Published on August 21st, 2016 | by Jim Lee


Dublin Airport is Europe’s fastest growing major airport this year, services improving to cater for demand

Dublin Airport recorded its busiest ever month in July, when almost 3 million passengers were welcomed through the airport. Passenger numbers were also up 9% compared to July last year. The number of passengers travelling to and from continental Europe increased by 8% in July, with over 1.6 million passengers flying to and from European destinations.

Almost 900,000 passengers took flights to and from the UK, which was a 13% increase on the same month last year.

Transatlantic traffic increased by 7% in July, as more than 343,000 people travelled between Dublin and North America during the month.

Other international traffic, which includes flights to the Middle East and Africa, declined by 3%, with 84,000 passengers travelling to and from these destinations in July.

Dublin Airport shopsThe number of passengers on domestic flights increased by 4%, with more than 8,000 people taking flights within the Republic of Ireland during the month.

Dublin Airport has direct flights to over 180 destinations in 40 countries on four continents and is adding a total of 18 new routes and services this year, as well as additional frequencies on 24 existing services Therefore, it is not surprising that the number of passengers using Dublin Airport as a hub, to connect to another destination is up 19% in the first seven months of this year, with over 568,000 passengers connecting through the airport in that time.

Dublin Airport Is Europe’s Fastest Growing Major Airport This Year

In the first seven months of this year, almost 16 million passengers have used Dublin Airport, which is a 12% increase on the same period last year. According to new data from ACI Europe, the trade association for European airports, Dublin Airport was the fastest growing major airport in Europe, in the first six months of 2016.

The ACI Europe traffic report, which covers 215 airports, is the only air transport report that includes all types of civil aviation, comprising passenger flights to and from Europe on full service, low cost, charter airlines and others.

In that period, passenger numbers at Dublin Airport increased by 13.4%, making Dublin the leading performer among top tier European airports, which have more than 25 million passengers per year. The growth at Dublin follows last year’s record-breaking performance, when the airport welcomed 25 million passengers, for the first time.

Dublin Airport holidaymakers

Dublin Airport holidaymakers

In the first six months of this year, traffic at Dublin Airport grew faster than at Barcelona’s El-Prat Airport (+12.7%), Istanbul’s Sabiha Gokcen International Airport (up 12.0%), Copenhagen Airport (up 10.9%) and Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam (up 9.9%).

The average growth across European airports was 4.9%, according to ACI Europe, in the first half of the year, with airports in the European Union reporting stronger average passenger growth of 6.2%. Traffic at non-EU airports within Europe was almost flat in the first half, growing by just 0.5%

“Dublin Airport had a very strong performance in the first half of this year, welcoming just over 13 million passengers,” said Dublin Airport Managing Director Vincent Harrison. “The growth in passenger numbers at Dublin Airport is having a significant impact on the Irish economy,” Mr Harrison added, “bringing increased trade and investment and also driving higher visitor numbers, which is in turn boosting the Irish tourist industry.”

“The significant growth in passenger numbers meant that more than 1.5 million extra customers travelled through Dublin Airport in the first six months of the year,” he added.

A 2015 study by economic consultants InterVistas showed that Dublin Airport is a key strategic asset for the Irish economy, as it supports or facilitates 97,400 jobs, and contributes €6.9 billion to the economy.

ACI Europe Director General Olivier Jankovec noted that while the pan-European traffic performance was healthy in the half of the year, there was a slowing of growth in non-EU airports, which was expected to continue for the rest of the year.

“EU airports are also likely to see a continued softening of passenger traffic on the back of lower consumer confidence fuelled by terrorism and the decision of the UK to leave the EU, as well as major full service airlines reining in capacity,” according to Mr Jankovec. “The only positive remains the price of oil – which should help limit the extent of capacity cuts and keep low cost carriers in expansion mode,” he added.

Dublin Airport continuing to invest in new facilitates to meet passenger growth

To meet this growth, Dublin Airport is continuing to invest in new facilitates for both passengers and airlines. A €10 million upgrade to the Arrivals Hall in Terminal 1 is currently underway and ten new aircraft parking stands entered use earlier this year as part of a €20 million upgrade project.

