Passenger traffic trailing by almost 70% at State’s airports

Europe’s plane hubs are down 1.26 billion passengers this year, ACI says

Dublin Airport expects 224,000 passengers this bank holiday weekend, a number still 42 per cent below the same period in 2019. Photograph: Colin Keegan

Dublin Airport expects 224,000 passengers this bank holiday weekend, a number still 42 per cent below the same period in 2019. Photograph: Colin Keegan

 

Government delays in easing tough Covid-19 travel curbs this year left passenger traffic trailing by almost 70 per cent at the Republic’s airports, one industry body says.

Airports Council International (ACI) calculates that Europe’s airports have lost 1.26 billion passengers so far this year, leaving them 62 per cent behind 2019.

A council report highlights slower recoveries in the Republic, the UK and Finland, where governments delayed reopening this summer as Covid-19 receded in the face of vaccination programmes.

According to ACI, traffic at the Republic’s airports remains 68 per cent below pre-pandemic levels, against 34 per cent down in countries that reopened earlier.

The UK trails the rest of Europe by 71 per cent while Finland is down 78 per cent, says the council.

The Irish Government did not adopt the EU digital Covid pass and reopen travel with the rest of the bloc until July 19th.

This was almost three weeks after the EU’s formal reopening on July 1st, while many states had adopted the pass and begun easing travel travel restrictions ahead of that date in June.

Bank holiday weekend

Subsequent European air travel figures showed the Republic lagging the rest of the region, with flight numbers here at about 40 per cent of 2019 figures, against up to 70 per cent in the EU.

Dublin Airport – the Republic’s biggest gateway – expected 224,000 passengers to travel through it over the bank holiday weekend. This made it the busiest weekend so far this year, but the number was still 42 per cent below the same period in 2019.

Smaller airports are recovering traffic faster than others, aided by low-cost carriers, ACI says.

Connections offered by budget airlines from smaller airports are only 10 per cent below pre-pandemic levels, the council notes.

In the Republic, Ryanair is restoring flights at Cork and Shannon airports faster than at Dublin.

The airline recently confirmed that it would return to full pre-Covid schedules from Cork and Shannon next summer.

However, it predicted that it would remain 35 per cent below 2019 capacity at Dublin.

Smaller airports

Intra-European, domestic and leisure travel is driving the recovery at smaller airports, according to the ACI.

Flights offered by full-service carriers at smaller airports are 32 per cent down on 2019 while 42 per cent off at bigger hubs.

ACI predicts that aviation’s recovery will gather momentum next year as restrictions on transatlantic travel ease and airlines start restoring long-haul services to destinations in Asia.

Olivier Jankovec, director general of ACI Europe, predicted that fully restoring air travel would be an “uneven and volatile” process tied to vaccinations and infection rates.

“The level of pent-up demand is staggering, fuelled by the savings accumulated by consumers through this pandemic,” he said. “But there are also significant supply pressures that will slow down the pace of the recovery.”

Mr Jankovec said these included smaller airlines and rising fuel costs, and that some airlines would control capacity to boost prices.