a good place and the operations are very stable. I will never be complacent, however, and I will never take that for granted. It is down to our people.
Those figures are due to the staff and the hard work that is put in, as Mr. Jacobs said. I will add my own words because people have recounted their own personal experiences. My bag was lost in transit, not by DAA but by someone else, and I was in touch with a woman at the airport whose name is Michelle. I sent a message to her boss that she could not have been more efficient and she could not have worked harder. She was not just dealing with me. She was dealing with a rake of people and they were not all as nice I was. She was incredibly professional. The DAA has people working in the airport who are massively great ambassadors for it. They should be given credit for that.
I want to ask about the car parking. It makes me smile when I hear representatives from the Government raising this issue while at the same time representatives in Government are going out and making mad videos while standing around the airport saying there will be no parking and that it is going to be awful. There is parking. I have parked in the airport. We could maybe ask some of them to dial down the rhetoric a little bit and not be making a contribution to the hysteria.
With the parking, however, we are not at the peak of it yet and if one is going to be looking for long-term parking later in the summer it will be a challenge. I am using Mr. Jacob's word for it because there is another word that people may use to describe it if they are the ones looking for the parking. The parking issue must be seen in the context of the absence of any meaningful movement around metro north, as we are not getting it in time for the summer. Also, no additional buses will be laid on. There is sometimes an issue with Dublin Bus not being able to take people's bags and so on. When the sale goes through and there are additional spaces, am I right to say that this just brings the number back up to where it was? Are additional spaces being added or will there be additional public transport? How will that work?
Mr. Kenny Jacobs:
That will return us to the capacity that Dublin Airport once had when QuickPark operated it. We should not view those as new car park spaces. That brings us back there. We hope the sale goes through. The sooner that happens we will be out of the blocks. As I have said, within a week we would expect to be operating it.
Mr. Kenny Jacobs:
More people are choosing to take public transport to the airport, and then the two will travel forward. We believe we would have enough spaces then to operate year round. There is no guarantee that everyone coming to an airport at any time of the year in any part of the world will always get a car parking space, but, generally, those 6,200 spaces will give us enough spaces for the years ahead as public transportation catches up and gets more people moving from their own private cars to taking public transport to the airport.
As the Deputy rightly points out, the hysteria is not required. A person can go onto the website today and find a space in July or August and people can drop somebody off this coming weekend. It is working smoothly. We were right to come out and say that if people are planning to travel for two weeks in August and if they think that they can just drive up on the day and come into any car park and take a ticket, as they did a few years ago, and it will work that way, we cannot guarantee that this will be the case.
We do not want to block the roadways and create that difficulty for people. We are right to warn people, but the hysteria that was portrayed in the media is not the case. Some of the media would love to keep talking about Dublin Airport. Thanks to our team, we have a very good and stable operation. Some people want to talk about car parking and everything else, but the operation is stable. As far as I am concerned, the car parking situation is stable. People can still get spaces, but they should get ahead of the game and book early. At that point, I hope we have spaces for them.
I have a final question regarding how the DAA has no intention of introducing charges for dropping off. I ask this in the context of the issues around parking, because all the issues are not gone. Not everyone will get a space. People will have to be dropped off if they cannot access public transport. If the DAA is not going to introduce those charges in the short, medium or long term - and the representatives say they will not - why is it putting the infrastructure in place to facilitate that?
Mr. Kenny Jacobs:
There will be pressure back on us then. We had an operational problem. We are trying to solve that with a few different actions, one of which is the drop-off charge. We are now taking away the drop-off charge. There are still operational things we need to work on. Part of that is getting our own staff and airport police out on the ramp on the busy arrivals days to make sure people do not arrive and just park there for a few hours. We get on with those things.
Mr. Kenny Jacobs:
No, that is just a matter of daily operations management. The planning application that included the drop-off was for a few different elements. We are now saying we do not plan to charge for drop-off. I am on the record as saying that we do not plan to charge for that in the short, medium or long term.
