Published on January 20th, 2020 | by Mark Dwyer


Dublin Airport Celebrates 80th Birthday

Yesterday, Sunday 19th January 2020, Dublin Airport celebrated 80 years since the first commercial flight, an Aer Lingus Lockheed 14 aircraft, departed for Liverpool’s Speke Airport at 9am on Friday, January 19, 1940. Since then, about 580 million passengers have used Dublin Airport.

Airport operations commenced with just a single flight on its opening day. Today the airport handles 31.5 million passengers and about 233,000 take offs and landings per year. Dublin Airport has come a long way in those 80 years, according to Dublin Airport Managing Director Vincent Harrison. “From one flight twice-weekly to one destination in 1940 to 700 flights daily, with direct services to more than 190 destinations in 42 countries, Dublin Airport is a thriving hub of economic activity, a significant employer and contributor to the exchequer.”

Dublin Airport’s award-winning original terminal building was designed to handle up to 100,000 passengers per year. Last summer, Dublin Airport welcomed more than 100,000 passengers every day.

“While the scale of Dublin Airport has changed dramatically over the past 80 years, the core of what the airport does has remained exactly the same throughout that period,” according to Mr Harrison. “Dublin Airport connects Ireland to the world, and we bring people together; for business, for pleasure, at times of sadness, and at times of joy.”

Dublin Airport also plays a vital role in growing inbound tourism, in boosting Irish trade and exports and in facilitating foreign direct investment in the Irish economy. “Dublin Airport is at the heart of the Irish economy and its impact reaches all 32 counties on the island of Ireland.”

Dublin Airport was originally known as Collinstown Airport, as it was located in the townland of Collinstown, north of Dublin city centre. Collinstown had been used as a British Royal Flying Corps and RAF base between 1917 and 1922 but had fallen into disrepair before being selected as the site for the new Dublin Airport in late 1936.

Work began on the airport site in 1937, as more land was acquired, and site clearance commenced for the new grass runways. Construction of the new terminal building started in the summer of 1938.

The architect of the terminal was Desmond FitzGerald, an elder brother of former Taoiseach, Dr Garret FitzGerald, who led a team of young architects. The curved building and its tiered structure, which echoed the lines of a great ocean liner, won many architectural awards for its design.

Collinstown Airport remained relatively quiet during the 1940s, as war raged throughout Europe. However, Aer Lingus continued to operate a twice-weekly service to Liverpool. During this period, Dublin Airport was required to observe black-outs and anti-aircraft guns were in place for defensive purposes.

By 1947, flights departing from Dublin ventured as far as Europe with Dutch airline KLM beginning the first continental service to Dublin. New concrete runways were completed in 1948, and in 1950, after ten years in operation the airport had been used by a total of 920,000 passengers.

Air travel was the preserve of the wealthy during this period and many Dubliners would have travelled to the airport simply as a treat to see the aircraft. The terminal building also boasted one of Dublin’s best restaurants, the Collar of Gold, which was hugely popular and not only for those travelling.

As Dublin Airport’s route network grew and its passenger numbers expanded it, it became clear that the original terminal building had far exceeded its capacity. The North Terminal opened in 1959 and was used to process arriving passengers, while the old terminal remained for in place for departing passengers.

The terminal, now known as T1 shortly after its opening in 1972.

By 1963, Dublin Airport had grown to one million passengers per year and additional facilities were again required. New boarding gate areas were added in the 1960s and work on a new terminal building began in 1969.  The new terminal building, now known as Terminal 1, opened in 1972 and was originally designed to cater for six million passengers per year.

In November 1985, the Government approved the construction of a new runway at Dublin Airport, together with new taxiways, and a new air traffic control building. The new runway 10/28 officially opened for flights on June 21, 1989. That year, more than five million passengers used Dublin Airport.

Passenger numbers increased to 5.8 million in 1992 and following 17 consecutive years of growth, reached 23.5 million in 2008. Facilities however had not kept pace with the passenger growth and between 2007 and 2010 Dublin Airport embarked on a major investment programme to transform the airport by significantly increasing capacity and dramatically improving the passenger experience.

This programme delivered Terminal 2, two new boarding gate areas (the 100 gates and the 400 gates), a new road network, and a host of other major improvements. The new terminal was opened in November 2010. The economic downturn saw passenger numbers decline to 18.4 million in 2010, before eight consecutive years of growth boosted them to 31.5 million by 2018.

Dublin Airport has hosted many dignitaries and special homecomings during its 80-year history. It has welcomed seven US Presidents, two Popes, the return of many Irish Olympic medal winners, a host of Eurovision winners, the Irish football team returning from World Cups and European Championships, and the Irish rugby team with the Grand Slam trophy.

