I entered Dublin Airport Departures at 4.30am – and the lines were already a shunting, groaning mess
There is something deeply unusual about queuing for an hour or more in the dead of night in an artificially lit airport.
My alarm went off yesterday in the very wee hours, before a taxi arrived at 4am. I left my bedroom in a sober work suit as my daughter was brushing her teeth in a bathroom, just in from a night out.
It was a strange meeting of intergenerational late-earliness.
The taxi rushed through a silent movie of Dublin suburbia, nosing on to the M50, where the tail lights mysteriously thickened at Ballymun, clustering on to the airport turnoff. Such were the shoals of taxis, I had a bit of a walk to Terminal 2, with a stream of people feeding in at right angles from the car parks.
Inside the gates of T2 were families with suitcases in front of me, facing right and peering into the far distance of the bag drop/check-in area, about 100 metres away.
A woman in a pink vest immediately pointed me to the end of the queue, some 20 feet to my left.
Being dopey at that hour, I momentarily joined it before realising, with a silent prayer of thanks, that I only had hand luggage.
I could proceed straight away to take the escalator to the heaven of departures. I entered this cattle market at 4.30am for a flight due for wheels-up at 6.50am.
It was already a shunting, groaning and pointless mess, snaking backwards and forwards in, it seemed, about a dozen lanes.
And this was just to get into security – not, it should he emphasised, security itself.
It was almost biblical – in a Life of Brian sense. Because at the top of this vast concertina of thousands of passengers – was a single staffer scanning boarding cards. All who wished to enter the eye of a needle had to wait until their appointed moment at the Seat of Judgment, when the ping of the barcode-reader confirmed admission to the relative paradise of security.
In my case it took an hour.
Inside security were the usual lanes leading towards metal detectors. The conveyor belts, the shouts about belts and laptops, the trays for your bits and pieces... and then the half-forgotten, hastily added, extra bits and pieces. But there were many such lanes – and the process, while painstaking, was no better or worse than its usual tediousness.
The problem, it seemed to me, was the bottleneck for boarding pass approval… with a single gatekeeper. If there were multiple lanes beyond, why cannot multiple checkers deploy outside?
I tramped to my gate and boarded my flight in the normal way. It was now 6.20am as humans humped bags into overhead bins before sitting into their places. But there we sat... and sat.
It turned out this Aer Lingus aircraft would wait fully 25 minutes after its scheduled departure slot in order to receive people who were still trapped in the queue through no fault of their own.
It was a minor miracle that it did so – and there was no grumbling from anyone when the pilot told us the reason.
But there is something terribly wrong here. Yesterday morning saw passengers turning up early, as instructed – and still being unable to move.
It isn’t their fault and it is no one-off. Time for someone to kick DAA management up the proverbial.
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