Cork and Dublin airports will refund charges to airlines next year in a scheme to boost flying that could see the capital’s gateway alone hand back €50 million.
Covid-19 restrictions have sent passenger numbers at Cork and Dublin airports tumbling by close to 80 per cent this year, with a similar slump expected over Christmas.
DAA, the State company responsible for both airports, said on Thursday that it would offer discounts to airlines tied to the number of passengers they bring in next year in a bid to revive air travel.
From March 28th next year to March 26th, 2022, DAA will halve Dublin Airport passenger charges for any airline that, in any three-month period, carries 50 per cent of the travellers it flew during the same quarter in 2019/20.
If it carries more than 70 per cent, then all passengers above that number will be free.
“If Dublin Airport’s airline customers from 2019 carried 80 per cent of their passenger total from last year in 2021/22, Dublin Airport will be rebating €50 million worth of airport charges,” a statement said.
Dublin Airport told airlines of its proposals on Thursday. Separately, DAA confirmed that Cork is planning to offer “very competitive” discounts that it intends communicating to carriers shortly.
DAA maintains that the schemes are designed to give airlines an incentive to commit aircraft to the Republic as vaccines and easing Government restrictions improve market conditions.
Dalton Philips, the company's chief executive, pointed out that the virus had decimated aviation and argued that it was vital to the economy that the Republic rebuilds lost air routes.
“The vast majority of Ireland’s economic activity needs air connectivity, and these discount schemes will help restore vital air routes,” he said.
Dublin Airport’s passenger charges were set at an average for this year of €7.50, which is 20 per cent less that in 2019. Cork’s charges average about €8.
The Commission for Aviation Regulation, the air travel watchdog, is reviewing Dublin Airport's charges in light of the impact of pandemic restrictions.
The commission sets passenger charges at the capital’s airport as it is the largest in the Republic and has a dominant position in the market, handling 32.9 million passengers last year.
“We recognise that airlines are making decisions now about where to place their aircraft for next summer, and that many of our customers have smaller fleets than they had last year,” Mr Philips explained.
He noted that Dublin Airport had cut its charges by 40 per cent between 2016 and 2020, which he said left it with the lowest cost among its rivals. Cork Airport has not increased its fees for 14 years.
Dublin Airport has lost 24.4 million passengers on 2019 while Cork has lost almost two million.