Dublin Airport kioaks

Dublin Airport self-service kiosks

The airport recently completed a €14 million expansion to the Terminal 2 multi-storey car park, which doubled the number of available spaces and installed new self-service check-in and bag drop kiosks in both terminals.

Dublin Airport is also progressing its plans for the new €320 million North Runway at the airport, which is essential to allow the airport to grow, and will be a key enabler for the Irish economy for decades to come.

Improvements in US Preclearance services progressing

US preclearance in Ireland allows US-bound passengers to clear all US entry controls (immigration, customs and agriculture), into the United States prior to departure, such that on arrival there they have the same status as passengers arriving from a US domestic airport and thus face no further entry controls. This has benefits for both passenger and airlines. It also has obvious benefits for Dublin and Shannon Airports in terms of their efforts to retain and promote transatlantic services as they are the only airports in Europe that have these services on offer to passengers.

Preclearance is carried out by officers of the US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) in Dublin and Shannon Airports. This service is provided in custom built facilities in these airports under the provisions of the US Preclearance Agreement and Aviation (Preclearance) Act 2009. The Act gives legal effect to the Preclearance Agreement which was signed by the Minister for Transport and the Secretary of the US Department of Homeland Security in Washington on 17th November 2008.

The Act provides for the duties and responsibilities of travellers, including the right to withdraw from the preclearance area at any time, the functions of the preclearance officers, the functions of the Irish law enforcement officers in the preclearance area, restricted entry to the area, seizure of certain goods etc. Full US Preclearance commenced in Shannon in 2009 and Dublin in 2011. (Prior to that, only US immigration clearance [not customs and agriculture] were available at the two airports).

In accordance with the agreement, a US/Ireland Preclearance Consultative Group (PCCG), with representatives from both sides, was established to meet at least annually to review any issues arising related to the Agreement. US representatives on the Group include officials of the Department of Homeland Security, Customs and Border Protection and the Transport Security Administration. On the Irish side, representatives include officials of the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport (DTTAS), the daa and the SAA. On occasion, officials of the US State Department and the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade also attend. The Group last met on 10th June 2015 in Washington. In general preclearance operates very well to the mutual benefit of Ireland and the United States.

However, there have been difficulties with CDP manpower resources and hours of operation in Dublin. Nevertheless as a result of discussions with the DTTAS and the provision of Automated Passport Control kiosks by the daa in the preclearance area, all flights wishing to avail of preclearance during 2015 and for the 2016 Summer Season were facilitated. A record one million passengers used the Airport’s US Preclearance facility in 2015. With increasing passenger numbers there is a risk that all flights will not preclear in the future unless permanent additional resources are provided by US CDP. The DTTAS therefore considered it prudent to plan for this future growth and any additional resources that may be needed.

The US is currently expanding the preclearance programme with 10 airports shortlisted as potential sites. It is the goal of the US to have 30% of flights entering the US pre-cleared by 2020. One of the preconditions set out in the US notification is that applications can only be progressed if agreements are put in place to reimburse the US for staffing costs as well as providing the facilities.

The Department has been engaging with the US Department of Homeland Security’s Custom and Border Control office on the need for, and the terms governing, enhanced levels of service at preclearance facilities at Dublin and Shannon airports. In November last year, the then Minister Pascal Donohoe, wrote to Secretary Johnson in order to open negotiations in relation to establishing a framework for securing enhanced services in the longer term by way of an amendment to the Ireland – US Aviation Preclearance Agreement of 2008. The US side responded to this letter, stating that they were moving through their own internal approval processes in order to engage in negotiations on the Agreement. It is understood that that approval process is nearing completion. It is the intention that negotiations will commence in the near future with a meeting of the Preclearance Consultation Group to be held to progress discussions on this issue.

