Sports and St Patrick’s Day boosted March passenger traffic at the Republic’s two biggest airports to a record 2.66 million, new figures show.
State-owned daa, which operates Cork and Dublin airports, said on Thursday that March was a record month at both.
Dublin handled 2.48 million travellers in March, while 181,000 people passed through Cork in the same month. The capital’s airport beat the record for March, hit in 2019, by 30,000 while last month was 33 per cent busier than the same period in 2022.
During the month, 1.23 million people arrived at Dublin while 1.25 million left, said daa. Overall, the airport has handled 6.65 million passengers since the start of the year.
Cork’s total was 4.6 per cent higher than in March 2019 and 10.4 per cent up on the same month last year.
Kenny Jacobs, daa chief executive, said the busiest St Patrick’s weekend combined with big sporting and entertainment events resulted in a “really busy March” at both airports.
Sports included Ireland playing Scotland in Edinburgh in the penultimate round of the Six Nation’s rugby championship and meeting England in Dublin the following week in a grand slam decider, while thousands of Irish horse racing fans travelled to Cheltenham for its national hunt festival.
“Airports Council International Europe, our industry body, is reporting that passenger levels across Europe are generally down 12 per cent when compared with 2019, so international travel to and from Dublin and Cork airports has now recovered and is exceeding pre-pandemic levels,” added Mr Jacobs.
European and transatlantic flights are driving most of the growth, aided by leisure demand and significant capacity boosts by Irish-based airlines, he said.
London Heathrow was the busiest destination from both Cork and Dublin last month.
Dublin is likely to lure almost as many passengers this year as the record 32 million that passed through in 2019, the year before Covid restrictions hit air travel, while Cork is likely to handle 2.5 million people.