Christmas travel hits 1.6m at Cork and Dublin Airports

Strong end to 2022 bodes well for air travel this year but big challenges loom, says European agency

More than 1.6 million passengers passed through Cork and Dublin Airports over Christmas as Irish people took advantage of the first festive season free of Covid restrictions in three years.

Further evidence of travel’s rebound from Government pandemic curbs emerged on Thursday when State airports company the DAA confirmed strong holiday passenger traffic.

Cork Airport beat its Christmas 2019 totals by 1 per cent between December 12th and January 5th, with 137,243 people passing through over that period.

A total of 1.48 million passengers used Dublin Airport between December 16th and January 4th, 96 per cent of the numbers handled over the same period in 2019.

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In all, 706,000 passengers arrived over that time while 774,000 departed.

Dublin’s total was 87 per cent ahead of Christmas 2021, which was marred by restrictions prompted by the emergence of Covid’s Omicron strain.

Cork’s performance was 123 per cent better than last year’s.

News of the strong performance at both airports follows Ryanair’s confirmation that it had a record December, flying 11.5 million customers over the course of the month.

A look ahead to 2023

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Meanwhile, Knock Airport said this week that it handled 722,000 passengers last year, 89 per cent of its 2019 record of 807,000.

The Co Mayo gateway noted that 2023 was “off to a strong start” with Ryanair announcing 16 routes and 120 flights a week, its biggest schedule at the airport.

However, aviation faces “huge challenges” this year as it continues its post-Covid recovery, according to Europe-wide air navigation agency Eurocontrol.

The Ukraine war has cut the region’s already crowded airspace by 20 per cent, creating added pressures this year as airlines increase aircraft numbers over 2021.

Risk of strikes

A Eurocontrol report published on New Year’s Eve said that while staffing and other bottlenecks that hit travel last year may be progressively solved, there is an increased risk of strikes.

At the same time, airspace unavailability will continue to cause disruption, which will be aggravated by increased aircraft numbers in Europe and the return of Asian traffic.

“All of this means that 2023 is set to be the most challenging year for the network in terms of matching capacity with demand and keeping delays down,” said the report.

Dealing with this will require “formidable efforts” from the Eurocontrol network manager, along with airlines and airports, which the agency says are planning carefully based on lessons learned in 2022.

Air traffic control strikes added to travellers’ woes in 2022, prompting calls for reform of the system from airlines, including Ryanair.

Barry O'Halloran

Barry O'Halloran

Barry O’Halloran covers energy, construction, insolvency, and gaming and betting, among other areas