This summer Dublin Airport will have 13 new routes and services including two new long-haul destinations, with Juneyao Airlines launching a twice-weekly service to Shanghai via Helsinki and United Airlines operating a new year-round daily service to San Francisco.

Dublin Airport’s short-haul network is also expanding, with 11 new summer services to the following destinations: Brindisi and Verona in Italy, Marseille and Toulouse in France, Alghero in Sardinia, Tel Aviv in Israel, Billund in Denmark, Podgorica in Montenegro, the Balearic Island of Menorca, Palanga in Lithuania and the Egyptian capital Cairo.

A timeline of Dublin Airport

1936 Irish Government announces plans for a civilian airport at Collinstown

1938 Work begins on the new terminal building

1940 Dublin Airport opens on January 919 with a flight per day to Liverpool Speke Airport

1945 First Dublin Airport-London service begins to Croydon Airport

1947 KLM starts Dublin-Manchester-Amsterdam service

1948 Completion of concrete runways

1949 Passenger numbers reach 200,000 per year

1958 First scheduled transatlantic service as passenger numbers top 500,000 per year

1959 North Terminal opens

1963 Passenger numbers top 1 million for the first time

1972 Terminal 1 opens

1989 Passenger numbers reach 5 million

1990 Celebrates 50th birthday

1997 Welcomes more than 10 million passengers

2008 Passenger numbers reach a record 23.5 million

2010 Terminal 2 opens

2014 Welcomes 21.7 million passengers

2015 Celebrates 75th anniversary

2016 Passenger numbers pass 30 million for the first time

2016 Plans announced to proceed with a new North Runway

2019 First sod is turned on the new runway site

2020 Dublin Airport celebrates 80th anniversary

Future Developments at Dublin Airport

The Aviation Regulator has earmarked close to €1.3bn worth of Dublin Airport projects for assessment as part of its new ‘StageGate’ monitoring process.  The 17 projects identified for entry into the process include a €300m Pier 5, a €170m tunnel under a runway to provide access to the airport’s west apron, and €200m to upgrade baggage screening in both terminals. Siemens Logistics has won a bid to modernise the hold baggage screening system (HBS) at T2 of Dublin Airport. Siemens Logistics will replace the present HBS, which comprises 6 km of conveyor and an automated sorting system. The contract also requires the company to install an additional line to increase the system’s capacity.

The Regulator intends to award a contract to a suitably qualified partner later this month to help it undertake an ongoing cost assessment of the projects over a five- year period.  That assessment is expected to begin next month. The daa is planning to hire a firm to oversee project management and logistics of its capital investment programme (CIP) to ensure that the works cause minimal impact at the gateway. However it cautioned that the CIP is subject to review after the unexpectedly low cap on airport charges proposed by the Commission for Aviation Regulation.

Emerging Dublin Airport Masterplan – Safeguarding for growth to 55mppa

daa to Trial Luggage Collections Service

daa is seeking offers from potential providers of a remote bag drop service for passengers at Dublin Airport as an enhancement of its existing customer services.

The system is already in operation in other cities — the company AirPortr has been operating a luggage pick-up service that began in London in 2016. In that case, a company representative comes to the person’s hotel or home with a hand-held scale and asks to see the passenger’s travel details before taking their luggage away. Passengers pay about €33 for the service. daa said it believed the provider of the remote drop-off service might operate a number of ‘hubs’ in the greater Dublin region.

daa hopes a trial by a delivery company or courier service can be carried out over the spring and summer of 2020. The bag-drop service, which has a working name of Offload, is a new development from Dublin Airport’s Future Factory innovation hub.

Main photo: Dublin Airport’s Managing Director Vincent Harrison (R) with two of the airport’s longest serving employees, John Sealy and Elaine Adams, who together have almost 90 years of service with the company. 

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About the Author

Mark is an airline pilot flying the Boeing 737 for a major European airline. In addition he is also a Type Rating Instructor, Type Rating Examiner and Base Training Captain on the B737. Outside of commercial flying Mark enjoys flying light aircraft from the smallest 3 Axis microlights up to heavier singles. He is also an instructor and EASA Examiner on single engines and a UK CAA Examiner. He flies the Chipmunk for the Irish Historic Flight Foundation (IHFF). Mark became the Chairman of the National Microlight Association of Ireland (NMAI) in 2013 and has overseen a massive growth in the organisation. In this role he has worked at local and national levels. In 2015, Mark won ‘Upcoming Aviation Professional Award’ at the Aviation Industry Awards sponsored by the IAA. Mark launched this website back in 2002 while always managing the website, he has also been Editor and Deputy Editor of FlyingInIreland Magazine from 2005 to 2015.

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