One million passengers use US Preclearance Automatic Passport Control facility at Dublin Airport

Automated Passport Control (APC) kiosks were introduced to Dublin Airport’s US Preclearance facility in Terminal 2, in December 2014, to improve efficiency in processing times and the overall passenger experience through US preclearance.

The facility in Terminal 2 reached a significant milestone during August, when Anna Kenny, from Glasthule, Co. Dublin, became the one millionth passenger to use the APC kiosks, before boarding an Aer Lingus flight to New York. More than half of all US preclearance passengers travelling through Dublin Airport this year have used this technology.

Dublin Airport pre-clearance

Port Director, Tish Lagerwey, with winner Anna Kenny and a friend, Elaine Jenkins

Commenting on this milestone Mr, Harrison said; “Dublin Airport currently has four airlines flying to 11 destinations in the US. An average of 20 flights are using the US preclearance facility in Terminal 2 on a daily basis.”

“Dublin Airport now ranks 5th among EU airports for route frequency to North America. We have surpassed Madrid and only Heathrow, Paris, Frankfurt and Amsterdam are ahead of Dublin. This September Aer Lingus will add two new transatlantic routes to its route network when it launches services to Newark and Hartford, Connecticut,” he added.

US Customs & Border Protection Dublin Port Director, Tish Lagerwey said “This is a very exciting milestone which was reached as a result of hard work and the successful partnership between Customs and Border Protection, Dublin Airport and the Irish Government.”

A record 2.4 million passengers travelled to and from North America in 2015, with 1.2 million passengers travelling between Dublin and North America between January and the end of June which is up 19% on the first half figures the previous year.

 Dublin Airport opens new post US Preclearance lounge

On 22nd July, Dublin Airport announced that it had opened a new passenger lounge, after US Preclearance, in Terminal 2. The new lounge, known as 51st & Green, named to reflect the theme of connecting Ireland and the US at Dublin Airport before departure.

51st and Green (daa)

51st and Green

Inspired by Newgrange, customers enter 51st & Green via a 32 metre entrance corridor over terrazzo tiles spaced with bronze strips, sloping to a bright open space with spectacular views of the airfield. The 750 square metre lounge, which is located close to the intersection threshold of runways 34 and 28, has seating for 180 people.

The lounge is available to transatlantic passengers only travelling with Aer Lingus, Delta Airlines, United an American Airlines holding a business class ticket and airline club cards. This is a unique facility as Dublin is the only airport outside of North America to offer such a lounge facility once the necessary Preclearance checks are completed.

It is zoned by activity giving customers the space to relax or work, after completing security screening and US Preclearance checks, while waiting to be called to their boarding gate close by.

As well as food and drink facilities, the new lounge offers a concierge service, luxury shower rooms, an entertainment area with sports channels, a private area for Platinum Service customers, printing facilities, charging outlets for multiple devices and free wifi.

Almost 5 million passengers have used Dublin Airport’s US Preclearance facility since it opened in T2 in February 2011.

Dublin Airport has or will have direct flights to the following transatlantic destinations this year:-

Destination                                  Airline                                          Frequency (outbound)

Atlanta                                         Delta                                            7 per week

Boston                                         Aer Lingus                                  14 per week

Charlotte/Douglas Intl                  American Airlines                        7 per week

Chicago O’Hare                           EI, AA, United                              26 per week

Los Angeles                                Aer Lingus                                  7 per week

New York – JFK                          EI, American, Delta                      35 per week

Newark                                       United, EI from September           14 per week currently

Orlando                                       Aer Lingus                                  3 per week

Philadelphia                                 American Airlines                        7 per week

San Francisco                             Aer Lingus                                  7 per week

Washington – Dulles                   Aer Lingus, United                      14 per week

Hartford/Bradly                           Aer Lingus from September        7 per week

Runway 10/28 overlay work

Last year Dublin Airport had almost 198,000 aircraft movements in total, 95% of these took off or landed on the main runway 10/28, and just 5% of total aircraft movements used runway 16/34. The main runway, which is 2,637m long, has been the workhorse of the airport facilitating over four million aircraft movements since it opened 27 years ago. This runway has allowed Dublin Airport to grow from five passengers in 1989 to 25 million passengers in 2015.

