Dublin Airport may be restricted to 14.4m passengers in winter

Ryanair warns such a move would hit those travelling over Christmas, midterms and for sports events

Regulators could limit airlines at Dublin Airport to carrying 14.4 million passengers this winter to ensure traffic remains within a controversial cap.

Planners have restricted Ireland’s biggest airport to 32 million passengers a year as a condition of allowing it to operate its north runway, which opened in 2022.

The Irish Aviation Authority (IAA) is considering limiting airlines operating at the airport to a maximum of 14.4 million seats from October 27th next to March 29th, 2025 to ensure the cap is not breached.

The IAA confirmed on Friday it has proposed introducing the winter-time limit in a draft decision recently published, to “take account of planning conditions relating to the annual capacity of terminals one and two at Dublin Airport”.


If it decides to do so, the authority added, this would be the first time it has imposed a seat limit on airlines operating at Dublin Airport.

The authority, responsible for setting limits that determine the allocation of take-off and landing slots to airlines at Dublin Airport, is thought likely to announce its decision on Tuesday.

A decision to impose the limit is likely to further anger airlines Aer Lingus and Ryanair, which say the cap hits growth and drives up air fares as it squeezes capacity while travel demand is high.

Both are thought to be among the 70 respondents to the IAA proposal, published last month, along with Dublin Airport operator, State company DAA.

Neither Aer Lingus nor DAA would comment on the IAA proposal on Friday, but Ryanair warned that such a move would hit people hoping to travel over Christmas, midterms and for sports events.

“As a result of Dublin Airport’s winter capacity being constrained by this archaic 32 million passenger cap, Irish passengers will see the highest fares in a long time this winter,” said a spokeswoman.

Ryanair dismissed the winter limit as “just another distraction tactic by DAA”, which it accused of failing to submit a planning application to lift the 32 million cap to 40 million on time.

The airline also argued that Minister for Transport Eamon Ryan could have implemented emergency legislation to lift the passenger cap.

However, Mr Ryan has repeatedly pointed out that he cannot interfere in the planning process.

DAA applied to the airport’s planning authority, Fingal County Council, last year to lift the 32 million cap to 40 million, but it is thought a final decision could take several years.

Kenny Jacobs, the airport operator’s chief executive, said this week that DAA could submit a second application later this year if it thought this would speed up the process.

The IAA has appointed a company, Airport Coordination Ltd, to act as Dublin Airport’s independent slot co-ordinator.

The company allocates the slots to airlines according to limits set by the IAA.

The authority’s draft decision stresses that the aviation regulator is not responsible for enforcing the 32 million passengers per year planning limit and maintains that it is for the DAA to ensure compliance.

However, it points out that the planning condition provides for a limit on annual capacity, which the authority can limit.

Locals and representatives of communities living close to the airport, who support the passenger cap, are understood to be responsible for about 60 of the responses to the IAA’s draft decision.

Barry O'Halloran

Barry O'Halloran

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