Ireland braces for impact of air travel tax; omens not good as Ryanair reduces Dublin fleet from 22 to 17

Aer Lingus makes no mention of the hated new tax in its March 11 annual preliminary results presentation, perhaps in deference to it part-state owership, although it has separately acknowledged that it will have a depressing effect on business and it will have to absorb 75% of the new levy. Only the smallest airports at Donegal and Sligo have been exempted.

As the Irish celebrated St. Patrick’s Day this week, its airlines and airports were facing up to the imminent imposition of an air travel tax which comes into effect at the end of March. The government has introduced the €10 tax for all departing flights over 300 kilometres with a lower €2 tax for shorter flights. Only the country’s two smallest airports at Donegal and Sligo have, so far, been exempted from the taxes.

Given that Ireland’s three major airports (at Dublin, Cork and Shannon) saw combined passenger numbers fall last year for the first time in over a decade, this latest event is likely to further impact travel flows.

Chart: Airport Traffic
Source: DAA
Image: Bernard Berger - Ryanair Bollywood
Bye-bye BB. We are taking this opportunity to say goodbye and hello to Europe’s single most influential network planner: Ryanair’s director of new route development, Bernard Berger, is joining GMR Airports, the majority owners of Delhi and Hyderabad airports (and a minority shareholder in Istanbul’s Sabiha Gokcen). Bernard tells us: “I shall be responsible for the marketing of DEL and HYD to the airline sector as the general manager business development, so its the mirror opposite of what I do now.” He starts his new job on April 27; we wish him well.

The country’s largest operator, Ryanair, has already revealed that it will reduce the number of aircraft based in Dublin from 22 to 17 this summer and has announced that four routes (to Basel, Doncaster, Oporto and Teesside) will be axed from July while there will be frequency reduction on eight additional routes (Aberdeen, Biarritz, Billund, Bournemouth, Carcassonne, East Midlands, Malaga and Rome). Not surprisingly the airline’s outspoken CEO has strong views about the travel tax. Curiously, the part state-owned Aer Lingus in its recent annual preliminary results presentation (11 March) makes no mention of the tax, but does forecast that Dublin capacity will be down 4% with the reduction of one aircraft.

Dublin’s traffic has been declining since September

Analysis of year-on-year traffic trends shows how even without an air travel tax, passenger numbers at Ireland’s dominant airport at Dublin have been declining since September.

Shannon’s traffic was down each month of 2008. A major contributor to this was Aer Lingus’ decision to axe its multiple-daily London Heathrow service at the end of 2007. However, this route will be re-instated at the end of this month which should boost passenger figures once more.

Chart: Airport Development
Source: DAA, Ireland West Airport

Cork’s traffic started declining in September while Knock (or Ireland West Airport Knock as it prefers to be known) saw traffic rebound 13.1% to some 630,000 passengers in 2008 after falling 9% in 2007. Ireland’s other commercial airports at Donegal, Galway, Kerry, Sligo and Waterford all handled less than half a million passengers each in 2008.

Ryanair now leading carrier at three of top four airports

Examination of scheduled capacity at Ireland’s four leading airports reveals how dominant Ryanair is, even away from its main base at Dublin. It has three-quarters of scheduled seat capacity at Shannon and Knock. Only in Cork is Aer Lingus the leading carrier from where this week it launches a new route to Lisbon.

Chart: Capacity share by carrier at Irish airports
Source: OAG Max Online for w/c 2 March 2009

Since January 2008 a number of new routes have been started to and from Ireland’s main airports. These are summarised below.

Airport Destination(Airline, weekly frequency)
Dublin BerlinTegel (Lufthansa, 3), Blackpool (Aer Arann, 5), Bologna (Ryanair, 2), Bourgas (Aer Lingus, 2), Brest (Ryanair, 2), Cuneo (Ryanair, 1), Derry (Aer Arann, 14), Guernsey (Flybe, 3), Ibiza (Aer Lingus, 2), Kerry (Ryanair, 21), Knock (Aer Arann, 7), London City (BA CityFlyer, 21), Moscow Domodedovo (S7, 3), Newquay/Plymouth (Air Southwest, 3), Palma de Mallorca (Ryanair, 4), Rodez (Ryanair, 2), Santander (Ryanair, 4), Sofia (Aer Lingus, 2), Stuttgart(Lufthansa, 2), Toronto Hamilton (FlyGlobespan, 1), Tours (Ryanair, 2), Vancouver (FlyGlobespan, 1), Weeze (Ryanair, 7), Zadar (Ryanair, 2)
Cork Brest (Aer Arann, 2), Carcassonne (Ryanair, 3), Glasgow Prestwick (Aer Arann, 6), Geneva (Aer Lingus, 2), Jersey (Aer Lingus, 2), Lisbon (Aer Lingus, 3), Newquay/Plymouth (Air Southwest, 3), Poznan (Wizz Air, 2), Warsaw (Wizz Air, 2)
Shannon Alicante (Ryanair, 2), Berlin SXF (Ryanair, 2), Frankfurt Hahn (Ryanair, 2), Gdansk (Ryanair, 2), Katowice (Ryanair, 2), Lodz (Ryanair, 2), Newcastle (Ryanair, 2), Palma de Mallorca (Ryanair, 3), Paris CDG (Air France, 14), Turin(Ryanair, 1)
Knock Dublin (Aer Arann, 7), Glasgow (bmibaby, 3), Liverpool (Ryanair, 7) new routes database

A notable absentee from the Irish market is easyJet which served Cork, Knock and Shannon from London Gatwick between January 2005 and summer 2006. However, after an aggressive response from Ryanair (it started its own services on all of these routes during 2005) easyJet decided to allocate its resources elsewhere and has not returned to the Irish market since.

Shannon welcomes FrenchConnect next month

Network planners from many of Europe’s leading low-cost carriers will be meeting to discuss the French air travel market next month in … Shannon. will be there as well providing an insight and analysis of the developments in the French market during the last 12 months.


  1. Brian Gormley says:

    How can Ryanair have more capacity from Dublin, where Aer Lingus has over 40 aircraft based including 8-9 A330’s, and ryanair has 22 reducing to 17 B737 ? It does not make sense to me. Can the journo who wrote this article comment. Regards & Thanks. replies: Our figures are for weekly seat capacity which reflect how much each aircraft is flown and also its size. Aer Lingus’ A330s may have lots of seats but because they operate time-consuming long-haul routes they don’t generate many flown seats per week. Also Ryanair’s fleet of 737-800s each has 189 seats while Aer Lingus’ A320s have 174 seats. Ryanair’s aircraft likely operate more flights per day (early start, late returns, short sectors to many UK regional airports) than Aer Lingus aircraft and finally, some of Ryanair’s Dublin routes will be operated by aircraft based at the other end of the route (e.g. London Stansted or Girona).

  2. Please note that Aer Lingus will open a new route from Cork to Rennes in Brittany , starting 2 May with 2 weekly flights on A320 allowing the development of shortbreaks in these 2 celtic cities …!

  3. D Kelly says:

    Bernard Berger leaving FR will be a huge loss…superb planner..nobody is irreplacable and they will continue to grow…but some folk are a little more unique then others…good for you Benny!!

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