Ireland: Ryanair’s back yard

Map: Ireland AirportsIreland is famous for many things – – Guinness, Riverdance, winning the Eurovision song contest three years running in the mid-90s, U2, breeding racehorses and The Corrs. But in aviation circles it is probably best known as the birthplace of Ryanair, Europe’s first, largest and most profitable low-cost carrier.

Ireland has benefited hugely from its membership of the EU, which it joined in 1973, and its average GDP is 39% higher than the EU average, second only to Luxembourg among EU countries.

Dublin’s dramatic growth driven by Ryanair

The country’s major airport has seen traffic grow consistently in recent years, even after ‘9/11′. Dublin airport has grown from less than 12 million passengers in 1998 to 21 million just eight years later.

Chart: Dublin Airport Traffic 1998 - 2006
Source: DAA

Logo: Dublin Airport AuthorityGrowth has come primarily from routes to mainland Europe. Whereas in 1998 UK routes accounted for 60% of traffic, this has now fallen to just 40% even though the UK market has grown by just under 3% per annum. Passenger numbers on routes to continental Europe (which excludes the UK) have trebled during the same period from 3.4 million to 10.3 million. This represents average growth of 15% per annum. Transatlantic traffic has doubled since 1998 though its share of Dublin traffic has remained consistently around 6.5%, apart from in 2002 when it fell to just over 5%.

Logo: Aer LingusLast year traffic grew particularly rapidly, with total traffic up 15% and European traffic growing an incredible 25% on the back of Ryanair adding some 30 new routes. Aer Lingus also added several new European destinations plus a thrice-weekly service to Dubai. Ryanair has added another 15 new destinations in the first half of 2007, helping to boost Dublin’s traffic to continental Europe by 22% and pushing up total traffic in the first six months by 11% to 10.8 million.

A comparison of airline capacities and frequencies at the airport in April 2007 v 2006 shows the dominance of the two major carriers, Aer Lingus and Ryanair.

Frequency share of Dublin scheduled traffic:
April 2006 April 2007 change
Ryanair 35.0% 37.7% +2.7 pts
Aer Lingus 31.4% 29.7% -1.7 pts
Aer Arann 8.0% 9.6% +1.6 pts
CityJet (Air France) 4.4% 4.6% +0.2 pts
British Midland 2.6% 2.6% none
British Airways 3.4% 2.4% -1.0 pts
Flybe 2.1% 1.9% -0.2 pts
All others 13.1% 11.5% -1.6 pts
Source: OAG for 3rd week of April 2006/07

Logo: Aer ArannAlthough Aer Lingus’ share has fallen nearly two percentage points, its frequencies have still gone up year-on-year, highlighting the rapid overall growth. Aer Arann’s almost 10% share has been achieved through a 30% increase in flights and the use of smaller turboprop aircraft. Its share of total airport capacity is much less impressive.

Capacity Share of Dublin scheduled traffic:
April 2006 April 2007 change
Ryanair 42.3% 43.5% +1.2 pts
Aer Lingus 35.3% 35.8% +0.5 pts
Aer Arann 3.0% 3.3% +0.3 pts
CityJet (Air France) 2.8% 2.8% none
British Midland 3.0% 2.3% -0.7 pts
British Airways 1.6% 1.3% -0.3 pts
SAS 1.5% 1.2% -0.3 pts
All others 10.5% 9.8% -0.7 pts
Source: OAG for 3rd week of April 2006/07

Between April 2006 and 2007 scheduled frequencies have grown 9% while capacity has grown 14%, resulting in an increase in average aircraft size from 157 seats to 164 seats. Domestic traffic is likely to get a boost later this year when Ryanair begins double-daily services between Dublin and Shannon.

Ryanair has dropped few routes from Dublin over the years, but last May it ditched Cardiff, blaming an increase in Cardiff’s airport costs, and moved additional capacity to nearby Bristol. It also abandoned, after just six months, a six-times-weekly route to Humberside which operated last summer.

Shannon & Cork – traffic doubles in eight years

Image: Cork and Shannon airport
Cork and Shannon are also both operated and run by DAA (Dublin Airport Authority).
Chart: Cork & Shannon airport traffic
Source: DAA

Traffic at both airports has doubled since 1996. Shannon is another base for Ryanair, but the airline has had several route failures. In 2004 Ryanair offered just five routes from the airport, but this has risen to 26 this summer. Of these only a handful of UK routes (and Paris Beauvais) are served daily. All other routes are typically operated three to four times per week. Ryanair’s share of Shannon capacity this summer is just over 50%.

Aer Lingus has a 30% share of capacity thanks to regular flights to Dublin and London Heathrow, but also daily flights to New York JFK and Boston. American Airlines, Continental and Delta also offer regular flights to their respective hubs in Chicago, Newark and Atlanta.

Logo: Cork AirportCork airport, which reached 3 million passengers for the first time last year, has a more diverse mix of operators. Aer Lingus operates to some 15 destinations, though a third of all flights are to London Heathrow, and has around 41% of scheduled capacity.

Ryanair, which objected to what it saw as the building of an unnecessarily lavish and expensive new terminal, operates to just Dublin, London Stansted, London Gatwick and Liverpool, but still has a 32% share of all capacity. Aer Arann, with 12%, flies to eight destinations – two in Ireland, five in the UK and an international route to Nantes in France – while bmibaby has a 6% share thanks to daily flights to Birmingham and Manchester.

Polish LCC Centralwings flies to Krakow, Warsaw and Wroclaw, thus neatly avoiding competition with Wizz Air, which flies to Gdansk and Katowice. These routes typically operate three times per week and support the recent surge of immigrants from Poland into Ireland.

Image: Shannon airport
Duty free, air transport’s legalised form of tax evasion, was first invented by Shannon airport exactly 60 years ago in 1947. In those days Shannon was a must-stop for fuel graced by many Hollywood greats. Here Marlon Brando signs for a duty free offer he couldn’t refuse; Marilyn Monroe and Arthur Miller sample another Shannon Airport invention – Irish coffee – while Gene Kelly buys some cheap sausages. Today for about the same price, €10, he could fly onwards to Düsseldorf (Weeze).

Apart from the ‘big 3′ discussed so far, Ireland also has several other airports with scheduled services. Knock, or Ireland West Airport Knock as it has recently been re-branded, offers LCC services to the UK with Ryanair and bmibaby, plus domestic flights to Dublin with Aer Arann. It has also recently witnessed the launch of transatlantic services with Flyglobespan to Boston and New York JFK, though there have been some initial teething problems as reported on the airport’s website.

Similarly Galway has several links to the UK thanks to Flybe and Aer Arann, as well as domestic routes to Dublin and Cork with Aer Arann. This summer the airport is promoting direct flights to Bordeaux, Faro and Malaga which will be operated by a BAe 146 of Atlantic Airways on behalf of a local tour operator.

Image: Routes schedule
Those Ryanair promotional fares from Ireland to the UK and continental Europe

Kerry airport offers five scheduled destinations this summer. Aer Arann flies to Dublin (four times per day), Manchester (four times per week) and Lorient in France (Saturdays only), while Ryanair serves London Stansted (double daily) and Frankfurt Hahn (daily).

Donegal has two scheduled destinations to Dublin and Glasgow Prestwick, Waterford offers London Luton and Manchester, and Sligo offers Dublin services. All of these are operated by Aer Arann with its fleet of ATR turboprops.

Map: European destinations
Who would ever have imagined it possible? Destinations available from Cork airport today. (Source:


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