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Interview with Vincent Harrison

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Dublin Airport is expected to be one of Europe’s top five airports for transatlantic connectivity.

Vincent Harrison has held the role of Managing Director of Dublin Airport since 2014. Prior to this he was Director Strategy, Regulation & B2B and has also held senior financial roles within daa.

Vincent has served as a member of the policy committee of ACI Europe, the representative body for European airports, and on the Council of the Irish Tourist Industry Confederation. He is currently a member of the Council of Dublin Chamber of Commerce.

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In a reasonably short space of time Dublin Airport has become an important gateway to North America, how did you manage this?

Our transatlantic connections have grown strongly since 2011 and we now have five airlines flying to 11 destinations in the US.

Aer Lingus has services to Boston, Chicago, New York-JFK, Orlando, San Francisco, Washington and will add Los Angeles, Newark and Hartford Connecticut later this year. American Airlines fly to Charlotte NC, Chicago, New York-JFK and Philadelphia. Delta Air lines serve Atlanta and New York-JFK. Ethiopian Airlines commenced services last year to Los Angeles. United Airlines fly to Chicago, Newark and Washington.

All transatlantic routes are growing and a number of carriers have added extra capacity and frequency giving both leisure and business customers more choice and flexibility.

We have strong competition on a number of routes with three airlines flying to Chicago and New York-JFK and two airlines operating the Newark, LA and Washington routes this year. This competition drives competitive airfares for our customers.

Transatlantic passenger numbers increased by 17% last year to a record 2.5 million travelling to and from North America. We have grown our connectivity from Dublin Airport to North America by adding 12 new transatlantic services since 2011 when Aer Lingus launch flights to Los Angeles, Newark and Hartford, Connecticut and Air Canada rouge commence flights to Vancouver come on stream later this year.

This summer, Dublin Airport will have 25 direct services to North America, serving 16 different destinations. Ten years ago, the only North American routes from Dublin Airport were New York, Boston, Chicago, and Atlanta.

Dublin Airport is expected to be one of Europe’s top five airports for transatlantic connectivity. This will be the first time in the airport’s history that it has held such a major position in European-North American connectivity.

We have been working closely with our airline partners and Aer Lingus in particular to market Dublin Airport in the UK undertaking a roadshow to promote SMART WAY to USA with an emphasis on the minimum connection time (MCT) and advantage of US Preclearance at DUBLIN AIRPORT. We are positioning Dublin as a more pleasant, efficient and faster airport to connect to the US rather than connecting via another continental European airport or travelling by road or rail to a larger British airport. Aer Lingus currently facilitates connecting passengers from 19 of its UK routes into its transatlantic route network at Dublin Airport.

The other advantage Dublin Airport has is that we are the only major airport in Europe to offer US preclearance, which enables passengers to save time on arrival in the US by completing all the necessary immigration and customs checks prior to departure. On arrival in the USA – they simply pick up their bags and go. This is a significant time saving factor for customer because it means the only queue a pre-cleared passenger meeting on arrival in the US is the taxi queue to their final destination.

This summer Dublin is expected to be one of Europe’s top five airports for transatlantic connectivity. This will be the first time in the airport’s history that it has held such a major position in European-North American connectivity.

Last year, more than one million passengers transferred through Dublin Airport, which was a new record. Transfer passenger numbers increased by 27%, helping Dublin Airport to become a significant hub for transatlantic connections.

This year we will have two long haul charter routes during the peak summer months when Thomson/Falcon start direct services for the first time from Dublin to Cancun in Mexico and Montego Bay in Jamaica.

 

In terms of the future, do you see Dublin Airport maintaining this North American gateway position and becoming an important hub to take on competition from other European Airports? Do you think the recent wave of next generation airliners could be a threat?

Yes, we do absolutely see Dublin Airport maintaining this North American gateway position, it’s part of our overall strategy to grow our route network into North America offering even more route connections and choice to our customers.

We see the next generation of airliners as a massive opportunity for Dublin to enable thin markets that can’t be served by large wide body aircraft, and Dublin’s geographical location will allow it to serve these markets.

