Dublin Airport welcomed more than 3.2 million passengers last month, making it the busiest August in the airport's 78-year history. There were similar passenger numbers in July, and during both those summer months, the whole population of Ireland, effectively, passed through the airport. Passenger numbers increased by 6%, boosted by the introduction of 14 new routes over the summer and extra capacity on more than 50 existing services.
Paul O'Kane, chief communications officer with the DAA, said Dublin Airport is enjoying the fruits of success but that success brings its own challenges. "We are enjoying record passenger numbers and that has a hugely positive impact across the economy," he said. "The passenger numbers we welcome into Dublin actually translate into visitor spending and visitor traffic right across the country.
The airport is about to start consultations with its airline customers on a €900m investment. Earlier this week, Aer Lingus and accountants EY published a report that said developing the airport as a transatlantic hub could generate €18.6 billion for the economy.
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"Their plans and our plans are completely aligned," Mr O'Kane said. "It is national aviation policy to develop Dublin Airport as a hub, and we are already doing that. This year we will have around 2 million transfer passengers at Dublin Airport, and that's a business that didn't exist in 2011. That's 2 million passengers who don't begin or end their journey at Dublin, so they are using it as a hub and then flying across on transatlantic flights. This summer we had 10 airlines operating 446 flights to and from 20 destinations in North America. We are investing heavily to expand that business."
Mr O'Kane said the airport is working on the procurement process for a new runway and they will be announcing the placing of that contract in the very near future. "We should have the contractor on site in the fourth quarter of this year," he said.
Developing the airport as a hub will require further infrastructural changes. "Parking stands are particularly important because obviously a lot of the transatlantic traffic for a hub is on a wide body plane. But one of the advantages that Dublin has is the new generation of aircraft are now able to take transatlantic flights on a narrow-bodied aircraft which have a much longer range, so we'll be adding parking stands for narrow bodied or wide bodied aircraft," Mr O'Kane said.
The airport will also see the construction of more aircraft boarding piers and modifications to the existing terminals. Another advantage of Dublin Airport is its location and it is ideally situated as a hub. "For a lot of people in Europe, it makes complete sense to fly through Dublin as you're flying in the right direction. We have USCBP (US pre-clearance) which no other capital city in Europe has, and if people are travelling to the United States, they can avail of pre-clearance in Dublin. When they arrive in the US, the first queue they'll encounter is the taxi queue," Mr O'Kane said.
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