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July 2 2017 6:00 PM
A major row has broken out between Aer Lingus and the DAA over what the airline's chief operating officer described as "unacceptable infrastructural deficits" at Dublin Airport.
In a stinging memo seen by this newspaper, Aer Lingus chief operating officer Mike Rutter attacked the DAA over alleged lack of investment after baggage belt failures cost the airline hundreds of thousands of euro last week. Rutter said the airline has serious concerns over DAA's failure to invest in key infrastructure such as taxiways, contact stands and baggage belts at the airport.
The attack was in an update Rutter sent to staff on Friday about "significant infrastructural issues" which arose on a number of days last week and caused major delays.
On Monday and Tuesday of last week Aer Lingus "experienced major operational disruption as the baggage belts failed in our T2 baggage hall", said Rutter. "This occurred due to the DAA's uploading of new software to the airport IT infrastructure, which rendered the baggage belts inoperable."
This forced Aer Lingus's baggage hall team to manually process bags using "bingo cards" to assign them to the appropriate aircraft. This, said Rutter, was a business process more suited to the 1970s.
The failure, which DAA said was by an external service provider, caused hundreds of bags to be short-shipped and caused significant delays to departing flights, he said. But Rutter wrote that the issue had "translated into thousands of dissatisfied Aer Lingus guests separated from their baggage and/or arriving late to their desired destinations".
The technical problems stabilised mid-week but recurred on Friday morning when the baggage transfer belt in Terminal 2 malfunctioned, followed by the breakdown of all the baggage belts in the terminal, affecting all carriers based there.
This meant that check-in agents were forced to transport bags on trolleys to the baggage hall and again assign bags to aircraft using "bingo cards".
"Today's departures have been significantly delayed and the already large backlog of short-shipped bags at Dublin has grown even further with knock-on costs for Aer Lingus running into the hundreds of thousands," said Rutter.
"This week's service failures follow a number of other serious infrastructural issues at Dublin Airport and we continue to be very concerned about the DAA's lack of investment and failure to address these key issues," he said.
Rutter said Aer Lingus continues to be "concerned with the DAA's failure to invest sufficiently in the provision of taxiways, contact stands, baggage belts and many other aspects of important airport infrastructure and have raised these matters with the DAA at the highest level."
A Dublin Airport spokesman said "an upgrade by an external service provider, which was introduced this week, did create some technical issues and we are working closely with the company in question and our airline customers to resolve them. Dublin Airport is currently investing €100m per year to upgrade and maintain its facilities for the benefit of airlines and passengers".