The future is incredibly bright and new technology aircraft will strengthen rather than undermine our position.

We view the service to Bradley as a trailblazer and there are a lot of other markets like that in the northeastern quadrant the US and Canada.

All day US Preclearance adds unique reasons to transfer via DUBLIN AIRPORT and we have seen over one million passengers hub via DUBLIN in 2015. With both airline incentives and passenger offerings like easy “under one roof” connections plus a free WIFI-enabled web service DUB HUB, powered by GOOGLE, to assist the passenger to go from their arriving to departure gate – available in five languages – transfer could not be easier.

 

How did Dublin Airport handle the recent economic crisis and emerge so successfully?

Passenger numbers peaked to 23.4 million in 2008. Following a deep recession in the Irish economy the numbers travelling through Dublin Airport declined by five million between 2008 and 2010 to 18.4 million. Passenger traffic has grown steadily over the past five years, returning to strong growth in 2015.

Dublin Airport, which celebrated its 75 anniversary last year, welcomed a record 25 million passengers, representing a 15% increase over 2014.

The rapid recovery in passenger numbers, particularly in the past two years, is due to a combination of almost 50 new routes and services together with significant additional capacity increases on a number of existing routes and nine new airlines operating at Dublin. Total long haul connectivity has grown by 65% since 2010 while short-haul connectivity has grown by 16%.

During the economic decline our strategy was to retain existing customers, look to stronger economies to grow our route network, offer competitive prices and formalise a generous growth incentive scheme.

 

How will Dublin Airport handle its now increasing levels of passengers in terms of planning and expansion? Is the third runway a reality?

The opening of Terminal 2 at the end of 2010 provided for sufficient terminal capacity to allow room to grow. Passenger numbers and aircraft movements have grown every year since then.

To cope with increased capacity on the airfield we are investing over €80m on a number of key developments to upgrade and rehabilitate some critical airfield assets.

One of the largest airfield projects in the programme is a €20 million development to boost airfield capacity with the addition of 10 new aircraft parking stands and three aircraft taxiing lanes. The new apron area, known as Apron 5G, covers 67,500m2, which is equivalent to 15 football pitches.

It has always been the case that Dublin would need a new runway and we were granted planning permission in 2007, however the project was put on hold in 2009 due to the economic downturn.

Now that traffic has recovered strongly over the past two years the various options relating to the development of a new runway are currently being carefully considered before we make a decision on the best way forward. It’s clear that the Irish economy requires another runway at Dublin Airport to enhance connectivity and to support the further growth trade,tourism and foreign direct investment.

 

We are seeing an increasing trend towards the implementation of new technologies at airports to improve operations, with some key areas such as security and passport control at busy airports benefitting hugely. Where do you see these new technologies in the airport sector today and in the future?

We are constantly embracing and implementing new technology to improve our customers’ journey and experience through Dublin Airport.

Dublin Airport is ranked as the best in Europe for its free wifi download speeds.

A special emphasis has been placed on speeding up the transfer experience

We have worked closely with Google to provide a free virtual digital assistant guide for passengers connecting at the airport. By clicking on to www.dublinairport.com/dubhub passengers who are transferring to another flight are invited to input their onward flight information details. This is sent to them as part of their reservation to assist in readiness for transfer at DUBLIN AIRPORT. Once these details have been entered, the DUB HUB link provides passengers with a digital map showing their current location, the boarding gate number of their connecting flight, directions to the gate and the approximate time it will take to walk there. DUB HUB uses real time geo-location tools to give users a simple graphic interface with clear walking directions to the gate. We will be extending targeted food and beverage plus retail offers to the transfer passenger later this year also.

US Prelearance has seen a transformation in speedy service this year with the introduction of 16 digital pods that captures the passengers image, fingerprints ( ESTA requirement) as part of the pre-preparation for greeting a US Customs and Immigration Officer in DUBLIN AIRPORT, iand dentifying your bag from an image ( if transferring or originating in DUBLIN). Now 85% of all passengers are serviced in this unique facility in 20 minutes or less.

