Airport traffic takes off again but stays below pre-pandemic levels

The State’s five main airports handled 41,000 flights in the first quarter, up 32,000 on 2021

Some 4.7 million passengers travelled through the Republic’s five main airports in the first three months of 2022, according to new figures from the Central Statistics Office (CSO). This was up more than 11 times on the same period last year but was still well below pre-pandemic traffic levels.

Passenger traffic through Dublin, Cork, Shannon, Knock and Kerry airports in the first quarter of the year was 20 per cent lower than the first three months of 2020, the quarter when Covid hit. Traffic volumes were 37 per cent lower than the first quarter of 2019.

The number of passengers travelling through the five hubs in March 2022 was up 76 per cent on the same month in 2020 when governments began rolling out public health restrictions, grounding flights in Ireland and across the globe. But despite the substantial relaxation of all restrictions in early 2022, the March figures were still 25 per cent below before the pandemic in March 2019.

By and large, the latest figures illustrate the aviation sector’s gradual recovery in the early part of the year. Compared with the same period in 2021, the five airports welcomed an extra 4.3 million passengers in the first quarter. The travel hubs handled some 41,000 flights between January and March, up 32,000 on the first quarter of 2021, with Dublin handling 85 per cent of all flights (35,120) and Cork handling 7 per cent of the total (2,683).


The most popular routes for passengers travelling through Dublin Airport were London-Heathrow, London-Gatwick and Amsterdam-Schiphol, according to the CSO. The top route for Cork, Shannon, and Knock airports was London-Stansted, while the top route for Kerry was London-Luton.

“The figures show an increase in international travel during Q1 2022,” said CSO statistician Dr Nele van der Wielen. “However, data shows that passengers travelling to and from Ireland are still down by 21 per cent compared with Q1 2020 and down by 37 per cent compared with same period in 2019.”

“Almost 2.2 million more passengers travelled to Ireland in Q1 2022 when compared with Q1 2021, but this is 1.6 million fewer passengers when compared with the same period in 2019.

“In Q1 2022, 2.3 million passengers departed from Ireland, which was 2.1 million more than the same period in 2021, but still fewer by 1.6 million when compared with Q1 2019.”

Ian Curran

Ian Curran

Ian Curran is a Business reporter with The Irish Times