Dublin Airport will feature three new food and beverage outlets in time for a Christmas party that will see 850,000 people pass through the gates, staff declared: « The commotion is back. »
Business is approaching pre-Covid levels after last year when only 235,000 celebratory flyers were on board.
The Irish Sun has been given exclusive access to a new four-year plan at the airport, which will see improvements to all 40 bars and restaurants to keep pace with demand from passengers spending more time in terminals before flights.
Dublin Airport’s head of food and beverage, Surcha Nick Owen, said they want to provide « more and more reasons » for holidays to arrive early before flights.
She said: “Many of our passengers travel through the airport several times a year, and it is a ritual to have their pre-flight pints before hopping on a plane or eating.
“And we love that passengers have their favorite place to go. As we transform, we want to give travelers more and more reasons to plan to get to the airport early and use it as a way to start their journey.”
Nearly 1.5 million people passed through the airport over Christmas 2019, which means they still have some way to match the pre-pandemic numbers.
But about 1.4 million passengers crossed Dublin Airport in November, down by 7.3 million since the start of the year.
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The busiest day during the Christmas season is expected to be Sunday, December 19, closely followed by Tuesday, December 23, when people arrive home for their holidays despite ongoing concerns about the Omicron Covid variant.
Since the lifting of Covid-19 restrictions on travel on July 19, about 1.2 million pints have been sold in airport bars, compared to five million sold in 2019.
And while the airport is branching out into newer cuisine, classic Irish dishes remain some of the most popular items on the airport’s menus – with 92,702 Irish breakfasts and 173,308 pints of Guinness served since July 19.
Two new bars will open in Terminal 1 before Christmas – a craft beer hotspot Tap and Brew and another called the Guinness Bar Experience.
The Guinness Bar experience will provide « Millions of Tourists » one last destination before they leave Ireland.
Customers at Tap and Brew will be able to order a pint of Dublin’s very own specialty brew, Altitude, along with gourmet sausages made with local Irish ingredients.
Head of media sales, Leonard Miller, told the Irish Sun that fishing pins and Dublin Airport go hand in hand.
He said: « If you go to Instagram and type ‘Dublin Airport,’ the thing you see is people taking pictures of their cubes.
« There’s always a Guinness and it’s the last pint before they go on vacation, or that nostalgia when you leave Ireland. »
Earlier this year, less than ten per cent of vendors at the airport were open, as Covid-19 kept international travel on a standstill. Since the reopening of international travel, 70 percent of vendors are open, passenger levels are 60 percent of 2019 levels, and overall food and beverage sales are up to 66 percent of normal levels.
Most passengers who transit through Dublin Airport are now doing so for the first time in at least 18 months and have faced some level of lockdown restrictions since March 2020.
Surcha said airport companies have been preparing for a slow and hesitant return of passengers, but have noticed that travelers are spending more time at the airport and more time enjoying food and drink before their flights.
She said, “Covid was horrible for the food and drink.
“I think food and drink at Dublin Airport are the two industries most affected by the pandemic, aviation and hospitality, and they have been combined into one.
« It was really tough, but it’s a testament to our workers who kept things going. »
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She continued, « To be at this point now where we’re actually opening up new units and introducing transitions, it’s great to have that positivity in the midst of the uncertainty right now. »
The head of the food and beverage department announced that « the noise is back » at the stations.
« We didn’t know how our passengers would cope, » said Surcha. « As we planned to resume international travel and prepare the airport and our F&B operators, we wondered, ‘What are they going to look for? »
« Our pleasure is that they definitely want to eat and drink, they want to sit in our outlets and enjoy a meal or a drink before they get on the plane. » She continued, « They come to the airport early because they don’t know how long it will take to get there.
“Then when they get here, we find that there is almost this sense of relief and the desire to go back to some kind of natural environment. So they act a lot like they did before Covid.
« The hype is back at the airport. We see it with the passengers, whether they’re traveling with a group of friends or as a couple.
« They are really positively involved with food and drink and because they make more time, they take that second or third drink or that cup of coffee or that bigger meal, so it’s great to see. » Nomad – A new ‘flexible’ vendor has already opened its doors to airport customers in Terminal 1.
Surcha said the restaurant, which serves healthy breakfasts, lunches, coffee and « grab and go » food, is in line with customer demand.
She said, “There is definitely a more trend towards health, wellness and sustainability. That is the trend all the time.
« Consumers are more aware of their choices and want to know more about what they are consuming – which is why Nomad is going so far. »
Airport staff are quite happy to return to normal activities since the ‘Flood Gates’ opened. The return of international flights also reopened airport lounges.
Just over half of Dublin Airport lounges are currently open with not enough demand yet to reopen them all.
But Terminal 51 and the green in the US pre-clearance section of Terminal 2 has seen twice the expected number of returning customers since it reopened in October.
And more and more families are taking advantage of the lounge – which costs €35 per person, with workstations, a gourmet menu and views of the ground floor of the runway outside – to escape the hustle and bustle of the airport.
Ove Doherty, director of travel services at Dublin Airport, said: “We saw about 200 per day, which is half of what we were doing before Covid but double what we were expecting so the demand was there.”
Concerns remain that further restrictions may be imposed here on non-essential international travel. As it stands, all people over the age of 12 arriving in Ireland require an approved PCR or antigen test – and without one, they are required to be quarantined.
Despite this, from Friday December 17 to Tuesday January 4 about 45,000 people are expected to come and go each day – up from 12,000 last year.
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