Published on January 15th, 2021 | by Alan Dwyer


2020 Air Traffic Falls Back to 1980’s Level

The IAA have released the figures for the number of flights using Irish Airspace for 2020 and although a huge drop was expected, it was actually back to levels last seen in the late 1980’s. January and February has started showing with a positive outlook. However, once the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic kicked in, traffic levels dropped substantially.

The IAA handled less than 500,000 flights during 2020. That is over 670,000 less than 2019. That represents a 58% decrease in Irish air traffic over the previous year and is the worst year on year decrease for the number of flights recorded travelling through Irish and north-Atlantic airspace. Despite this decline, the IAA ensured that Irish airspace remained fully open throughout the pandemic.

Peter Kearney, CEO of the Irish Aviation Authority.

Speaking as the figures for 2020 were released, Peter Kearney, CEO of the IAA said, “We’ve never experienced a year as bad as 2020; however, the IAA and the industry played its role in the national effort to contain COVID-19.  We must re-double these efforts now, whilst also looking forward to a brighter future for the sector. Recovery will start later this year and aviation must be ready to play its key role in supporting economic and social wellbeing, when recovery commences.  While the numbers of flights remain very low in January and for the foreseeable future, we are hopeful of a sustained recovery from Q3 onwards. The IAA has focused on ensuring there is no loss of safety or service quality across its essential services throughout the pandemic. We will continue to support the nations’ efforts to keep supply chains open through safe and efficient air traffic operations at the state’s three airports and in Irish controlled airspace. Looking forward, we are planning for a re-boot of the industry in line with the European and US roll-out of vaccines.”

The figures show that Ireland has seen a larger than average decline in air traffic numbers compared to the wider European network. This is in large part due to the decline in trans-Atlantic air traffic, of which the IAA handles 90%. Aviation, while hopeful for an improved 2021 compared to 2020, cannot recover until restrictions are lifted and there is certainty for the longer term. 

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