Runway 10/28 is a key national infrastructural asset and like all airport assets, it has been subjected to regular, ongoing maintenance over the years to ensure its safe operation. A consequence of the growth in movements over the past two years in particular, recent studies have determined that the runway is now in urgent need of a major overhaul and requires essential pavement rehabilitation. The work is required primarily for safety reasons, but also to ensure runway availability for a busy operations schedule. In order to minimise disruption, the works, which are expected to start at the beginning of October, will be undertaken at night and will take approximately 18 months to complete.

Dublin Airport's main runway 28

Dublin Airport’s main runway 28

Work on this runway is extremely challenging for airport operations because it can only be carried out in a narrow time frame at night between the hours of 23:00 to 05:00. This runway will then be handed back in time for the early morning first wave of airport operations.

While the night time works are ongoing the airport has no alternative but to use its secondary runway, 16/34 to facilitate landings and take-offs during this time.

This runway has two flight paths, the R16 flight path brings aircraft over rural areas of North Dublin while the R34 approach brings aircraft over South Dublin, across Dublin Bay to Clontarf, Artane, Beaumont, Santry before landing at the airport.

The preferred flight path to/from the secondary runway is R16 and the Irish Aviation Authority will use this flight path for the duration of the works. On occasion when the wind direction is an issue, R34 will be used.

Use of R16/34:

Runway 16/34 is just over 2,000 metres long and is Dublin Airport’s secondary runway.

This runway is brought into use when the crosswind component on the main runway reaches 15 knots and is expected to increase over a prolonged period of time. It is also used when essential maintenance is needed on the main runway.

In the two years from January 2013 to December 2015 16/34 was used as follows:

  • 3.8% flight path to R16
  • 1.5% flight path to R34

When this runway is in use the Irish Aviation Authority will use R16 as the preferred flight path to/from Dublin Airport. Only on occasions when the weather conditions are an issue, will the flight path to R34 be activated.

For example the main runway was closed at night for essential maintenance for a two week period recently. During these works the flight path to R16 was used for the majority of the time with the approach to R34 being used for two nights on Tuesday July 12 and Wednesday July 13 because of the wind direction.

Previous repair works on Runway 10/28

Dublin Airport’s main runway, 10/28 had similar work carried out over a six month period in 2010 when a thin, porous friction course overlay was applied to extend the runway life by 6-8 years.

The runway was closed at night from 23:00 to 05:00 to facilitate this work and 16/34 was the active runway during this time.

10/28 was closed again at night for two months in April and May, 2015 for extensive survey works to ascertain the extent of overlay required, again 16/34 was the active runway during this time.

Alternative considered

Closing runway 10/28 for the duration of the works was considered in order to get this work done more quickly, however this is not an option for two reasons:

The secondary runway does not have the capacity to cater for the large volumes of aircraft flying to/from Dublin Airport on a daily basis, and 16/34 cannot be used in low visibility conditions and the airport would have to close if such conditions exist.

Dublin Airport’s flight schedule between 23:00 to 05:00 is shown in the chart below:-

Dublin Airport’s flight schedule between 2300 and 0500

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About the Author

Jim has had a life-long interest in military matters and aviation. Initially, he fused both of these interests together with a passion for military aviation, initially as a photographer. He has travelled extensively over the years and has been the guest of many European air forces, plus the air forces of the United States, Russia and others throughout the world. His first introduction to journalism coincided with an interest in the civil aviation industry was when he initially wrote for and later edited, ‘Aviation Ireland’, the club magazine of the Aviation Society of Ireland. Jim was a contributor to Flying in Ireland since its inception over 10 years ago and is now a key contributor to this site. He has also contributed items for a number of other aviation magazines and has produced a number of detailed contributions to Government policy documents, most recently the Irish Government’s White Paper on Defence. He is also deeply involved in the local community and voluntary sector and has worked both in local government and central government.

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