Air­lines re­luc­tant to give pas­sen­gers more say in Dublin

Sunday Independent (Ireland) - Business & Appointments - - FRONT PAGE - Fearghal O’con­nor

AIR­LINES at Dublin Air­port are re­luc­tant to see or­di­nary pas­sen­gers con­sulted and given a big­ger say about is­sues that im­pact their jour­neys, ac­cord­ing to the avi­a­tion reg­u­la­tor.

The Com­mis­sion for Avi­a­tion Reg­u­la­tion said in a new re­port that it had de­cided to con­sult on “pos­si­ble ways that we can in­crease our fo­cus on the needs of pas­sen­gers when we make reg­u­la­tory de­ci­sions about Dublin Air­port”.

The com­mis­sion said that although its con­sul­ta­tions were pub­lic and open to all stake­hold­ers, “some groups of pas­sen­gers have not been well-rep­re­sented in this process”. The com­mis­sion sets the max­i­mum price the air­port can charge per pas­sen­ger based on an as­sess­ment of, among other is­sues, what in­fra­struc­ture spend is needed at the air­port.

“In gen­eral, the air­lines’ view was that there is no need to es­tab­lish ad­di­tional ap­proaches to im­prove the level of con­sumer en­gage­ment, be­cause they (the air­lines) al­ready ful­fil the role of rep­re­sent­ing all con­sumers dur­ing the price de­ter­mi­na­tion process,” it said.

Air­lines reg­u­larly voice con­cerns that charges are set too high, while the air­port au­thor­ity seeks higher charges to al­low it to fund ex­pan­sion. Ul­ti­mately, pas­sen­ger charges are paid for by or­di­nary trav­ellers, as air­lines pass them on, adding to the cost of travel.

With pas­sen­ger numbers ris­ing dra­mat­i­cally at Dublin since the econ­omy im­proved, a range of in­fra­struc­ture pinch-points are emerg­ing, from bag­gage and se­cu­rity hold-ups to the need for a new run­way and pos­si­bly a new ter­mi­nal, both of which would ul­ti­mately be paid for through air­line fares.

“Some air­lines are of the view that they best rep­re­sent the views of pas­sen­gers, and there­fore there is no need for the com­mis­sion to do more in this area,” said the re­port.

“While in some in­stances this may be true, there may be cer­tain pas­sen­ger groups who only make small con­tri­bu­tions to air­lines’ prof­itabil­ity. It is not al­ways clear that air­lines will take suf­fi­cient ac­count of th­ese groups when mak­ing sub­mis­sions to the com­mis­sion.

“In short, while air­lines have an im­por­tant role in rep­re­sent­ing the in­ter­ests of pas­sen­gers, it is not clear that they rep­re­sent the needs of all pas­sen­gers all of the time.”

The com­mis­sion’s pa­per said that although air­lines could be ef­fec­tive at rep­re­sent­ing their pas­sen­ger base in gen­eral when deal­ing with the air­port on op­er­a­tional is­sues, “they may be less ef­fec­tive at rep­re­sent­ing spe­cific groups of pas­sen­gers or re­flect­ing in­ter­ests of fu­ture pas­sen­gers in re­la­tion to long-term cap­i­tal in­fra­struc­ture projects”.

“Pas­sen­ger in­ter­ests are di­verse and air­lines might not con­vey the com­plex­ity of th­ese in­ter­ests in their con­sul­ta­tion sub­mis­sions, or may be re­luc­tant to share the full ex­tent of in­for­ma­tion avail­able to them,” said the reg­u­la­tor. “The ques­tion is, do th­ese short­com­ings have a neg­a­tive im­pact on our de­ci­sions by lead­ing the com­mis­sion to al­low some ex­pen­di­tures which should not have taken place or dis­al­low other ex­pen­di­tures which should have?”

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