Growth at the Republic’s airports outran the EU in the first half of the year as Irish people returned to flying following two years of Government Covid travel curbs, figures show.
European airports handled 660 million more passengers in the six months ended June 30th than during the same period last year, when many countries continued to restrict travel.
Overall EU growth was 345 per cent in the first half, despite a slow opening three months, according to industry body Airports Council International Europe (ACI), which published its latest figures on Wednesday.
The Republic led the way within the bloc, recording first-half growth of 1,125 per cent, the organisation says.
Irish airports trailed their European counterparts in the first half of last year, as the Government persisted with restrictions that included hotel quarantines, while the State was the last in the EU to reopen.
However, most evidence shows Irish people returned to flying quickly this year as the State lifted a final round of restrictions meant to contain Covid’s Omicron strain.
100,000 a day
The State’s biggest airport, Dublin, is handling 100,000 people a day, while 2.8 million passed through there in June. General manager Vincent Harrison indicated this week that the airport expects up to 105,000 a day over the August bank holiday.
Among airlines, Ryanair is operating more flights here than it did pre-Covid while Aer Lingus is bidding to return to 90 per cent of its 2019 capacity.
Figures from Eurocontrol, the Europe-wide air traffic control body, show 816 flights entered or left the State on July 26th, as against 910 on the same day in 2019, the year before the Government began restricting flying to slow Covid’s spread.
On the same day last year, just 379 passenger flights entered or left the Republic, Eurocontrol’s figures show. Government reopened travel between here and the rest of the EU on July 19th, seven weeks after all other member states.
Meanwhile, Cork Airport expects more than 53,000 passengers over the August bank holiday, 88 per cent of the 60,000 that travelled through there over the same weekend in 2019.
Barry Holland, communications manager, noted that Cork was luring travellers from Galway, Mayo, Offaly, Laois and Wexford. The airport has 42 routes.
Olivier Jankovec, director general of ACI Europe, dubbed travel’s rebound “extraordinary” in a statement on the organisation’s latest figures.
“The fact that volumes across the continent still remained 28.3 per cent below pre-pandemic levels for the first half of the year should not eclipse the sheer and unprecedented unleashing of pent-up demand since March,” he said.