daa losing €1m per day as a result of COVID-19

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The impact of the pandemic has cost the operator of Dublin and Cork airports an estimated €160 million in lost turnover to date, reports Clodagh Dooley

Cork Airport

I’m not just being biased (or maybe I am!), but I think we are lucky to have airports like Dublin and Cork, with some of the best facilities and friendliest staff in the world.

So it is with a heavy heart that I share this recent news. With almost no passengers and shoppers in its retail outlets, daa is currently losing €1 million a day, an estimated €160 million in lost turnover so far, and will see the company record significant financial losses this year.

daa is a global and travel retail group which operates in 16 countries and is the owner of Dublin and Cork airports. Headquartered at Dublin Airport, the global pandemic has affected all of its businesses around the world.

Traffic at Dublin and Cork Airports has collapsed, as passenger numbers have fallen by 99% in April and May. While the two airports had enjoyed a positive start to the year in terms of traffic growth, the sharp fall in travel in recent months means that overall 2020 passenger numbers have already declined by 55% and will fall further. Overseas, all but one of daa’s ARI (Aer Rianta International) travel retail operations have been shuttered. 

The company’s Chief Executive Dalton Philips, says, “This is the most serious crisis that has ever faced the international aviation sector and our business. Our business and the wider sector have weathered many previous upheavals, such as the recent recession, the impact of 9/11, and the 1970s oil crisis, and it will eventually recover from the economic impact of COVID-19. 

“But it is likely to take some time as the short-term future is bleak, and the post COVID industry will be very different.”

While passenger traffic has slowed to a trickle, both Dublin and Cork Airports have remained open throughout the crisis in line with Irish Government policy. 

And, some positive news – Dublin and Cork Airports have played a vital role during the pandemic; enabling people to return home and facilitating essential cargo flights.

Since Ireland entered lockdown in mid-March, almost 31 million kilogrammes of cargo has been facilitated at Dublin Airport, including almost 3.7 million kilogrammes of personal protective equipment (PPE) and medical supplies. The airport has facilitated 1,635 dedicated cargo flights during that period, including 216 flights bringing PPE/medical supplies to Ireland, 214 of which were from China.

To address the current issue, daa has placed employees on a four-day week and a programme is underway to right-size the business through a voluntary severance scheme, career breaks, and reduced hours working. Changes in work practices are also being introduced to keep passengers and staff safe in a post-COVID-19 environment and also to make the business more effective.

All capital spending is being reviewed and the delivery timescale of certain planned upgrades at Dublin Airport will be reconsidered.

Essential projects, such as Dublin Airport’s new North Runway and the upgrade to hold baggage screening systems at Dublin and Cork Airports – which is a regulatory requirement – however, will continue. daa will also seek planning permission for future works during the downturn.

During the lockdown, daa has been preparing for the eventual phased resumption of business. Both Dublin and Cork Airports have undergone deep cleaning and the airports have been transformed in light of requirements post COVID-19.

While the short-term might not be looking very positive, I have full confidence that the airports will one day become the busy hubs they once were.

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Clodagh Dooley

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