10 July 2008

Total Chaos at Dublin Airport

The problems with the radar system at Dublin Airport (see my entry from yesterday) are not "fully resolved yet" and continued to disrupt and delay air traffic to and from Dublin all day today.

The Irish Aviation Authority (IAA), which is in charge of air traffic control, also said it is "unlikely that the air traffic control radar system (right) will be fully operational until after the weekend".

In fact, the faulty radar at Ireland's largest airport was only the trigger for a whole series of major problems which created a total chaos at Dublin Airport today. Nothing seems to work properly, no-one seems to know why, and no-one seems to take any responsibility for the mess.

Thousands of airline passengers spent many hours at the airport, waiting in uncertainty for flights or even proper information about them. Many flights were cancelled, others were delayed for hours.
Hundreds of passengers who were supposed to leave Dublin on various flights yesterday after 5 p.m. were left stranded at the airport overnight, without information when they could expect to depart and without any care and attention from anyone.

Neither the airlines, nor the IAA or the
Dublin Airport Authority (DAA) - now a private company - provided them with anything. There was no overnight accommodation, no food or drink, and no care for personal needs.

Many of the abandoned passengers gave up eventually and left Dublin Airport in disgust and anger, but several hundred, most of them from distant parts of Ireland and looking forward to their annual holidays, remained inside the airport all night. No-one tended to their needs, and they had no other choice but to sleep on the floor of the departure hall.
To make things even worse, at 4 a.m. this morning they were woken up by so-called "security guards" - uncivilised thugs in ill-fitting uniforms - who told them rudely that they had to get up and could not sleep on the airport's floor.

All day long more disruptions and delays blighted the operation of Dublin Airport, and none of the many employees of airlines, DAA and IAA knew really what was going on. Total chaos was the theme of the day. There was also no-one to be found who took any responsibility, as the DAA pointed to the IAA, who blamed the faulty radar. And the airlines pointed to both DAA and IAA, without any clue what was happening and without any efforts to make the life of their paying passengers easier.

This morning a group of Irish passengers were told that a flight to the French city of Nice, on which they were booked, was delayed "for several hours". They were told by airline ground staff to "go away and come back later" for further information. Following the advice, they went to the airport's restaurant area upstairs and had breakfast. When they returned to the airline counter about an hour later, they found out that their flight had left already, with their luggage on board.
Their (very understandable) anger and outrage caused a further disturbance of the already very tense situation, and instead of proper care and attempts to solve the problem, all the ignorant and incompetent airline staff did was to call "security" men.

If it were not so tragic for many hard-working people whose journey to their annual holiday is blighted by incompetence, mismanagement and a lack of interpersonal communication skills at Dublin Airport, one could sit back and laugh out loud. What a farce, what a shambolic and almost satirical situation!
Welcome to first world Ireland with third world technology and bronze age attitudes!

In a panic reaction to the chaos at its premises, the DAA doubled today its staff numbers "to deal with the increased passenger numbers" and the manifold problems at the airport. This can of course only be done by employing part-time personnel from agencies on short-term contracts, which means more untrained and inexperienced staff is populating the already chaotic mess that is the arrival point for most visitors to Ireland. DAA is also advising passengers to "check their flight details before flying". Well, that will be a great help, when even the ground staff of airlines is left widely in the dark and clueless.

Cautious as always and determined not to have any opinion at all, Dermot Mannion, the Chief Executive Officer of Ireland's flag carrier Aer Lingus, said today it would be "premature to apportion blame for the disruption".
I often wonder how whimps and yes-men get top jobs in our major industries and institutions...

Michael O'Leary (left), maverick Irish entrepreneur and boss of the most popular "low fare" airline Ryanair, is of a different calibre. He never minces his words and always calls a spade a spade. And good on him for that!
In an interview with the Morning Ireland programme on RTÉ Radio 1, O'Leary accused the IAA of being "not fit for purpose". He also predicted that the radar system would collapse again.

Later in the day the Minister for Transport, Noel Dempsey (right), was forced to comment on the matter. He told the Dáil that the air traffic control radar system at Dublin Airport was "now operating at 70% capacity" and that "testing" continued on the network. He added that it was "not practical to maintain a back-up radar system", which exists at many other major airports in the developed world.
Dempsey also made clear that the IAA is fully responsible for the matter of air traffic control and air safety. He stopped short of blaming it for the complete chaos that engulfed Dublin Airport yesterday and today (and which is expected to continue until "after the weekend").

Although the blame does obviously rest with the operators of Dublin Airport - in particular IAA and DAA - I cannot refrain from some critical remarks of a more general kind.
Too many people seem to think that flying around the world, or flying to some far-away place where it is warmer than in Ireland, is a good idea and more or less "normal". I disagree.

The massive increase in air traffic, much of it created by many so-called "low fare" airlines and widely supported by numerous travel agencies and holiday companies, is a serious anomaly and one of the main reasons for the drastic change of the global climate. The selfish desire to spend a couple of weeks on some far-away beach, where the massive sunshine burns the pale northern skins and creates more cases of skin cancer, is frankly idiotic, as well as self-destructive - for those individuals who do it, and for the whole planet.

Having become aware of the problems of air traffic and the huge pollution it creates already in the late 1980s, I decided to do my personal bit towards a cleaner planet, no matter how small it might be.
During the 1970s and 1980s I used aeroplanes regularly and flew to many destinations all around the world. All these flights were undertaken in the line of my service in the Navy, and for many of them I used military aircraft. But I have never been a tourist or holidaymaker, not even for a single day in all my life.
When I retired from the Navy and my personal circumstances changed, I decided to live a more environmentally friendly life.
I have not used an aeroplane for more than 17 years, and will never fly again. All destinations I have to travel to can easily be reached by other means, even though it does take a bit more time to get there without flying.

I have no right to tell other people how to behave, what to do and what not. And I don't. All I can do is to live my own life according to principals of logic and sensibility. If anyone wishes to do the same, it would be very easy, very welcome and very helpful for the planet.

The Emerald Islander

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