Number of airline passengers between UK and here falls 17pc

Weak demand and less capacity hitting routes

John Mulligan

THE number of airline passengers travelling between the UK and Ireland on scheduled flights collapsed by nearly 17pc to 665,535 in January compared to the same month last year as weak demand and reduced capacity impacted numbers.

Figures released from the UK’s Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) reveal that routes operated by carriers such as Aer Arann have been hit extremely hard by the on-going downturn, while the larger carriers – Aer Lingus and Ryanair – also suffered. Bad weather also played a part in depressing the numbers.

The CAA’s statistics show that Aer Arann’s passenger traffic on its route between Waterford and Luton fell 15pc to 4,057 in January, while traffic on its services between Waterford and Manchester and Birmingham each fell 8pc.

The airline, which last month announced a franchise agreement with Aer Lingus, saw its overall traffic to and from Dublin decline 32pc to 326,000 last year with the bulk of that traffic lost after Ryanair took over the subsidised Dublin- Kerry route previously operated by Aer Arann.

Its traffic between Bristol and Cork in January was down 26pc to 1,283 from a year ago, while on its Dublin-Blackpool route traffic was 29pc lower at 1,227.

Both those routes are among those now being operated by Aer Arann under the Aer Lingus banner. Traffic between Derry and Dublin, a government-subsidised route also operated by Aer Arann, was 18pc lower in January with just 1,247 passengers.

Owned by Padraig O’Ceidigh, Aer Arann has been undergoing a restructuring programme in recent months. Last week, Aer Arann chief executive Paul Schutz claimed that the 12 routes being operated by it under the franchise agreement with Aer Lingus will generate 350,000 passengers a year and account for 40pc of Aer Arann’s turnover.

Traffic between London City Airport and Dublin, meanwhile, jumped 25pc last month to 13,607 passengers. The route is operated solely by Air France subsidiary Cityjet. Overall passenger traffic between Heathrow and Dublin was 8pc lower.

Ryanair and Aer Lingus also dealt with fewer passenger numbers on many routes between Ireland and the UK last month as they reduced capacity on some routes and also felt the effects of the economic slowdown.

Traffic Ryanair’s Luton-Knock route carried 24pc fewer passengers last month compared to January 2009, while its traffic between Dublin and East Midlands airport was 30pc lower in January compared to a year ago.

Figures between Prestwick in Scotland and Shannon were down 20pc at 3,772. Overall scheduled traffic between London’s Gatwick airport, where Aer Lingus established a base last year before announcing a retrenchment there last month, and Ireland fell 22pc in January.

Ryanair also operates routes from Gatwick to Ireland. Overall passenger numbers at all UK airports last month were down 6pc year-on-year at nearly 13.4 million.