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DAA boss used Dublin Airport VIP service while passengers faced chaotic queues

“I would travel many different ways. It’s important to go through all parts of the business – whether that’s the fast track or the normal security, or the platinum services.”

DAA chief executive Dalton Philips arrives at Leinster House, Dublin, yesterday to answer questions from the Oireachtas Transport Committee about the chaotic scenes at Dublin Airport last weekend. Photo: Brian Lawless/PA

Ryan Nugent, Ciara O’Loughlin and Senan Molony

DAA chief executive Dalton Philips flew through the airport VIP service and queued for less than an hour last Saturday – as thousands of passengers missed their flights over the weekend.

Calls were made at the Fianna Fáil parliamentary party meeting last night for Mr Philips to be sacked over the chaotic scenes at Dublin Airport at the weekend.

TD John McGuiness said the DAA chief, who is due to leave his role in September, should be fired. He also told the meeting that the passport debacle of recent months was a failure of government and Fianna Fáil were being blamed for it.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin told his colleagues the situation at the airport was completely unacceptable and that there cannot be a repeat of last weekend’s chaos.

Mr Philips appeared before the Oireachtas Transport Committee yesterday, where he was asked whether he paid for the use of platinum service – the airport’s VIP offering.

DAA chief executive Dalton Philips. Photo: Gareth Chaney

He replied: “I don’t personally pay for it, but it’s a charge that’s made into my travel budget.

“I would travel many different ways. It’s important to go through all parts of the business – whether that’s the fast track or the normal security, or the platinum services.”

The DAA chief flew to Saudi Arabia on Saturday, but travelled back that night when the delays escalated in Dublin.

He said he did not use the VIP service to bypass delays at Dublin Airport.

“I normally would travel through the central search or fast track. Moving through the two is an opportunity to chat to different officers,” he said.

“I certainly wouldn’t have gone to the Middle East if I knew this was happening, and that’s why I turned back.”

Mr Philips said he did not often use the VIP service, which brings passengers by chauffeur to the aircraft.

“If there had been an issue, I wouldn’t have got on the flight. If I had known I would’ve saved myself the company cost of travelling to the Middle East, and had I known Sunday was going to be as it was, I wouldn’t have travelled on Saturday.”

Mr Philips apologised “unreservedly” to passengers following the chaotic scenes last weekend that led to more than 1,000 people missing their flights.

The apology came as the DAA outlined plans to ensure the massive queues endured by travellers are not repeated this bank holiday weekend.

As part of the measures that will be put into action from tomorrow, the DAA will limit access to terminals at busy periods to two-and-a-half hours and three-and-a-half hours prior to short- and long-haul flights respectively.

Airport queues

Passengers who arrive too early for their flights will be asked to wait in a holding area instead. Bad-weather covers, seating and toilets will be put in this ‘triage’ holding area, which will be trialled for the first time this weekend.

To access the terminals, passengers will be asked to show documentation to indicate departure times. Those who arrive too early may be asked to wait in the holding area.

Also as part of the plan, more than 40 additional security screening staff will be on duty – a 10pc increase on last weekend – and 10 more security lanes will be opened during peak periods.

Mr Philips said 95pc of people should be through security within 45 minutes, but there would be periods this weekend where people could be queuing for an hour.

“At certain peak points, there may be queuing outside,” he said. “This morning we had people outside for 10 minutes, but no one missed their flights.”

Asked whether he can guarantee that no passengers will miss their flight this weekend, Mr Philips said: “If passengers heed the two and a half hours, I am confident with our plans. We are in a very difficult position. We want people to safely catch their flights. I am giving them a high level of confidence.”

Asked why he could not give a guarantee, Mr Philips said: “Because there are a high range of factors.”

He said that since recruitment began last year, the DAA had employed more than 300 new airport search unit officers, with 150 recruited since the end of April this year.

“We will bring another 70 officers on board over the coming weeks. DAA has set no upward limit on recruitment numbers,” he added.

Mr Philips admitted the airport’s plan “failed” last Sunday, due to a shortage of staff.

He said the “anomaly” of the rostering system, which incorrectly stated that 17 security staff had finished their training and were working on Sunday, had been fixed and would not happen again.

Meanwhile, Transport Minister Eamon Ryan has said: “I believe we will get through this weekend.” He told RTÉ’s Six One that Sunday’s chaos was an “aberration”.

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