Ryanair’s Michael O’Leary says he will ‘make a fortune’ at Christmas due to Dublin Airport passenger cap

Chief executive repeats warning that limits would lead to Christmas fares of between €500 and €1,000

Passengers returning to Dublin Airport last Christmas, one of the busiest travelling times of the year. Photograph: Alan Betson

A “massive crisis” at Dublin Airport this Christmas would see return flights costing about €1,000 due to constraints on air traffic, Ryanair chief executive Michael O’Leary has said.

He told the Oireachtas transport committee on Wednesday that Government action was urgently needed to deal with the 32 million passenger cap at Dublin Airport.

The Government has two potential legislative solutions to deal with the issue while it went through the planning process, the committee was told.

Ryanair’s application for additional passenger numbers for the Christmas period as well as for the school holidays and for sporting events had been rejected as Dublin Airport was up against its cap on numbers, Mr O’Leary said.


He said the capacity constraints would lead to a “massive crisis” this Christmas unless the Government acted now – passengers would face one-way fares of €500, and €1,000 return. It echoed similar fare warnings from the airline last month.

Mr O’Leary told the committee the carrier would “make out like bandits”, adding: “I will make a fortune this Christmas.”

He argued that seeking to lift the 32 million passenger cap through the planning process would take four years given the inevitable appeals.

Mr O’Leary said some flights could be moved to Belfast, but “inbound passengers do not want to go to Shannon or Cork”.

Almost two-thirds (65 per cent) of Ryanair traffic in Ireland is inbound with the majority of passengers wishing to go to Dublin, the committee heard.

Mr O’Leary claimed Minister for Transport Eamon Ryan had not replied to a submission made by Ryanair to increase growth in Ireland, made in early March. This would involve an investment of about €2 billion and the creation of an additional 7,500 jobs.

His criticisms also turned to Dublin Airport operator DAA over car parking, saying it should have used fields that it owns surrounding the area as surface car parks to cater for the increased demand over the summer. He contended that planning permission would not be needed for such temporary facilities, although this view was challenged by Fine Gael TD for north Dublin Alan Farrell.

Mr O’Leary argued that DAA was content that capacity constraints continued regarding car parking close to Dublin Airport as this facilitated increased charges.

The Ryanair chief also strongly criticised a planned tunnel under an apron at Dublin Airport planned by the DAA. He suggested this would cost €200 million and would be used to bring parcels to cargo aircraft but said none of the airlines operating in Dublin wanted this facility.

However, he contended that the cost of the development would allow DAA to go back to the aviation regulator to seek further increases in charges.

Mr O’Leary said other countries around Europe were “laughing at the failure of Ireland’s aviation policy”.

He could not understand why passenger numbers at Dublin Airport were capped at 32 million per year, he told the committee, despite there being a second runway at a cost of €300 million which gave it the capacity to handle 60 million passengers.

“We basically opened up a second runway but are told we cannot use it.”

Martin Wall

Martin Wall

Martin Wall is the former Washington Correspondent of The Irish Times. He was previously industry correspondent