DAA chief hopeful of 16m travelling through Dublin Airport in 2021

It could be 2024 before airport traffic returns to pre-pandemic levels, says Dalton Philips

The chief executive of State-owned airport operator DAA is hopeful that the rollout of Covid vaccines next year could result in up to 16 million people travelling through Dublin Airport in 2021.

That would be double the number that will have travelled through the airport by the end of this year, albeit still only half the all-time high of 32.9 million that was achieved in 2019.

Speaking to Inside Business, a podcast from The Irish Times, Dalton Philips said: "I see Q1 being very quiet at similar levels to where we're at now, down 80-90 per cent through to Easter. Then, you're going to start to see a pick-up. There is a real level of optimism now... with six vaccines on the way. There is huge pent-up demand from people to see loved ones...and for vacations. There's a real desire to get out of the country next year and while we're not going to get anywhere near 2019 levels, arguably next year could be 50 per cent of 2019. That's a lot more than where we are now."


Mr Philips said it could be 2024 before Dublin Airport returns to the pre-pandemic volumes of traffic.


He said DAA would record losses of more than €200 million this year as a result of the “devastating” impact of Covid-19 on air travel; it was losing €1 million a day at the height of the lockdown restrictions.

“We’ve had to increase our liquidity this year by a billion euros...a bond for €500 million last month, we have increased our revolving credit facility by an additional €150 million and we’ve drawn down an EIB loan for €350 million to sustain the situation we are in. Our net debt will double. Quite frankly, this business would have gone bust earlier this year had we not reacted in the way we did.”

About 1,000 employees have left its overseas operations (its Aer Rianta International subsidiary runs a network of duty free shops globally and operates a handful of airport terminals outside Ireland) via redundancies, while 850-1,000 are set to leave its Irish business – out of a group total headcount of 8,500. Staff pay has been reduced by up to 40 per cent.

Cork traffic

DAA also operates Cork Airport, which Mr Philips said had no passenger traffic on certain days. "We have days now where there are no flights at all. Coming into this year, Cork was the fastest-growing airport in the country, closing in on 3 million passengers for the year. Now, we're averaging about 200 passengers a day...and it's an airport that's going to lose €20 million and is in a very difficult space with only two airlines flying in at the moment – Aer Lingus and KLM."

Ciarán Hancock

Ciarán Hancock

Ciarán Hancock is Business Editor of The Irish Times