Saturday, January 13, 2007

Fly KennyAir

In an interview published in last Monday’s Irish Independent, Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny proposed an investigation of the feasibility of providing a second airport for Dublin. Baldonnel, and Weston were two possible locations, though he didn’t rule out a greenfield site.

Ryanair’s Michael O’Leary dismissed the idea as rubbish: "Parties in opposition tend to come up with stupid ideas but a second airport for Dublin would be pretty much up there on the scale of stupid ideas with the Dublin Airport Metro – something that will never be used and will never work".

Which raises the question - where might Michael be coming from?

After all, Ryanair flies to secondary and tertiary airports on the continent - some located long distances from their supposed destination e.g. Paris-Beauvais, Brussels-Charleroi, Barcelona-Gerona etc..

Such airports offer benefits to both airlines and passengers alike.

Airlines can expect significantly better deals re landing charges, while low usage levels facilitate faster turnaround of planes, with little risk of aircraft having to queue for landing or take-off.

Passengers may also benefit in a number of ways. Generally, road access will be easier, even if a bit further, and parking will probably be cheaper. Because the airports themselves are less busy, passengers can be processed more smoothly and with less stress than in a busy, overcrowded terminal like Dublin Airport. Baggage reclaim is also easier if only one plane is being processed at any given time.

No low cost airline is going to compete head-to-head into and out of Dublin Airport with Ryanair. Easyjet and GO tried it but were quickly forced off their chosen routes by Ryanair’s predatory tactics - replicating those routes and using loss-making pricing to attack competitors whose pockets were not as deep.

However, Easyjet or BMIbaby flying into Baldonnel or Weston might pose a bigger challenge for Ryanair. The airport itself is now the most stressful part of flying and people might well be willing to pay a few euros more for the ability to use an airport that was easier to get to and get through.

Ryanair might be forced to offer flights from that second airport in an attempt to force the competition out. Using two airports for the same city would duplicate many overheads, result in the sub-optimal use of aircraft and risk confusion among passengers as to which airport they were flying to/from.

So Michael might really think a second airport is a great idea, unless you’re Ryanair.

Footnote: An edited version published as a letter in the Irish Independent

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