Rise in traffic using Irish air space last year but still down on pre-Covid levels

Air traffic over Ireland fell by 60% in first half of last year before rebounding later in 2021

Air traffic over Ireland fell by more than 60 per cent in the first half of last year making it the sharpest decline since records began, according to fresh data from the Irish aviation watchdog.

Flights picked up slowly between July and December and the Irish Aviation Authority Air Navigation Services Provider (IAA ANSP) has expressed optimism that a surge in advanced bookings for 2022 has given the aviation sector real hope of a recovery.

According to the data published on Friday, 2021 air traffic was 50 per cent down on 2019 levels although up on the 2020 figures. All told there were 586,273 flights managed in Irish airspace last year, compared with 497,648 in 2020, and just under 1.7 million flights in 2019.

The start of last year was particularly grim with air traffic between January and June some 62 per cent lower than the equivalent period in 2019. The IAA said this was “the worst half-year reduction for flight numbers in Irish airspace since records began”.

Following the lifting of many travel restrictions last July air, traffic slowly increased in the second half of the year although flights between July and December were still 38 per cent lower than 2019.

‘Difficult’ years

There were 12,972 flights during December 2021, up 259 per cent on the same period in 2020 but down 23 per cent on the same month in 2019.

"These figures emphasise just how difficult the past two years have been for the aviation industry in Ireland," IAA chief executive Peter Kearney said.

“As well as the impact on jobs and businesses, these figures reflect the loss in connectivity that the pandemic has caused. As an island nation, with an export-driven economy, we rely heavily on aviation as a key enabler of economic and social prosperity. It must be a priority for the aviation sector, for business and for Government to rebuild this lost connectivity in 2022.”?

Mr Kearney hailed harmonised rules across Europe through the digital Covid certificate, describing it as "a vitally important factor" in restarting the industry last year.

He said there had been a “gradual and steady growth as the public’s confidence to travel again has been restored” and suggested that there would be “strong demand for travel in summer 2022. Certainty for passengers around the use of the certs, and no increase in restrictions will be important in ensuring that 2022 can be a year of recovery for aviation.”