Christmas air fares to Dublin could hit €500, Ryanair says

Budget carrier says controversial winter passenger cap at Dublin Airport would force a ‘return to the 1980s’ for seat prices

Christmas air fares between Dublin and cities including London could hit €500 this year as travellers feel the impact of passenger limits at the State’s biggest airport, according to Ryanair.

Planners have limited Dublin Airport to 32 million people a year, angering its biggest carriers Ryanair and Aer Lingus.

Eddie Wilson, chief executive of Ryanair DAC, predicted on Thursday that Christmas fares between Dublin, London and other cities could hit €500 as the cap prevents airlines from scheduling extra winter flights.

Ryanair sought capacity to boost traffic to and from Dublin to 7.5 million this winter, from 6.4 million last year, but says regulators refused the take-off and landing slots that would allow this to happen.

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“Prices will go through the roof,” Mr Wilson predicted. He added that this would be particularly obvious at Christmas, as people have little choice over the days when they can travel.

The Irish Aviation Authority (IAA), which allocates the slots, recently confirmed that it would limit airlines at Dublin Airport to 14.4 million passengers from October to March, to aid airport operator DAA in remaining within the 32 million cap.

Ryanair and Aer Lingus warned that the move would hit people travelling for Christmas, mid-terms, Six Nations rugby, Premiership football and the Cheltenham festival.

Airlines regularly schedule extra flights to cope with peaks in demand over the winter. However, the IAA decision will prevent them from doing so from Dublin, Mr Wilson pointed out.

He noted that the authority had allocated Ryanair its historic Dublin winter slots, but space for extra flights falls outside those rights.

Ryanair warned recently that it would take legal action to protect historic rights. Even without those grounds, Mr Wilson did not completely rule out a court challenge to the IAA decision. “If there is a way of doing it, then we’ll do it,” he said.

He repeated calls on Minister for Transport Eamon Ryan to lift the cap. The minister says that he cannot interfere in the planning process.

The Ryanair executive also argued that DAA should have applied to Fingal County Council during the pandemic to lift the cap, as the process could take several years.

The State company sought permission last December to increase it to 40 million and may submit an interim application to raise it to 36 million in the autumn.

Meanwhile, Mr Wilson said the IAA had this week vindicated Ryanair complaints against DAA charges. The airport company must review the fees by October 27th.

Ryanair maintained that DAA’s charged airlines up to 80 per cent less for transfer passengers over those travelling point to point, while its environmental discounts prompted the carrier to move its most fuel-efficient jets out of Dublin.

Kenny Jacobs, DAA chief executive, agreed with Ryanair on the need to raise the 32 million cap, saying the planning process would “hopefully lead to that happening soon”.

He stressed that DAA refuted comments about mismanagement noting that it had announced a record financial performance while passenger satisfaction was up 37 per cent.

Barry O'Halloran

Barry O'Halloran

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