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Dublin Airport’s conveniently invisible passengers

Some might argue DAA’s 31.908 million total doesn’t quite add up

Much like skinning a cat, it seems there is more than one way to tally the number of bodies that pass through Dublin Airport.

During the week, Dublin Airport operator DAA confirmed it managed to contain passenger numbers to 31.908 million in 2023, just shy of the 32 million cap imposed by planning conditions from Fingal County Council.

That is, of course, if you choose not to count some 1,082 million people who took a connecting flight through the airport.

As a side note, that would double to 2.164 million passengers if you use aviation reporting standards, and “double-count” connecting passengers to include their arriving and departing flights.


DAA’s 31.908 million total also excludes 532,222 people who did not set foot within the airport’s two terminals, such as transit passengers that didn’t exit their plane, or those travelling with search and rescue or air ambulances.

If those who technically didn’t walk through the front door of Dublin Airport are counted in the overall figure, and connecting passengers are only counted once, last year’s total was 33.522 million.

In 2019, total passenger numbers at the airport reached 32.9 million. At the time, DAA also separated out connecting passenger numbers, noting the total number of people that “started and ended their journey at Dublin Airport” was about 30.7 million.

In a referral to the council in 2019, DAA said the 32 million cap was put in place by planners to limit pressure on the road network surrounding the airport, and that passengers not using those roads shouldn’t be counted in the overall figure.

DAA also maintains the 32 million cap only applies to its two terminals, and not other parts of the airport such as the Pier 4 and passenger transfer facility that opened in 2018 to cater for connecting flyers.

When the question of how the numbers should be totted up was passed up the line to An Bord Pleanála (ABP), an inspector’s report disagreed with DAA’s “narrow interpretation” of the passenger cap.

That inspector produced a draft order, which would have clarified that connecting passengers should still be counted in the overall total. Conveniently for DAA, the draft order was never signed by ABP.

In 2020 the planning body said interpretation of the passenger cap planning conditions wasn’t something it could consider, as it fell outside the scope of a referral under section 5(4) of the Planning and Development Act 2000.

No matter how you splice and dice it, it could be a couple of years before DAA gets an answer on its latest planning application to the council to increase its passenger cap to 40 million.

In the meantime, some might argue the numbers don’t quite add up.