Just 10,288 people travelled between airports in Ireland and the UK last April during the depths of the pandemic lockdown, with numbers still languishing as routes remain closed and the crisis continues, according to data from the UK’s Civil Aviation Authority (CAA).
Figures tallied by the Irish Independent show that 2.98 million passengers flew on routes between Ireland and the UK between January and November last year. That compared to just over 11 million in the corresponding period in 2019.
But the numbers for 2019, dire as they are, were flattered by traffic in January and February, as passenger patterns continued as normal.
In January last year, 954,003 people travelled between Ireland and UK airports, compared to 944,548 in January 2019. In February last year, the figure was 983,322 compared to 974,469.
As Ireland played Wales at Lansdowne Road on February 8, there were still very few concerns about Covid. A packed-out stadium saw Ireland beat Wales 24-14.
Just over 9,100 people flew between Dublin and Cardiff that month, including 1,152 on charter services for the match.
But as lockdowns began and the virus spread, traffic began to slump.
By March, the number of people flying between Ireland and UK airports fell to 477,881 compared to 1.1 million in March 2019.
Airline fleets were grounded all over the world as governments grappled with efforts to contain the spread of the coronavirus.
In April, just 11 routes were operational between Ireland and the UK compared to about 60 during normal times.
That month, only 4,233 people travelled between Dublin and London Heathrow, compared to 160,365 in April 2019.
Between Shannon and Heathrow, there were just 83 passengers la st April compared to 22,255 in April 2019. On the Dublin to Manchester route, just 786 passengers boarded in April last year – compared to 85,524 in April 2019.
The Dublin-London Heathrow route is normally the busiest international route in Europe, while the Dublin-London city pair is one of the busiest in the world.
As travel advice see-sawed during the year and routes were culled, traffic between Ireland and the UK failed to show any meaningful trajectory towards normalised levels.
In August, 145,571 people flew between Ireland and the UK, compared to 1.22 million in August 2019.
On the Dublin-Heathrow route there were just 17,106 passengers compared to 168,111 in August the previous year.
Ireland West Knock’s route to Stansted saw just 4,044 people carried. That figure was 15, 596 in August 2019.
Key routes saw traffic collapse. The Dublin-Manchester route carried just 4,975 people in November. It handled 89,466 in November 2019.
Just 17 scheduled routes operated between Ireland and the UK last November – the latest month for which CAA data is available.
Earlier this week, Ryanair said that it will operate “few, if any” flights from Ireland from the end of this month until current travel restrictions are lifted.
From today, all passengers arriving at Irish airports and ports whose journey started in the UK or South Africa must have proof of a negative pre-departure PCR Covid test taken up to 72 hours before arrival.