Ireland-UK air traffic set to break 12.8 million record thanks to euro
Air passenger traffic between Ireland and the UK in 2017 is on course to breach a record of 12.8 million set just last year, despite last June's Brexit vote and a slump in sterling that has hit visitor numbers from the UK.
Competition and the stronger euro have given a boost to Irish flyers heading to Britain, however.
An analysis of traffic by the Irish Independent shows that between January and April this year, slightly more than four million passengers travelled between Ireland and the UK, compared to 3.93 million during the first four months of 2016.
If the trend continues, the 12.8 million flyers recorded between Ireland and the UK last year could be exceeded this year.
The Dublin-London city pair remains the busiest for air passenger traffic between Ireland and the UK, and one of the busiest city pairs in the world.
Figures from the UK's Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) show 4.76m trips were made by passengers between Dublin and five London airports last year. Dublin-Heathrow was the busiest route, followed by Gatwick.
In January this year, the number of passengers flying between Dublin and Heathrow was up 5pc on January 2016, at 120,500. Passenger traffic between Dublin and Gatwick soared 20pc in January to 108,000.
Although there were declines in traffic between Dublin and Heathrow and Stansted, numbers to and from Gatwick rose almost 17pc in February to 111,000. In March, year-on-year numbers were again higher at Heathrow and Gatwick, but slipped again at Stansted. April saw a 13pc increase in passenger numbers, to 158,077, between Dublin and Heathrow; a 7pc increase on Dublin-Gatwick to 108,666; and unchanged at Stansted, at 73,719.
Prior to 2016, the previous record was set in 2008, when 12.3 million passengers flew between the two countries. Passenger numbers plunged after the crash.
Ryanair chief executive Michael O'Leary has warned that unless an aviation agreement is reached between the UK and the EU by the end of next year there might even be no services between the UK and the EU for weeks after Brexit actually happens.
John Higgins, chief commercial officer with Dublin-based Avolon, the world's third-largest aircraft lessor, told the Irish Independent that he believed agreement would be reached.
"The airlines are right to highlight this as a potential risk," he said. "It's these things that are tangible for people where Brexit becomes real. I'm inclined to believe that people will be rational and that the UK will ultimately solve it with a solution that works."