Mr. Kenny Jacobs:
No, I do not think so. Last weekend was really busy. The ramp to terminal 1 is the busy one. We have an airport police presence there to keep people moving on. Generally, it is working quite well at the moment, so I do not want to tinker with it too much or change anything over the summer, because our operations are at full tilt. Generally, however, it is working well now between taxis, buses and people coming to drop off and pick up. It is working quite well.
Mr. Kenny Jacobs:
Yes. What we want to avoid is people coming in, going in as far as they can, pulling in where they can and then, when someone gets them to move on, doing a loop around. That is sub-optimal. We look to keep moving people on. That is part and parcel of airport life. That is why things like the drop-off charge then get considered. However, we will manage it for the summer. So far, we have seen behaviour that is fine for the operation. We will continue to manage it.
There are a couple of matters on which I would like a little clarity. Parking is an issue. I am from the west of Ireland, where transport and public transport links to anywhere are pretty poor. This is certainly the case for the airport. For many people, particularly if they are going on holidays and if they have luggage, they will need to park. I appreciate that there are parking spaces. In fact, my daughter went away the other evening and her car is parked there. There are long-term car parking spaces, but it is restricted and it is tight. That is what people are concerned about.
There is an issue with regard to the quick-park car park that Mr. Jacobs has suggested. I assume the DAA would lease that on a rolling basis until such time as the CCPC has looked at this situation. Mr. Jacobs is saying that the owner is not interested in that. It is my understanding that the owner is NAMA. Has the DAA made any representations to the Government or to the Minister in respect of an intervention being made in order to try to resolve this problem? It could be resolved if the right sort of attention were paid to it.
Mr. Kenny Jacobs:
Yes, we have. Ultimately, it is the vendor's decision to say whether it wants to let us operate it on a short-term lease for the summer months, rather than on a rolling lease. The CCPC process will conclude. I do not know when that will be. The sooner that happens, the better from our point of view, because we just want to operate the spaces. We have made representations. The vendor is saying that it does not want to engage in that and that it wants to focus on the outright sale. We are just part of that process.
It is mind-boggling that a car park that can cater for more than 6,000 cars is empty. There is no logic whatsoever in that. There is the opportunity, whether this is a matter for the DAA or some other car park provider, until such time as this process is completed. This has to happen, and nobody has an issue with the process. The process is appropriate and needs to happen. Clearly, however, there is revenue to be generated from that rather than it sitting there idle. In addition, there are many people who are very concerned. They may be able to find parking, but they are very concerned that they will not be able to do so.
Mr. Kenny Jacobs:
The main thing from my point of view is getting the spaces as quickly as we can. The Deputy is right to point out - and his daughter has her own experience in this regard - that the level of concern has probably been greater than needs to be the case. I reiterate that people can get spaces. This will return us to the capacity we would have had for car parking in 2019. However, the CCPC process needs to run its course. We have looked at all options, including, as I said, how we would operate it on a short-term lease basis this summer, as we did last summer. We just want more spaces because that will give us the extra capacity we know we need in the area of car parking. We will continue to step up and help passengers find spaces and do everything we can.
On the other options, as I said, Dublin Airport is the biggest bus station in the country. We are adding more taxi permits. We are putting more information on the website. I do not think the travelling public needs to be as anxious as the media may have been suggesting a couple of weeks ago. Again, I reiterate that there are spaces available in July and August. The cost of long-term car parking is capped at €8. Hundreds of thousands of people have booked long-term spaces at a daily rate of as little as €8. I think it is good value. Spaces are still available, but there are not unlimited spaces. The sooner we get the 6,200 quick-park spaces, the better, from our point of view.
The public transport element is a bugbear for many people. Getting to and from the airport is difficult. In the context of that, how much communication does the DAA have with the public transport providers in the context of upping the levels of services for very busy periods, particularly over the summer months?
