I propose to answer Questions Nos. 3 and 26 together.
Aer Rianta as my agent are responsible for the management of the State airports, and passenger and cargo handling at the State airports is carried out by companies appointed for that purpose by Aer Rianta. The policy in relation to passenger and cargo handling is to provide services for all carriers using the State airports which are efficient and reasonably priced and which facilitate the continuation of the extremely high operational and safety standards which exist at the airports.
With regard to passenger handling at Dublin Airport a detailed and comprehensive review of passenger handling arrangments at the airport was carried out by my Department in conjunction with Aer Rianta in 1987. As a result of this review new passenger handling arrangements were introduced at Dublin Airport in January 1988.
The main features of the new arrangements involve:
(i) a formal agreement between Aer Rianta and Aer Lingus under which the latter have been granted sole rights to engage in passenger handling for third party carriers for a period of three years;
(ii) a substantial reduction ranging to over 30 per cent depending on aircraft type on the published charges for passenger handling which previously applied;
(iii) a formal mechanism under which carriers who are unhappy with the standard or cost of the service offered or provided by Aer Lingus can appeal to Aer Rianta. The responsibility of Aer Rianta in this regard is to ensure that the Aer Lingus service is efficient and reasonably priced and their findings on any appeal are binding on Aer Lingus;
(iv) continuation of the right of any carrier to engage in handling its own aircraft;
(v) permission for a carrier already engaged in self handling to handle for any carrier for whom he acts as general sales agent;
(vi) carriers engaged in self handling may be allowed by Aer Rianta to co-operate in relation to the sharing of equipment, etc.
Many of the features of the revised arrangements at Dublin Airport are entirely new and I am satisfied that they represent a significant improvement on the situation which existed previously.
In the case of Shannon and Cork Airports a comprehensive examination of passenger handling arrangements is now being carried out by Aer Rianta, following an earlier request from me to the company that the position at these airports should also be reviewed. I am advised by Aer Rianta that this examination is now well advanced and that the company expect to be in a position to submit recommendations to me on this matter in the near future. When I receive these recommendations they will be examined as a matter of urgency by my Department.
With regard to cargo handling at the State airports significant advances in this area have been achieved in the last two years. A detailed review of the cargo handling arrangements and facilities at the airports was finalised by Aer Rianta with the assistance of a firm of consultants last year. Arising from this review specific steps have now been taken by the company to upgrade and improve the cargo handling facilities at the State airports. These steps include:
(a) changes in work practices and upgrading of facilities to facilitate speedier and more efficient processing and clearance of freight;
(b) the provision of a 24-hour customs service for cargo clearance at Dublin Airport;
(c) construction of a new fast freight terminal at Dublin Airport which was opened in March of this year;
(d) the appointment of second cargo handlers at both Dublin and Shannon Airports;
(e) plans for the construction of new cargo warehouses at Dublin and Shannon Airports, work on which is expected to commence shortly;
(f) plans for the appointment of a second cargo handler at Cork Airport.