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Lapland visits to Santa could be hit due to Dublin Airport passenger cap, warns Aer Lingus


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Airline is considering legal action against IAA decision to cap winter seat numbers, says CEO

Earlier this week the Irish Aviation Authority (IAA) announced it is said that it’s imposing a cap of 14.4 million seats at Dublin Airport for the coming winter season, which runs from October to March. It’s the first time such a cap has been imposed by the IAA.

Ms Embleton said the winter seat cap could affect the travelling public, especially for so-called ad-hoc flights.

“These are things like flights to Lapland taking kids to see Santa, ski charters and sporting events – both taking fans to sporting events, but also the teams themselves,” she warned. “This is an unnecessary impact on the economy and on the Irish public and it’s time that we had action.”

The Aer Lingus boss said the airline is considering legal action against the IAA’s winter decision. Ryanair has also said it would consider its legal position in face of the winter cap.

“While there’s been a decision by the IAA on the winter capacity, that sets a precedent for what may happen next summer,” she added. “We have growth we want to do for 2025. Then the seriousness of this issue and the magnitude of the impact manifests itself as we get into next year.”

Dublin Airport, operated by the DAA, is subject to an overall annual limit on passenger numbers which caps it at 32 million. That’s due to a planning condition attached nearly 20 years ago to the construction of Dublin Airport’s Terminal 2.

The DAA is currently in the process of trying to raise that cap to 40 million by way of a planning application for a wider infrastructure development plan.

Ms Embleton said the passenger cap is one of the “most significant issues” the airline is facing.

“It hasn’t been well managed,” she said, as Aer Lingus parent IAG issued first-quarter results. “The DAA should have acted a lot sooner. They should have made an interim planning application by now. Dublin Airport is really important national infrastructure. We’re at a point where the passenger cap will increasingly likely impact the economy and the travelling public in just a few months’ time.”

She confirmed that the airline will consider legal action against the IAA decision in relation to winter.

“Importantly, there now needs to be urgent action to resolve this [overall planning cap],” she said. “I’d like to see more leadership from the government now on this topic. There needs to be proper action taken on this issue.”

She added: “I believe that government intervention is required. The form of that intervention, I don’t think I’m best placed to describe. But I don’t think we can have a situation now where national infrastructure and the interest of the economy and the travelling public are seriously harmed.”

The DAA’s infrastructure planning application that includes a push to raise the annual cap to 40 million passengers could take years to be decided.

The DAA, headed by CEO Kenny Jacobs, has said it would consider an interim planning application for a smaller increase in passenger numbers if such a decision could be processed quickly.

Aer Lingus is also in the throes of trying to reach an agreement on pay with its pilots. The Labour Court is currently considering submissions from the airline and the pilot union on the issue before issuing a recommendation.

The delay in reaching a pay agreement has already seen Aer Lingus lose out on the delivery of the first ever Airbus A321XLR jet, which is now going to IAG’s Iberia.

A second XLR was due to be delivered to Aer Lingus later this year.

IAG chief executive Luis Gallego said that the group “needs to have certainty” about the returns its investments will generate.

“In the case of Aer Lingus now, we need to have cost certainty,” he said. “We have 14 XLRs [on order for IAG], so we need to take a decision still about the others. The only thing that is clear is that this first aircraft won’t go to Aer Lingus.”

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