Mr. Kenny Jacobs:
As a responsible operator, we have an ongoing dialogue with various providers of public transport to the airport. That is a key part of what we do and that will continue to be so. More bus routes have been added. Some additional routes to the west of Ireland and routes to Munster have been added in the past year, which is good. That provides more frequency and choice in terms of public transport bus options to get to Dublin Airport. I see that growing in the years ahead. We continue to talk to the bus providers and we will always do that. That will be a key part of our future going forward. As a nation, we want more people who are flying from Dublin Airport or any airport to take the bus there.
In the context of metro north and the possibility of it happening, we have been a long time waiting for it. That route has been mapped out at this stage, as has the location in the terminal that passengers coming to or leaving from the airport would use. I assume the location of that would have an impact on any future planning that the DAA would engage in. Earlier, Mr. Jacobs mentioned the possibility of looking at a third terminal down the road if the airport gets busier and if there is higher demand. This is not something that is being looked at now. If that were put in place, would it have an impact on the location of a third terminal?
Mr. Kenny Jacobs:
No, it would not. The site is reserved for what would be the metro north station at Dublin Airport. The site is beside the church at Dublin Airport. We would end up with metro north being there, which is very close to the bus station at Dublin Airport. We have that site reserved and we are ready to go. As soon as metro north happens, that is where people will come in and out of Dublin Airport. We would all say on that front that the sooner it happens the better. However, our part of it is ready to go.
On developing and building a third terminal, Mr. Jacobs mentioned that this is not a plan even for the medium term. However, there may be circumstances in which the number of passengers will increase.
It was mentioned earlier that the population of the country is increasing, and is likely to continue to increase. We have approximately 600,000 pensioners in the country at the moment and we expect that the number will exceed 1 million in 25 years. It is said that we need four workers for each pensioner, so we will need 4 million workers. We are not going to produce them in Ireland so they will have to come from elsewhere. They will need to have somewhere to live, but they are also going to travel more because a lot of them are not going to be Irish people who were born and raised here so there is going to be that aspect of stress on the infrastructure as we look forward. In that context, is it wise for the DAA to be hedging its bets and making sure that it has the facilities, land and space to be able to develop in the future?
Mr. Kenny Jacobs:
It is absolutely wise. We are good at infrastructure and we are good at long-term planning. We would want the functionality and the modularity to say what way we are going to do it. We have a plan and infrastructure application that will go in that will grow Dublin Airport from 32 million to 40 million, and we would look beyond that.
The third terminal is one of those things the media jumped on and said: "We need it, and we need it now and it needs to be far away." I agree with Deputy Kenny in the sense that if we are looking at metro north and it is going to come to where I have described, in my view the best place for a third terminal is to use the existing infrastructure. We will expand, add more gates and terminal capacity in terminals 1 and 2 today, but at some point in time when there is a third terminal I see it being in close proximity to the existing terminals, using metro north and Bus Connects and coming to that same part of the airport - the east side of Dublin airport. It will be the same front door. The terminal capacity will grow for the existing terminals 1 and 2 and at a point in time when a third terminal is something that is required - we are looking long term into the future - I see it more being in that location, beside terminals 1 and 2 rather than on the far side of the airfield. As a nation, we say we would love metro north to exist today but if we are talking about a third terminal at the far side of the airfield, we do not even have a road network connecting us there, so given the surface access never mind the public transportation issues getting there, that feels like a very hypothetical situation. I think we should all be practical and pragmatic when it comes to infrastructural planning, so for me that means when a third terminal is needed, it would be near terminals 1 and 2, using metro north, Bus Connects and the station that we are planning for as part of the infrastructure application in the years ahead.
If we are looking at that being a distance away, there will need to be expansion and growth in the medium term. There will probably be a need for more gates, for example. What is the capacity of the existing infrastructure in terminals 1 and 2 if it is grown to its maximum? Where does that leave us in regard to the gates and the space and being able to work with comfort in the space we have got?
Mr. Kenny Jacobs:
Deputy Kenny is right. For me it is about gates and stands. Growing an airport is about the runways. We have done that; we have got two runways now. Then it is about the airfield capacity, so that is stands and gates. We can build stands and gates onto terminals 1 and 2 that would allow us to grow to an airport that caters for 40 million passengers.
