Irish airports among worst hit by plummeting traffic levels

European air travel fell to lowest level in 25 years in 2020

Dublin Airport had lost more than 24 million passengers by December last year while Cork was down 2 million. Photograph: iStock

Dublin Airport had lost more than 24 million passengers by December last year while Cork was down 2 million. Photograph: iStock

 

Irish airports were among the worst hit last year as European air travel plunged to its lowest level in a quarter of a century in the face of Covid-19 curbs.

Figures released by Airports Council International Europe (ACI Europe) show that just 728 million people travelled through the region’s gateways last year.

This was 72 per cent fewer than the 2.4 billion passengers who used Europe’s airports in 2019, cutting traffic to 1995 levels, according to the organisation.

ACI Europe named the Republic as one of several countries where government travel restrictions sent traffic tumbling by more than 90 per cent in the final three months of 2020.

Dublin Airport had lost more than 24 million passengers by December last year while Cork was down 2 million.

Last month the Irish Aviation Authority said that it handled fewer than 500,000 flights through Irish airspace last year, effectively sending air travel back to 1980s levels.

Along with the Republic, passenger numbers fell more than 90 per cent in Austria, Czech Republic, Finland, Hungary, Slovenia and Slovakia in the closing quarter of 2020.

Germany and the UK lost 87 per cent of their traffic. Airports in France, Greece and Portugal lost around three-quarters of their passengers.

Europe’s five biggest hubs, London-Heathrow, Paris-Charles De Gaulle, Amsterdam-Schiphol, Frankfurt and Istanbul, lost a total of 250 million passengers between them.

Shock

Olivier Jankovec, Director General, ACI Europe, warned that “No industry can on its own withstand such a shock”.

“While some states have taken steps to financially support their airports, only €2.2 billion has so far been earmarked for that purpose in Europe. This is less than 8 per cent of the revenues airports lost last year,” he said.

He urged that more be done, with further falls in passenger numbers in recent weeks and no end in sight to the crisis.

Mr Jankovec argued that aiding airports was essential to rebuilding air services and tourism, a key industry in Ireland.

He also predicted that failing to support airports risked hitting their ability to invest in cutting greenhouse gas emissions and in an EU project to improve air traffic management.