Dublin Airport capacity limits could have ‘very significant’ impact on Irish economy

New report claims every 1 million passengers not allowed to arrive at airport could cost Irish economy €1.4 billion

Current restrictions on passenger capacity at Dublin Airport could cost the Irish economy €1.4 billion and 37,000 jobs for every 1 million passengers not allowed to arrive into the airport, according to a report commissioned by Aer Lingus.

The report estimates that for every 1,000 overseas visitors not allowed to fly into Dublin Airport, €1.4 million in direct tourism expenditure and other indirect spending is lost, resulting in a total loss to the exchequer of €322,098 and the loss of 37 direct and indirect jobs.

For every million passengers, the figure rises to €1.4 billion lost to the economy, €322.1 million in tax revenues foregone, and the loss of 37,000 jobs.

The study, prepared by Jim Power Economics, focuses on the potential effect of planning restrictions issued by An Bord Pleanála in 2007 regarding Dublin Airport, including the cap of 32 million passengers per year and restrictions on take-offs and landings between 11pm and 7am.


It says that current planning restrictions put the future growth of the airport in “serious doubt”, with “very significant” implications for the Irish economy.

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It adds that if chartered flights for special events are banned in response to the passenger cap, major international tourism events such as the annual American College Football Game, the Ryder Cup and the Europa League Final would be “seriously undermined” and could cost the Irish tourism industry and the broader economy at least €500 million annually.

Passenger numbers through Dublin Airport peaked at 32.9 million in 2019, recovering post-pandemic to 28.1 million passengers in 2022, and estimated to have come close to the 32 million maximum again last year.

The report noted that given 2019 passenger numbers, it is “difficult to understand why DAA is only now seeking to address this issue”, as the operator of Dublin Airport submitted a planning application to Fingal County Council in December to increase the cap to 40 million passengers.

The application was part of an overall submission seeking leave to build new infrastructure that will allow Dublin Airport cope with the 40 million travellers it expects by 2030.

“The planning process will take considerable time, and meanwhile the disruption of activity at the airport could be significant,” the report reads.

Proposals by the Aircraft Noise Competent Authority (ANCA) that current night-time restrictions be replaced by a noise quota system have been appealed to An Bord Pleanála. The restrictions are also subject to ongoing legal proceedings.

The report notes that as well as the tourism sector, current planning restrictions could damage Ireland’s attractiveness for foreign direct investment, and limit growth of the Irish aviation industry.

Aer Lingus estimated that in the event of the 32 million passenger cap being imposed, it would need to cut 725,000 passengers from its short-haul business to keep the same aggregate passenger numbers, with certain airport destinations cut out altogether and others seeing a significant reduction, as the report notes “other airlines would have to do likewise”.

Ellen O'Regan

Ellen O’Regan

Ellen O’Regan is an Irish Times journalist.