Airlines reluctant to give passengers more say in Dublin
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?”