Air traffic will recover to just 43% of 2019 levels this year - report

Republic’s aviation recovery to lag rest of Europe, where traffic is expected to reach 50%

There are now an average of 181 flights into and out of the Republic every day, a fall of 80%  on 2019

There are now an average of 181 flights into and out of the Republic every day, a fall of 80% on 2019

 

Air traffic will recover to just 43 per cent of 2019 levels as the Republic emerges from one of Europe’s toughest Covid-19 travel bans, a new report predicts.

The Government plans to begin reopening international travel from July 19th following 16 months of restrictions that have cost almost 4,000 jobs in Irish aviation.

A new report from Eurocontrol, the EU-wide organisation of air navigation authorities, predicts that traffic here will recover to just 43 per cent of 2019 levels this year.

That estimate indicates that the Republic’s aviation recovery will remain behind that of the rest of Europe, where traffic is expected to reach 50 per cent of 2019 totals.

Eurocontrol estimates that the Republic has lost 282,000 flights in and out of the State since March 2020, when the Government first locked the country down in a bid to contain Covid-19.

The organisation’s figures show that there are now an average of 181 flights into and out of the Republic every day, a fall of 80 per cent on 2019.

Dublin is the State’s busiest airport, with 136 flights a day, while Ryanair is the most active airline, with 39 daily services.

Eurocontrol forecasts that traffic will recover to 71 per cent of 2019 levels in 2022.

More than 104,000 people a day travelled through the Republic’s airports in 2019, a total of 37.9 million.

Figures published recently by the Central Statistics Office show that daily passenger traffic through airports in April was around 4,700, or 4.5 per cent of the number reached in 2019.

Air travel in the Republic continues to trail the rest of the EU. Figures produced last week show that in the final week in May, passenger bookings in the bloc were one third of the same period in 2019.

A ban making “non-essential” travel illegal and quarantines demanding that passengers from the US and several EU countries stay in hotels for two weeks, are among tough measures that remain in place in the Republic.

Shannon base

The Government is drawing increasing fire for its stance on travel. Aer Lingus blamed the regime and the lack of a plan to reopen the State for its decision to close its Shannon Airport base.

Both Aer Lingus and Ryanair intend moving aircraft from the Republic to other more open countries this year.

Aviation employs around 4,000 fewer people than it did before the Government locked down the State in March last year.

DAA, the State company responsible for Cork and Dublin airports, says that 2,000 people took voluntary redundancy under a cost-saving plan introduced last year.

Aer Lingus now employs 4,400 people, a figure that would have been around 6,000 had Covid-19 not intervened.

Trade unions including Siptu and Fórsa have warned the Government and politicians that further job losses are inevitable if the State does not move to reopen quickly and aid aviation.

The Government said last month that it would reopen travel in July, introducing the EU digital Covid-19 certificate, designed to restore free travel in the bloc, on July 19th.

Restrictions

However, it has also indicated that some restrictions will remain in place, and that it could apply “brakes” to travel from some regions or countries, depending on infection rates there.

Eamonn Brennan, director general of Eurocontrol – former chief executive of the Irish Aviation Authority – warned in a report last month that the situation in Europe remained challenging.

“So while we are anticipating an uptick in summer traffic our most likely medium-term scenario envisages a co-ordinated lifting of restrictions by quarter one 2022 between regions, which facilitates more long-haul travel. “We’ll probably have around 50 per cent of 2019 traffic for all of 2021, 5.5 million flights.”

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