Airline passenger traffic records slump in capital
Aer Arann shows large dip in passenger numbers as it signs Aer Lingus deal
AER Arann, the regional airline that has just signed a franchise agreement with Aer Lingus, recorded a dramatic 32pc decline in passenger numbers at Dublin Airport last year compared to 2008.
Figures obtained by the Irish Independent reveal that the number of passengers on Aer Arann flights to the capital fell to 326,400 in 2009 from 480,230 the year before.
The figures also show that passenger traffic for Aer Lingus at Dublin declined nearly 7pc in 2009 to just under 7.46m. The former state-owned carrier this week outlined a new strategy for a return to profitability. It's the second-biggest carrier at Dublin Airport with just over 36pc share of passengers there.
Ryanair, which is Dublin Airport's single biggest customer with nearly a 43pc share of passenger traffic, shouldered an 11.7pc slump in numbers from just over 9.9m in 2008 to 8.75m last year.
The carrier has cut the number of aircraft based at Dublin in the current winter period and curtailed some route frequencies, blaming the government's €10 travel tax. But passenger numbers to and from Dublin have also been hit by economic downturn as fewer people can afford to go on foreign holidays.
Last week, Ryanair said it would cut the number of aircraft based at Dublin in the coming summer season to 15 from 18 last summer, again citing the travel tax and a likely 33pc hike in passenger charges at the airport that was sanctioned before Christmas by the aviation regulator. The airline releases third-quarter financial figures on Monday.
The new data also confirms that total passenger numbers at Dublin Airport slumped 12.6pc in 2009 to just over 20.5m from nearly 23.5m in 2008.
Aer Arann, which was founded by Galwayman Padraig O'Ceidigh, has been working furiously to realign its business with the weakened economic environment. Its new agreement with Aer Lingus will result in it paying a franchise fee to the bigger carrier for the privilege of having 12 of its routes -- mostly from Britain to Dublin and Cork -- listed on the Aer Lingus booking website.
Aer Arann operates government-funded public service obligation (PSO) routes between Dublin and Galway, Derry, Sligo, Donegal and Knock. The contracts were awarded in 2008 and run to 2011.
Aer Arann will receive well in excess of €30m in subsidies during the contract. However, those routes are not included in the Aer Lingus franchise deal. The 'An Bord Snip' report has called for PSO services to be axed.
Meanwhile, Christoph Mueller, the chief executive of Aer Lingus, this week told investors that he wants to boost passenger numbers by offering more pre-flight and in-flight services, while he eschewed the "pure" low-cost model used by Ryanair.
The figures seen by the Irish Independent also show that passenger figures for BMI at Dublin sank 12.2pc to 467,200 last year. The British airline is owned by Lufthansa and recently announced the closure of its Dublin base. Lufthansa's own passenger traffic at Dublin was flat at 240,570.
Passenger figures for Abu Dhabi's Etihad jumped nearly 27pc to 161,000, while those for US carrier Continental Airlines fell 4.6pc to 197,240. Delta's climbed 1.7pc to 260,350.
The passenger numbers for SAS were 5.5pc lower at 225,855, while those for Air France, under its CityJet subsidiary, were 3.3pc higher at 462,500. Flybe's numbers tumbled over 23pc to 123,442.