Irish air travel has hit about half the pre-pandemic traffic levels four weeks after the Government eased restrictions, official figures show.
The Republic opened travel to other EU states using the union’s digital Covid certificates on July 19th, although curbs remain between here and the UK, US and other jurisdictions.
Total flights in the Republic had risen more than 20 per cent to 487 on Sunday August 15th, from 393 on the day that travel curbs were first eased, according to figures from Eurocontrol, the EU organisation of air traffic control authorities.
The number was half the 922 flights recorded in and out of the State on Sunday August 18th, 2019, the year before the pandemic caused aviation chaos and when the Republic’s airports were on track to attract a record 38 million passengers.
The Irish recovery continues to lag the rest of Europe, which reopened sooner from less harsh restrictions than those applied by the Government here.
Eurocontrol’s statistics show that air travel in Europe is now about 70 per cent of what it was in 2019, the year that the aviation industry benchmarks as “normal”.
On Sunday, there were 25,078 flights across the area overseen by the organisation, which stretches from the Republic to Israel and Scandinavia to Morocco. This was 30 per cent fewer than the 34,392 recorded on Sunday August 18th 2019.
Aer Lingus and Ryanair continue to account for the bulk of the flights in or out of the State, and for most of the increase recorded in recent weeks.
On Monday, Ryanair had 194 flights in and out of the Republic. The carrier said that it had more than one million seats across 138 routes between the State and destinations in the rest of Europe in August. That compares with 800,000 seats across 123 services in July.
Aer Lingus said that it had 94 flights, 47 round trips, to or from all Ireland, to Britain, and a further nine to or from the United States, on Sunday. That compared to a total of 72 journeys two weeks earlier.
“Aer Lingus restarted its Dublin-Washington service last Friday and from today [Monday] has increased its Dublin-JFK service to 12 round trips (24 flights) per week.
“While this is a considerable increase from earlier in the summer, it is approximately 60 per cent less flying than the equivalent in 2019,” the airline added.
Eurocontrol’s figures show the Irish airline flew 254 services on August 18th 2019. It was originally scheduled to restart its Dublin-Washington flights on Monday August 16th.
Elsewhere, Air Canada restarted its Dublin-Toronto service this month, with flights arriving and leaving on alternate days.
Canada is gradually easing restrictions ahead of a fuller return of travel next month. Some observers believe that the US may begin rolling back on its bar to discretionary travellers from the EU in September.
Ryanair is Europe’s busiest airline. The Irish giant had 2,446 flights on Sunday, 12 per cent less than the 2,654 services it operated on Sunday August 18th, 2019.
Spain is the region's most connected state. On Sunday, it hosted 4,361 flights in and out of its airports, against 5,644 on August 18th, according to Eurocontrol.
Meanwhile, aviation information publisher OAG predicts that globally, airlines could lose $48 billion (€40.8 billion) this year as they continue to battle the pandemic’s fallout.
World airline capacity last week was 76 million seats, compared with 118 million during the equivalent week in 2019, says the organisation in a newsletter issued on Monday.