Mr. Kenny Jacobs:
That will be part of the infrastructure application that we will submit in the autumn of this year. In October or November of this year we will submit the planning application and that will include gates and stands at terminals 1 and 2 to allow us to grow to a 40 million airport by adding that type of capacity. Will there be extensions and changes to terminals 1 and 2 as part of that to go alongside? Yes, that will also happen as part of the infrastructure application.
Mr. Kenny Jacobs:
Yes, approximately. There is optimisation of stands. We want to get very high utilisation of the stands we have. We think some of the changes we want to make in the infrastructure application will give us higher utilisation rates of the stands, so we can grow at a higher rate passenger-wise than stands-wise, but as a rough rule of thumb it will not be too dissimilar to the increase in the passenger numbers from 32 million to 40 million.
The environmental impact or carbon footprint is something that is often brought up. The question is whether people need to fly more. There is good common sense attached to that, but there is also an element of ensuring we have alternative fuels and advances in respect of that. How well is the airport facility geared up for that? I know some of it is about the physical aeroplanes, but where are we in terms of the capacity to be able to look to alternatives?
Mr. Kenny Jacobs:
It is less about capacity and more about infrastructure. The infrastructure is in place for any type of fuel. It is less an issue for the airport. We are big supporters of sustainable aviation fuel but ultimately that is up to the fuel companies and to the airlines wanting to fill their aircraft with sustainable aviation fuel. The infrastructure is already in place. That is essentially the liquid that goes into the tanks that goes into the infrastructure that gets filled into the aeroplanes. The infrastructure already exists. It is less about capacity and more down to the world and the fuel manufacturers creating more sustainable aviation fuel. At the moment there is not enough of that to meet the demands of the airlines. The airlines are in a good place because they are making commitments to have higher percentages of their fuel use being with sustainable aviation fuels. The airlines are going in the right direction, but the volume of sustainable aviation fuel that is available to meet the demand of airlines is playing catch-up. I hope that it does catch up, but the airport infrastructure is already in place to work with sustainable aviation fuel. There is no change in the infrastructure required.
It is a bit like us encouraging everybody to drive electric cars. The question is where the tax is going to come from. If the DAA is encouraging all of the airlines to use more sustainable fuels by reducing its charges, how is it going to make that add up? Ultimately that is the direction they are all going to be taking anyway. I just wondered about that. I assumed that was because it perhaps put less strain on some of the infrastructure and the DAA was saving somewhere else.
Mr. Kenny Jacobs:
It is less about infrastructure. We are not incentivising them with a discount on fuel; we are giving a discount on landing charges to newer aircraft, which are more fuel efficient, more CO2 efficient and have higher load factors and newer engines. They are also better from a noise point of view. That is the direction of travel for the airlines, which are replacing their older aircraft with newer aircraft. I think our discount scheme is helping them on that journey, but that is definitely what all airlines are doing.
Mr. Kenny Jacobs:
We are incentivising the best type of aircraft from a sustainability point of view. At the same time, very old aircraft will pay higher charges. We have the yin and the yang of that, which is the right direction. Newer aircraft are a massive step change from very old aircraft. The worst thing from a sustainability point of view is very old aircraft with very low load factors. Dublin Airport is actually way beyond the European average in terms of the average aircraft age and in terms of the load factors because we have low-cost airlines like Ryanair, which is such a big part of Dublin Airport. If we take that type of aircraft mix, that type of load factor mix and the type of trip that happens, the lie of the land for us is generally quite favourable. The incentive that I described earlier is for newer aircraft to encourage airlines on that journey. Do I want way more newer aircraft coming in and out of Dublin Airport? Absolutely, yes.