Dublin Airport’s award winning app provides information on a range of services through smart phone and hand held devices. Real time flight information, security queue times and processing times through US CBP are hugely popular with our customers. We added a Flight Tracker feature so customers can track a specific flights arriving and departing journey in real time.

We work closely with our airline partners to provide SSKs, facilitate boarding cards on mobile devices.   We have collaborated closely with US CBP to facilitate new Automated Passport Control kiosks to smooth the journey and speed up processing times in that area.

We have worked closely with the Irish Naturalisation Immigration Services, INIS in Ireland to provide automated passport reading machines in Passport Control.

We are currently trailing automated check-in kiosks in Terminals 1 and 2. This technology is helping to move passengers through the check-in process more efficiently.

We are using Bluetooth technology at the airport to display real time queuing times before security screening. This technology is also being used to give real time queuing information to inbound passengers arriving to Passport Control

To enhance safety on the airfield we developed a solution called Mobile Ops View which provides real time information of all aircraft and ground vehicle movements via GPS transponders. Airfield and ground vehicle locations are displayed on a map of the airfield. This technology is particularly useful for vehicles to detect ground movements on the airfield during periods of low visibility.

More and more of our frontline staff are using mobile technology to help with easy and quick access to information to help passengers on their journey through the airport.

We have streamlined products and services on our website so passengers can select accessory travel services such as car parking, fast track through security, Platinum Services and executive lounges.

We have developed on-line shopping services so passengers can pre-order before they fly and collect when they are departing. Also, passengers can shop and leave items for collection on the return journey.

 

During recent years we have been experiencing numerous initiatives centred around improving the passenger experience, also with extra emphasis on transit passengers. Some incredible features are being added to airports such as Changi and the emerging hub airports in the Middle East. What is Dublin Airport’s stance on these initiatives?

Dublin Airport is making significant investments into its product proposition as a connecting airport. Significant capital investment will be made over the coming years to improve the passenger experience and overall airport environment to grow our transfer numbers to 2m in the coming years.

Works on a new transfer facility will begin this year to improve the efficiency of the transfer process, provide greater capacity and enhance the product offering. From summer 2016 Flight Connections Hosts will be in place in the transfer system in order to provide a dedicated point of contact for transferring passengers and assist with their efficient and smooth passage. An updated new website will go live in April which will include a Dublin Airport Flight Connections page, to provide passengers with important information on Dublin, USCBP and the benefits of Dublin Airport as a transfer hub. We are currently reviewing the various connecting routes and facilities in our terminals to assess potential areas to improve the journey.   Dublin Airport is also involved in ongoing consultations with our stakeholders to continuously develop our airfield facilities to allow a best in class connecting service.

 

Are you facing competition from other Irish airports such as Shannon? If so then how is this affecting the future DAA strategy?

Dublin Airport is Ireland’s premier gateway facilitating 25+m passengers annually. We have direct flights to 180 destinations in 38 countries on four continents.

Cork Airport which comes under the daa umbrella is the second biggest international airport in Ireland with 2.1 million passengers and Shannon Airport is the third largest, facilitating 1.7 million passengers in 2015.

We advertise and promote Dublin Airport regularly through outdoor and print media and radio advertising in key locations around the Island of Ireland. We have been working closely with our airline partners to promote their specific products to consumers in Northern Ireland.

We have had great success with our strategy in particular with business from Northern Ireland growing by almost 100% in the past two years. Dublin Airport, which is a 90 minute drive by motorway, provides Northern Ireland residents with significantly greater choice in terms of destinations, airlines and frequency of services, and is also easy and convenient to use whether travelling to the airport by car or by bus.

Route choice, cheaper flights, better flight times and more frequent flights are the main reasons why consumers in Northern Ireland choose Dublin Airport. It’s interesting to note that three out of every five Northern Ireland residents who used Dublin Airport took two or more trips through the airport.

We will continue to grow our route network and connectivity from Dublin Airport offering more choice and flexibility for our customers. Our strategy is to remain competitive in the market with our pricing and incentives as well as continually improving the passenger experience. We want to make Dublin the airport of choice for the Island of Ireland and the one our passengers recommend.

 

 

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