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Parallel Runway

Unlike airlines that typically plan for the short to medium term, airports must plan for the longer term.   Investment in airport infrastructure requires long term planning that focusses on potential future demand for aviation services. With this in mind the daa also has a number of statutory obligations set out under the Air Navigation and Transport (Amendment) Act, 1998; State Airports Act 2004) that can be summarised as follows:

• To manage, operate and develop the airports
• To provide the services and facilities necessary for the operation, maintenance and development of the airports
• To take all proper measures for the safe and secure operation of the airports
• To operate in a commercial manner

From 2005-2010 daa experienced significant increases in passenger traffic. As part of the daa statutory obligations to develop Dublin Airport, daa delivered airport infrastructure that would facilitate growth and dramatically improve the travel experience for airport users such as Terminal 2 and associated infrastructure which opened in November 2010.

As a result of great planning back in the early 1970s official’s safeguarded land around the airport for the provision of additional runway capacity when it was required.This foresight in securing land away from relatively populated areas is to be commended and is rarely seen at international airports. 

In 2007 daa received planning permission for the construction of a second parallel runway at Dublin Airport. However, towards the end of 2010 there was a dramatic downturn in Irish and global economies that had a significant negative impact on air travel. Passenger numbers at Dublin Airport dropped from a high of 23.5m in 2008 to 19m in 2012.

Despite the current downturn, it is important to remember that aviation is a cyclical industry with a long lead-in time for investment. The ability of an airport to grow and evolve as passenger numbers increase is greatly influenced by the capability of the airport authority to plan for the proper development of the airport in the very long term. This contrasts with the more short-term focus of the airlines that have the ability to move their aircraft in response to market conditions to any location.

The Government has highlighted the importance of export led growth to Ireland’s economic recovery. It is vital therefore that the country’s principal airport has a runway of sufficient length to enable services to operate to emerging markets. A new parallel runway would serve the markets that are anticipated and thus enable connections for both business exports and international tourists.

The existing runway system at Dublin Airport has a capacity of 48 movements in the peak hour and the potential to increase this further is very limited without additional runway capacity. Despite the downturn in traffic, constraints in runway capacity persist at peak times. It is notable, for example, that while overall traffic has dropped by 23% in the period 2007 to 2012, departures in the 0700 hour have dropped by only 4%.

With the downturn in the economy, the huge drop in passenger numbers has inevitably pushed out the timeline for another runway. In the meantime, maximising the capacity of existing assets is a core daa objective, and a key element is increasing the operational capacity of the existing runway system.  As a result daa is working very closely with the IAA (Irish Aviation Authority), the organisation that provides air traffic control services in Ireland, to extract as much operational capacity out of the current runway system as possible.

The timing of any decision to construct a parallel runway at Dublin Airport will be based on a number of elements.  These will include demand, particularly for the first wave, routes to be served (runway length required), and the optimisation of existing runway infrastructure. We have now appointed consultants to prepare an updated Airfield Masterplan that takes account of changed economic circumstances, but which also addresses new business requirements. It will enable us to move forward with opportunities in a coherent manner, and will provide a clear route forward.

Proposed Parallel Runway


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