Mr. Kenny Jacobs:
We want to have that modest increase. I reiterate that it is a modest increase. We never want to be a high-cost airport like Heathrow Airport. We want to stay a discounter and celebrate that we are really cheap. Is resilience in our operation vital? Yes. Is that linked to getting a modest increase in the charge? Yes it is, so that is why we are challenging that part of the regulatory model - the OpEx part of the registry model, particularly around things like security resilience and operational resilience. It is essential rather than vital. Is it going to mean that we are now going back to 30-minute security queues? No, I do not ever want to go back there. We have a very good performance in security. I have stated our ambition. Ultimately I would love 90% of people using Dublin Airport to get through security in 15 minutes or less. If I ask the travelling public if they would agree with a modest increase in the charges if they get through Dublin Airport in 15 minutes or less, I think they would say generally they are happy to do that, and they would support that. We want to remain an ultra-low-charge airport going forward. We want a modest increase in charges. That is linked to resilience and being able to deliver the infrastructure programme that allows us to add the gates and stands that we want.
Mr. Kenny Jacobs:
They are linked. The infrastructure application is more related to capital expenditure than operational expenditure.
On the question of whether a charge increase allows us to deliver on the infrastructure application, the answer is that it does. It allows us to deliver operational resilience, which is different from infrastructure. I am referring to the standards at the airport, the security queues and the percentage of passengers we want to get through in 20 minutes or less. The two aspects, while not fully linked, are linked.
Let me touch on a couple of points. Other than in the presentation, we managed to get through the entire meeting without a reference to the famous tunnel or underpass. A man that I presume Mr. Jacobs knows very well, Mr. Michael O'Leary, told us he really does not believe it is necessary at all. Does Mr. Jacobs want to put his case as to why he believes it is needed?
Mr. Kenny Jacobs:
I will be happy to. I greatly respect the way Mr O'Leary goes about and looks at things. After my time in Ryanair, I believe I look at many things in the same way. I have asked why we need the tunnel and what the other options are. I have satisfied myself that we need it, for the following reasons. We have asked whether we could go around the perimeter road and whether we could have a barrier system and an underpass.
Mr. Kenny Jacobs:
It is needed in order that tugs and vehicles carrying bags can get to the far side of the airfield. It is about every vehicle we have on the airfield being able to transition across it in a safe manner. It involves a two-bore, four-lane tunnel. We have asked whether we could have a single-bore, two-lane tunnel. If digging, the cost difference between the two options is such that we might as well future-proof. That is what we decided to do. This is seen all over Europe. The tunnel will future-proof an airport whose passenger number will hopefully grow from 32 million to 40 million by the end of the decade, subject to the acceptance of the planning application we will submit, and grow beyond that. There will be remote stands, and ultimately there will be a need to get to the part of the airfield in question. The other option-----
Mr. Kenny Jacobs:
It will essentially be cargo planes. The cargo operators we have and other airlines that you could ask are saying they fully support the underpass. I realise Ryanair has said on record that it is against it, but I have satisfied myself, having examined the alternatives, that they are not safe or good for sustainability or the operation. The safety aspect trumps everything. The Irish Aviation Authority, the regulator, has said the underpass is the only way for us to get to the part of the airfield in question that it would be comfortable with. I do not want to make a decision to support something that is not safe. Safety is not something there is a choice about when it comes to airfield operation. For me, it is about safety and a good, reliable operation. It is also about sustainability. The third option discussed was using the perimeter road, which would result in a very poor solution because bag vehicles, tugs, cargo-----
Mr. Kenny Jacobs:
That is what is happening at the moment. Going forward, we want to plan infrastructure and do it properly. Can I see a point in time when we have remote stands at the location? Absolutely, that can be part of it, but the underpass is the only viable option from safety, operational and sustainability points of view. The alternatives would not be agreed by the safety regulator. For me, that is end-of-----
The DAA does long-term planning very well. The north runway lands were accumulated over many years and held, and held properly. I remember being a member of a regional authority at which people were paired to vote on the third runway, as they used to call it, back in 2006. Finally, it is being delivered but it has been on plans for years. The new tower was not a project of those present but, still, it is there for them.
There is talk of the expansion of a third terminal. Would that be where the old Team Aer Lingus hangar was, or would it be at the other end, closer to the road near terminal 2?
