Published on April 9th, 2020 | by Mark Dwyer


29% Drop in Air Traffic in March

The Irish Aviation Authority (IAA) handled 62,449 flights during the month of March. This represents a decrease of 28.6% compared to the number of flights handled in March 2019. This reduction reflects the impact of COVID-19 on the aviation sector across the world. However it was only towards the end of March that the bulk of flight cancellations occurred and it is expected that the April figures will be markedly lower again. April generally marks the beginning of the summer season for most airlines so the statistical impact on April figures will be significant.

State airport traffic during March 2020:
– Total flights handled at State airports was 18,250, down -22.7% on 2019;  
– Dublin airport recorded 13,012 flights, a 29.2% decrease;
– Cork airport traffic was 3,778, up 10.2%; 
– Shannon airport reported 1,460 flights, a 19.2% decrease in movements. 
– There were 14,479 commercial terminal flights, down 30.2% on March 2019

March 2020 saw a decrease of -29.3% in Ireland’s overflight traffic movements to 18,230. These are flights that do not land in Ireland. IAA’s analysis of North Atlantic Communications flights (Europe /US Flights) saw a decrease of -31.9% in March 2020, when compared to March 2019. As a result, the annual decreases so far for 2020 were -10.4% (overflights) and -11.8% (North Atlantic Communications).

IAA Chief Executive, Mr. Peter Kearney said that flights operating daily in European airspace had declined by 90% due to COVID-19, placing many airlines in a difficult financial position.

“So, we in the Irish Aviation Authority welcome the €1.1 billion financial package to assist the airlines. This will allow Air Traffic Control providers, including the IAA, to defer certain charges owed by airlines until late 2020 and into 2021.

“We are committed to helping the airlines to weather this unprecedented collapse of business. Ireland is an island relying on a strong airline service for our economy. So, these financial and regulatory mechanisms make absolute sense to help the airlines during this period.

“It will help the airlines bounce back quicker, when we come out of this pandemic. In turn, jobs will be saved and business across Europe will grow again. As a key stakeholder in the Irish aviation sector, it is our duty to do all we can to assist the national effort to combat COVID-19 and ensure that the Irish economy recovers quickly.”

The measure developed by States, EUROCONTROL and Air Traffic Service Providers allows airlines to defer paying their air traffic control charges due for February to May 2020, until between late 2020 and Q3 2021.

The IAA is implementing this mechanism in addition to several other regulatory mechanisms developed to assist the airlines through this unprecedented crisis and ensure they can get their fleets airborne again once the current restrictions are eased.

These include extending the validity periods of certain licences and certificates, where there is no impact on safety, in order to ensure that pilots and other aviation professionals can stay fully qualified. Aircraft airworthiness certificates are also being extended under certain circumstances again where there is no impact on safety.

In addition, the IAA continues to provide a full ATM and regulatory service to the aviation sector throughout the crisis. 

Mr Kearney said, “The IAA will continue to provide its essential service through this crisis, facilitating vital cargo and emergency flights. Across Europe and in Ireland, passenger aviation is effectively grounded for the month of April. However, our teams will be ready to support the airline industry when it can return to normal operations.”

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About the Author

Mark is an airline pilot flying the Boeing 737 for a major European airline. In addition he is also a Type Rating Instructor, Type Rating Examiner and Base Training Captain on the B737. Outside of commercial flying Mark enjoys flying light aircraft from the smallest 3 Axis microlights up to heavier singles. He is also an instructor and EASA Examiner on single engines and a UK CAA Examiner. He flies the Chipmunk for the Irish Historic Flight Foundation (IHFF). Mark became the Chairman of the National Microlight Association of Ireland (NMAI) in 2013 and has overseen a massive growth in the organisation. In this role he has worked at local and national levels. In 2015, Mark won ‘Upcoming Aviation Professional Award’ at the Aviation Industry Awards sponsored by the IAA. Mark launched this website back in 2002 while always managing the website, he has also been Editor and Deputy Editor of FlyingInIreland Magazine from 2005 to 2015.

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