Irish air travel lags as Europeans take off for summer holidays

Flights, bookings and hits on websites accelerate across continent

Even in Eurocontrol’s most optimistic scenario, the continent’s air traffic is only set to reach 79% of 2019 levels by the end of this year. File photograph: iStock

Irish air travel continues to trail a recovery in Europe that has driven traffic past 50 per cent of pre-pandemic levels for the first time as people take off for summer holidays.

A raft of new figures on Monday showed airline seats and traffic growing across Europe with holidaymakers lending momentum to aviation’s recovery.

However, the same numbers show that on Sunday June 20th flights in and out of the Republic were 76 per cent down on 2019 levels, against 49.7 per cent for the rest of Europe.

The figures, from air navigation body Eurocontrol, show that the Republic continues to be Europe’s worst air travel performer, with about 24 per cent of 2019 traffic levels.


Flights across Europe reached 19,826 on June 18th, which Eurocontrol chief executive Eamonn Brennan said was the highest since March 2020.

The total was more than half the number of flights in the region during the same week in 2019, the year before Covid-19 struck, grounding the continent’s airlines.

Earlier this month, Eurcontrol’s update on the Republic showed that there were 181 flights in and out of the State in the first week in June, just 20 per cent of the same period in 2019.

Other organisations also say that passenger numbers have reached the milestone of 50 per cent of 2019 totals.

Aviation news publisher OAG said western Europe once again led the way in air travel’s recovery from Covid-19 curbs, with its airlines adding about 700,000 seats last week.

Flight search

Meanwhile, Bank of America’s weekly sky tracker indicated that traffic on both Ryanair’s and rival Wizz’s websites was reaching 2019 levels as growing numbers of people shop for flights.

Muneeba Kayani, the bank's analyst, noted that in the week ending June 13th, sales of flights within Europe reached 52 per cent of the equivalent period in 2019. They were at 44 per cent in the first week of the month.

She believes that increasing number of member states adopting the EU’s digital Covid-19 certificate is aiding growth in the bloc.

The Republic plans to adopt the system, allowing free movement to passengers who are vaccinated, immune or have proof of negative tests, from July 19th.

The data shows that Ryanair is contributing most to Europe's revival. OAG calculated on Monday that the Irish carrier boosted capacity by 13 per cent last week and is "getting ever closer" to the two million seats a week mark.

Eurocontrol said that that the Irish low-cost giant was responsible for 1,378 flights on Friday, about one in five of the total on that day.

The revival offers some hope to the continent’s airlines, but also its oil refiners who’ve seen demand for aviation fuel collapse. The pandemic-driven slump in flying meant they diverted production of normally valuable jet fuel into other oil products like diesel and naphtha.

In April, consumption of jet fuel and kerosene in OECD Europe was 690,000 barrels a day, according to the International Energy Agency. That's an increase of 74 per cent compared with a year earlier.

While the recovery is gathering pace, there's still a long way to go. Even in Eurocontrol's most optimistic scenario, the continent's air traffic is only set to reach 79 per cent of 2019 levels by the end of this year. – Additional reporting Bloomberg

Barry O'Halloran

Barry O'Halloran

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