Numbers flying to UK at lowest levels since 2003
THE number of passengers travelling between the UK and Ireland on scheduled air services suffered a further dramatic slump last month, with the figure falling 13pc to just over 850,000, according to data released yesterday by the UK's Civil Aviation Authority (CAA).
The decline brought the total passenger traffic between the UK and Ireland for the first three months of the year to its lowest level since 2003.
In the first quarter of this year, there were nearly 2.28 million passenger trips between Ireland and the UK, the lowest first quarter figure since 2003 when just over 2.2 million passengers made journeys on scheduled airline services.
The latest decline represents the seventeenth straight month in a row that passenger air traffic between Ireland and the UK has fallen. In all but six of those months, traffic tumbled by double-digit percentage rates compared with the same month a year ago. Some of the biggest monthly declines were recorded in May and June last year, when traffic plummeted 15pc each month year-on-year, while in both September and October 2009 passenger numbers were down 13pc year-on-year.
The last time a rise was recorded was in October 2008, when traffic rose 1pc year-on-year.
The dramatic falls come as the Government remains rigid in its defence of a €10 travel tax it introduced in March last year on passengers leaving Irish airports and travelling more than 300km. The UK government is also charging airport passengers a travel tax.
Eamonn McKeon, chief executive of the Irish Tourist Industry Confederation, told the Irish Independent yesterday that sterling weakness and economic difficulties have also weighed on the figures.
"All that can be going wrong, is going wrong on that front," he said. "The travel tax serves to compound an already very difficult situation." Airlines have also cut some capacity between Ireland and the UK due to the downturn.
A report published late last year on behalf of airlines including Ryanair, Aer Lingus and Cityjet, claimed that 3,000 jobs had been lost and €480m lost to the economy as a result of the controversial tax. The Government expected to raise €125m from the tax in the first year after its introduction. To date, it has remained resistant to any attempts to persuade it to abolish the levy.
The CAA figures reveal that the number of passengers flying between Heathrow and Dublin fell 8pc in March to 137,449, but Cityjet's service between Dublin and London City airport bucked the trend, carrying 18,521 passengers last month, an 85pc increase on March last year.