Published on January 23rd, 2022 | by Mark Dwyer


Irish Air Traffic 2021

Air traffic levels for 2021 in Ireland were only marginally higher than 2020 but there is industry-wide optimism for a much improved 2022 and significant demand amongst passengers to travel this year. Figures published by the IAA ANSP show there were 586,273 flights managed in Irish controlled airspace last year, compared to 497,648 in 2020 – a 17% increase. However, the overall level of activity for 2021 was 50% lower than that reported for 2019, before the outbreak of COVID-19, when 1,176,490 flights were managed.

Mr Peter Kearney, Chief Executive of the IAA said: “These figures emphasise just how difficult the past two years have been for the aviation industry in Ireland.  As well as the impact on jobs and businesses, these figures reflect the loss in connectivity that the pandemic has caused.  As an island nation, with an export-driven economy, we rely heavily on aviation as a key enabler of economic and social prosperity. It must be a priority for the aviation sector, for business and for Government to re-build this lost connectivity in 2022.”

Air traffic during January-June 2021 was 62% lower than the equivalent period in 2019.  This represents the worst half-year reduction for flight numbers in Irish airspace since records began. Following the lifting of restrictions on 19th July 2021 air traffic slowly increased in the second half of the year, however, flights between July-December remained 38% lower than in 2019. There were 12,972 flights during December 2021. This represents a 259% increase on December 2020 but still a decrease of 23% compared to December 2019.

The 2021 figures indicate that while recovery is happening, it is somewhat uneven. While en-route flights (flights that do not land in Ireland) were -46.4% of 2019 levels, total commercial flights at the State airports remained much lower. Dublin Airport recorded 63.2% fewer arrivals and departures in 2021 compared to 2019, with 51.4% fewer movements at Shannon Airport. The closure of the main runway at Cork Airport for 10 weeks between September and November affected recovery at Cork, with 84.2% fewer flights in 2021 compared to 2019.

Mr. Kearney concluded: “These figures indicate the scale of the task ahead to restore Irish aviation to its position pre-pandemic as a global leader. However, I am optimistic for 2022 and while we are unlikely to fully recover to 2019 levels, a strong year is expected. Particular focus must be given to regrowth of connectivity on transatlantic routes and at regional airports, in order to ensure a balanced recovery. We remain conscious of the risks of further COVID-19 variants, but aviation has shown its resilience and adaptability over the past two years. The IAA ANSP is committed to safely managing a sustainable recovery for aviation in the interests of passengers.”

The table below summarises air traffic levels in Irish airspace in 2021.

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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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