Published on March 15th, 2021 | by Mark Dwyer


Night Cargo Operations Under Threat at Dublin Airport

Main Photo: The North Runway is almost complete but its opening will mean fewer movements for Dublin Airport. Photo by Pat Lanigan Ryan.

Air cargo night flying has a significant impact on the Irish economy, primarily through the role that it plays in supporting productivity in key trading sectors of the economy. A new report by York Aviation and Freight Transport Association Ireland estimate that it supported around €1.2 billion in annual GDP and around 15,760 jobs in 2018. However, the planning conditions associated with the opening of the second runway at Dublin have the potential to significantly damage night time cargo operations, undermining their ability to support this economic value, threatening Dublin’s position as a key European business location and damaging infrastructure investments already made by key air cargo operators.

Shortly, Dublin Airport will take a major step forward in terms of its future growth potential and ability to drive economic growth. The new North Runway is due for completion later this year. This will relieve the existing capacity constraints at the airport and secure the ability to grow in the future. However, there is a significant caveat to this good news. Currently, the operation of the airport post opening of the North Runway will be subject to two planning conditions that have the potential to significantly impair the airport’s ability to deliver growth and support the economy:

Condition 3(d) prohibits use of North Runway for landings and take-offs between the hours of 11pm and 7am.

Condition 5 states that, on completion of construction of the new runway, the average number of night time aircraft movements (during the busy summer period) at the airport shall not exceed 65 per night (between 11pm and 7am).

These two conditions will significantly limit Dublin Airport’s ability to operate at night and, in fact, would result in a reduction from the pre-Covid levels of night time operations. In summer, daa estimates that there are normally around 100 aircraft movements each night. The planning conditions as they stand would, therefore, require a reduction in night movements of around 35% in this period. This would have significant implications for both passenger and cargo airlines operating at the airport. Both groups are reliant on night time operations to enable them to support their business models.

In this context, the report examines the importance of night flying to cargo operations at Dublin Airport and moves on to estimate the economic impact of these operations on the Irish economy. The analysis focusses particularly on express freight services, such as those provided by the main integrators: DHL, Fedex, TNT and UPS. The customers of these airlines are heavily reliant on their being able to operate at night to facilitate the provision of the high speed / next day delivery services (both to and from Dublin) that modern, developed city economies rely on to maintain their competitive positions as locations for global companies trading goods and services in key sectors such as pharmaceuticals, financial and business services, IT and agri-food.

The report estimated that night flights carry around €8 billion worth of exports (6% of Ireland’s exports) and around €11 billion in imports (12% of Ireland’s imports). Within this total, the express freight operators at Dublin Airport accounted for €3 billion of exports (2% of Ireland’s exports) and around €8 billion of imports (9% of Ireland’s imports).

daa has lodged an application to amend the two onerous planning conditions that are due to apply to the operation of the new North Runway and the overall runway system at Dublin.

The full report is available to read here.

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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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