PASSENGER numbers at Dublin Airport fell by two million last year because of the recession, the volcanic ash crisis and the Big Freeze.
The Dublin Airport Authority (DAA) said last night that 18.5 million people used the airport in 2010, a drop of almost 20pc from the peak of 2008.
And the DAA defended the number of passengers using the €600m second terminal, T2.
Reports said yesterday that just 10 flights a day were departing from the new facility, despite a massive advertising campaign costing €500,000.
T2 is designed to handle up to 15 million passengers a year and was officially opened by Taoiseach Brian Cowen last November.
DAA spokeswoman Siobhan Moore said that five airlines would be using the terminal by the end of this week.
Continental Airlines, US Airways, Delta Air Lines, Etihad Airways and all Aer Lingus services to London Heathrow would be from T2, and 40pc of all passengers travelling from Dublin would be accommodated in the new terminal.
She added that US customs would be providing a full pre-clearance service from this week, and that final training and testing was being completed.
The DAA was keen to avoid the situation at T5 in London Heathrow where the baggage system failed on its opening day, causing chaos for thousands of passengers,
Dozens of flights were cancelled and planes were forced to depart half-empty, taking passengers with hand luggage only. The DAA said that extensive testing and staff training at T2 would avoid similar scenes here.
"It (T2) was always going to be introduced on a phased basis. We were conscious of what happened in T5. There was an extensive process of trialling and it's a massive operation. We've been working very closely with the airlines and handling agencies and a lot of training needed to be done.
"Airlines are moving their operations in on a phased basis. Ryanair will be the anchor tenants in T1 and they're the biggest customer in Dublin Airport followed by Aer Lingus. Sixty per cent of flights will depart from T1, and 40pc from T2.
"We've always said that T2 is for the future. There's a downturn in the economy, but the reason we built it was because in 2006, 2007 and 2008 it was dreadfully congested in T1 and there were huge complaints."
New figures from the DAA also show that passenger numbers plummeted last year.
In 2008, some 23 million people used the airport, which fell to 20.5m in 2009.
Preliminary results for 2010 show that 18.5 million passengers came through Dublin. The recession and grounding of flights during the exceptionally cold weather of January and December last year, coupled with the volcanic ash crisis in April and May, led to the fall-off.
Last week, the Irish Aviation Authority said that 513,236 flights travelled through Irish airspace last year, a 3pc drop on 2009 but 14.5pc down on the peak of 2008.
It expected an increase of 6.5pc for commercial traffic this year.