Mr. Kenny Jacobs:
Ryanair is bigger than Aer Lingus at Dublin Airport. From an operational point of view, it is advantageous that we have two very big customers. Ryanair has a very straightforward short-haul product whereas Aer Lingus has both short-haul and long-haul flights. Its long-haul element is expanding significantly. We know both customers and their operational needs very well. From an operational point of view, it is good and straightforward. We would welcome it if all airlines considered Dublin at some point.
A point I was going to touch on concerns easyJet. How does an airline get a slot at Dublin Airport? Is it through the DAA or is there some kind of mechanism in Europe? If an airline says it met a certain ambassador from a European country that does not have direct flights but wants them, how does it get to be in Dublin Airport?
Mr. Kenny Jacobs:
We have got the slots. There is a thing called the slot conference and at this the airlines look at the slots available at the airports. Having worked for an airline and attended the conference, I know an airline might get slots but not the slots or times it wants. Many airlines want to fly to Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport, for example, but the slots they would get would be at the worst possible times. Therefore, many of them would say they are not interested.
Mr. Kenny Jacobs:
Nearly every airport still has some slots. It is just a matter of their quality for different airlines. Different airlines have different operating requirements.
With regard to easyJet, it is really a question for it. Every airline is welcome at Dublin Airport. Many airlines would have filed for slots in the past but never ended up flying. It is a case of waiting to see, but it is more of a question for easyJet. Every airline is welcome at Dublin Airport. For me, the more, the merrier, and the greater the competition-----
Mr. Kenny Jacobs:
It involves Fast Track, car parking and everything else we can sell to passengers. That goes into the regulated charge, so it is considered in the round. There might be a view that we can just jack up the prices on everything else and make all the associated money, but that is not the case.
To go back to the key asks in the second last slide, we understand the DUB Hub. On the point on rethinking the regulatory model, I have always felt one is almost punished for efficiency. If one is efficient, one's charge will be reduced because enough profit is being made without it. The better one does, the more the charge is reduced or the less the increase argued for. Is that a fair assessment of the model?
Mr. Jacobs made the point that he is not attacking the regulator, which does what it does because it is in law, but that he is drawing attention to the model, which almost makes the DAA ask why it should bother becoming efficient, on the grounds that if it did so, it would just have its charge cut anyway.
There is an element of being punished for doing that.
DAA's key requests are that the DUB Hub and increased connectivity be supported, that the regulatory model be re-examined and the delivery of sustainable infrastructure be supported. What does that mean?
Mr. Kenny Jacobs:
A full-Ireland conversation about what we want the national airport to be is needed. Are we growing as a nation? Is the population growing? We are on the periphery of Europe. Do we want to continue to travel? I think the answer is yes. Do we want to do that in a more sustainable way? A grown-up conversation that sits within our sustainability strategy says yes, we want to continue to travel. Consumers will continue to make the choices they want to make and we want an aviation system that allows us to stay connected to the world, especially to Europe, and achieve our sustainability targets. Aviation has to be part of that.
I spoke on behalf of this committee at a Fit for 55 presentation in Brussels. It was a meeting of the inter-parliamentary committees of Europe. The contribution I made was about the decarbonisation of the aviation and maritime sectors that are difficult to decarbonise. We were in a room with many parliamentarians from all over Europe and there was a vibe. Belgium, the Netherlands and France are cutting their flights and building more railway lines. I think France has banned flights of less than two hours duration, if there is a railway line that people can take instead. However, there was a lot of kick-back by people from northern Sweden, Cyprus, Malta and Ireland. Representatives from the Canary Islands were very vocal. I made the point that it is not a one-size-fits-all. We need to remind everyone in Brussels that we are a peripheral island at the edge of Europe. We cannot jump on a train in Hamburg to head off to the Czech Republic or wherever. We simply cannot do that and will not have any tunnels or railway lines that can bring us to the heart of Europe any time soon. Mr. Jacobs's point is important. We must ensure we remind people that we are not flying for the sheer fun of it. We are trying to get to places we cannot get to any other way.
