The operator of Dublin Airport has warned that a continuation of its current passenger cap could have an impact on charter flights for major sporting events such as the Six Nations and the 2024 Uefa Europa League final in Dublin.
DAA chief executive Kenny Jacobs said the airport is fully compliant with its current cap of 32 million passengers per year but said the limit is leading to “tough conversations” with airlines.
Appearing before the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Transport, Mr Jacobs said DAA will be making a planning submission to lift the passenger cap by 25% to 40 million as quickly as possible but added it “will take a while”.
In the meantime, Mr Jacobs said DAA is “managing down capacity” by taking away growth incentives for airlines and taking out transit passengers.
He said there would be further difficult choices for general aviation and charter flights, for example around major sporting events.
“We may be saying you need to go to Shannon, Cork, Belfast because we are managing to the 32 million.”
He said scheduled commercial flights have to take priority over chartered flights.
Mr Jacobs told the committee members that caps on passenger numbers “do not work” for sustainability and warned that 16,000 jobs that could be created around Ireland would be lost.
“Caps don’t stop flying, they just move the flying somewhere else,” he said.
He said a cap on passenger numbers would reduce connectivity and move flights to other hubs such as Manchester and Edinburgh.
He added: “Caps don’t work for sustainability and they don’t work for moving capital city traffic to regional airports.”
Mr Jacobs also said fares would go up and “sustainability would go backwards” as airlines would not place newer, quieter and more fuel-efficient aircraft in Ireland.
He said: “We are now turning airlines away, we are turning growth away.”
Asked by Green Party TD Steven Matthews how a previous announcement from Dublin Airport that it had welcomed 32.9 million passengers in one year was not a breach of the cap, Mr Jacobs explained that the planning laws allow for the exclusion of transfer passengers.
He said the cap was about “surface access” of passengers who travel to the airport in a vehicle.
Mr Jacobs said DAA was confident in its position that this was the correct interpretation of the planning restriction.
On noise, Mr Jacobs apologised that some communities were not consulted around flights between August last year and February this year.
He told members that there had been a 50% reduction on noise in 2023 when compared with 2019.
He said: “We take noise very, very seriously.”
Mr Jacobs said the use of the north runway had led to a 99% reduction in the use of the crosswind runway on windy days, which routed flights over Whitehall, Beaumont and Santry.
DAA also launched a 25% discount on airport charges for new, quieter and cleaner aircraft this year.
The chief executive said Dublin Airport had insulated 150 homes from noise, out of more than 200 eligible.
He added: “I see us insulating probably a couple hundred homes in the years ahead.”
Mr Jacobs said 38 homes “very near” the end of the runway had been bought out at 30% above the market price.
He told Mr Matthews that DAA was looking at getting a limit of 65 night-time movements changed to a noise quota, adding: “That’s a much better option.”
The north runway opened in 2022. In 2019, there were more than 100 aircraft movements between 11pm and 7am.
The DAA chief executive said it was “totally inappropriate” that fewer night-time flights were happening than when Dublin Airport was operating such flights from one runway.
Mr Jacobs said Dublin Airport was a “good neighbour” in Fingal and that it had a 10 million euro community engagement fund.
He also told the politicians that Dublin Airport aims to achieve “net zero” carbon emissions by 2050.
He said this would be achieved by reducing carbon emissions by 51% by 2030 and converting 100% of the airport’s light fleet to LEVs by 2025.
Mr Jacobs said he expects Dublin Airport to submit a further planning application for an even higher passenger cap in the future.