New daa CEO Advocates More ‘Humble Capital Expenditure’ at Airports

Dalton Philips, CEO of daa. Image: Stephanie Taylor

APEX Insight: The daa’s (Dublin Airport Authority) new retail-oriented CEO, Dalton Philips, was at FTE Europe in Dublin this week to explain how he intends to enforce a low-cost model at Cork and Dublin airports to ensure they continue to attract new airlines and new passengers.

Fresh into the aviation industry last October from roles such as chief operating officer at Canadian retailer Loblaw Companies and chief executive of UK-based Wm Morrison Supermarkets plc., Dalton Philips has already drawn many parallels between customers in the air transport and retail industries. One similarity across the board is that customers are “professional shoppers” who “spend time to save money.”

This is one of the reasons Philips is an advocate of what he terms “more humble capital expenditure” at airports. Emphasizing that airport costs are passed onto airlines and ultimately passengers, he argued “We’re building infrastructure, not art,” and continued on to say that Dublin Airport’s north runway– which is due to begin construction during the fourth quarter of 2018 – would cost less than Manchester Airport’s £400m redevelopment.

However, that isn’t to say the daa isn’t investing in making its operations more efficient, which is good for both the business and the passengers. The company is currently working with Dublin City University to make Dublin airport “flow faster” by studying how people move across the terminal with the aim of preventing bottlenecks. Elsewhere, the daa is making use of an increasing number of flight information display systems and self-service machines.

“Passengers are trained to be disruptive […] if we don’t adjust, passengers will disrupt us.” – Dalton Philips, daa CEO

While Philips says aviation is “good at big innovation,” he feels it needs to be “great at small innovation,” which has a far quicker turnaround time. He went on to highlight the daa’s own Incubation Lab which is trialling an honesty box concept with food and beverage operators as well as something called Thunderwasp for wildlife management, which is “essentially a boombox on top of a patrol vehicle to get rid of birds.”

In terms of the future, Philips is keen to stay ahead of the curve. During his presentation he claimed, “Passengers are trained to be disruptive […] if we don’t adjust, passengers will disrupt us.” As an example, Philips said that although the daa has been significantly expanding its long-term parking garages in recent years, 40% of passengers now use public transport to get to the airport.