Mr. Kenny Jacobs:
There is more flying because the nation is doing better. The deregulation of European aviation is the best thing Europe has ever done. It has been great for Ireland going to the world and for the world coming to Ireland. This is not about people flying more. It is about a young nation whose population continues to grow and finding the right balance to enable us to do that and to stay connected to the world. The Senator is correct that we cannot take the train to Nice or the Costa del Sol and we still want to go there. We have to find the right balance as a periphery island nation in Europe.
Mr. Kenny Jacobs:
Yes, we want the planning process to move quickly and for a good all-Ireland strategic conversation to take place about what type of national airport and growth we want and what type of open economy we want to be. I have set out the economic contribution Dublin Airport makes to the Irish economy. All that is on the table if we are saying we want Dublin Airport to remain capped. That is a bad thing for Ireland, for the Irish economy and for Irish consumers.
I understand surface access and sustainability as regards aligning national bodies and staff and getting planning moving faster, supporting the balance between sustainability and climate change and being able to move around and bring people to this country, export and so on.
On the expansion, regardless of the natural population growth, Mr. Jacobs mentioned South America and Asia. Is DAA looking more at expansion of short-haul flights, such as bigger capacity on the routes we have, perhaps having wide-bodied aircraft on some of the European routes, such as to Malaga or the Faro Islands, that are operating already or more at an expansion of long-haul flights to Asia and South America? What is the next step for the airport for new destinations?
Mr. Kenny Jacobs:
That is a good question. It is both. If the Senator had asked me three years ago when I was still working for an airline what the right frequency of flights to Malaga was, I would not have thought it was the number we have today. Spain is the destination that keeps on giving. That is where the biggest demand is. It involves short-haul flights within Europe. At the same time we are not connected to South America or India at the moment. We have limited connectivity to Asia, especially south-east Asia. Therefore it is both. There will still be places such as Turkey on the periphery of Europe. We have a lot of charter flights that go there, but are there enough frequent enough flights from Dublin Airport to Turkey, compared to airports such as Manchester? Probably not. There are places that involve both short-haul and long-haul flights. Many are new places it would be great to have connectivity to. There are 90,000 Brazilians living in Dublin. They all fly with Ryanair to Lisbon in order to go home to visit parents and grandparents and do all those things. For that community of 90,000 Brazilians, we have an appetite for a conversation, subject to bilateral agreements being in place between Ireland and Brazil. From an aviation point of view, I look at that and think wow, is that not a better choice-----
It is an uptapped market. I am around long enough to remember when Aer Lingus had two transatlantic flights to JFK and Boston airports and now I think it serves 14 or 16 destinations in the US. Is there more scope for Dublin Airport to be a mini-Dubai, heading west?
Mr. Kenny Jacobs:
We are connected to both sides of Canada. There is a year-round route to Dallas now and who would have expected that ten years ago? There are definitely more places in the United States and other parts of Texas that are interesting. It is ultimately an airline choice. We welcome-----
Mr. Kenny Jacobs:
Both. Quite often, the airlines come to us to say what they want to do and quite often it is the DAA. To take the example of South America, we are encouraging airlines to take a look at it. Some 90,000 Brazilians live in Dublin. We have said to the South American airlines that they should definitely not neglect this market. It is a commercial opportunity for them.
We appreciate the fact that there was an interview with Claire Byrne that did not exactly endear Mr. Jacobs to the committee at the time, but he is here. It is great he is here. He has been open and knowledgeable about everything we asked. We had a certain number of constraints that were as much ours as the DAA's. I thank Mr. Jacobs and his colleague Mr. McQueen for being here. I will not say they are welcome all the time, but they are welcome to attend frequently. We look forward to travelling through Dublin Airport over the summer and to seeing how the DAA is doing and the progress that is being made in the airport generally. As Mr. Jacobs said, it is an enormously valuable asset, not only for Dublin, but for the entire country. We wish both the witnesses and the staff of the DAA well and I include the travelling public in that.