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Irish airspace activity to soar next year, says IAA boss

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Junior Transport Minister Hildegarde Naughton, IAA chief executive Peter Kearney and IAA chairperson Rose Hynes at the IAA’s new 86.9-metre air traffic control tower at Dublin Airport which was officially opened on Wednesday. Photo: Maxwells

Junior Transport Minister Hildegarde Naughton, IAA chief executive Peter Kearney and IAA chairperson Rose Hynes at the IAA’s new 86.9-metre air traffic control tower at Dublin Airport which was officially opened on Wednesday. Photo: Maxwells

Junior Transport Minister Hildegarde Naughton, IAA chief executive Peter Kearney and IAA chairperson Rose Hynes at the IAA’s new 86.9-metre air traffic control tower at Dublin Airport which was officially opened on Wednesday. Photo: Maxwells

The number of aircraft flying through Irish airspace next year is projected to be 25pc higher than in 2019, according to the boss of the Irish Aviation Authority, signalling a continuing rapid recovery in the aviation sector.

Speaking to the Irish Independent, chief executive Peter Kearney said that it will bring the number of movements through Irish airspace to more than 1.3 million in 2023.

“We always anticipated the rapid increase in traffic,” said Mr Kearney as the Irish Aviation Authority (IAA) formally opened its new air traffic control tower at Dublin Airport, which was built at a cost of €50m from the agency’s own resources.

“We’re an island nation and after two years of being locked up, we want to get back and travel again,” he said. “That was always in our thinking.”

The increase in traffic across the IAA’s airspace comes despite transatlantic traffic being cited by airlines as experiencing a slower recovery trajectory than other traffic.

However, Mr Kearney pointed out that transatlantic traffic through Irish airspace is now close to 2019 levels.

“We’re very heartened to see transatlantic traffic up around 93pc of 2019 levels,” he said. “At Shannon, we’re running a maximum number of sectors – 15 air traffic control sectors – to manage that flow. So, the traffic is back.”

In other regions too, there’s been a sharp acceleration in passenger numbers and aircraft movements.

“If you look what’s happening in Europe at the moment, Ryanair recently did more than 3,000 flights in a day,” added Mr Kearney. “They’ve already scaled up – Wizz Air are the same, so is EasyJet. I think that will drive a lot of operations for us, particularly around Dublin Airport, where Ryanair is a big customer.”

The IAA is currently awaiting the enactment of a new bill – likely to happen within weeks – that will result in structural change. Air navigation operations, including air traffic control, will become a standalone entity, called AirNav Ireland. Mr Kearney will continue as CEO of that operation.

Diarmuid Ó Conghaile has been named aviation regulator and CEO of the reconstituted IAA, which will be the overall sectoral regulator with responsibility for safety and security, as well as regulating passenger charges at Dublin Airport, consumer protection and licensing and supervision of the travel trade.

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