Terminal decline as Europe's connectivity lags behind rival hubs
'Connectivity' has become one of the main buzzwords used about the proposed takeover of Aer Lingus by IAG.
Business and tourism groups are worried about what a deal would do for connections between Ireland and the UK - London Heathrow specifically - while politicians have jumped on connectivity as a useful mantra for opposing a deal.
Ireland's air connectivity has improved in recent years, with direct flights to the Gulf, more routes and services to the US and Canada, and increased services to mainland Europe.
However, that improvement is in contrast to the rest of the European Union.
The European arm of Airports Council International (ACI) points out that the EU hasn't seen any connectivity gains since 2011, and that there has also been a deterioration in the overall quality of its connectivity.
In a major study of European air connectivity, it pointed out that between 2004 and 2014, small regional European airports have notched up the highest increase in connectivity, at 46pc.
"This reflects the dynamic development of low-cost airlines, which have opened up new direct connections out of these airports," according to ACI.
"However, most of these developments took place before the 2008/2009 financial crisis," it added.
"Since then, small regional airports have actually seen their connectivity falling by 3.4pc. Conversely, large and hub airports have been more resilient. These airports were less impacted by the financial crisis," noted ACI.
"However, most of their connectivity gains have come from indirect connectivity, which was up 17.6pc, with their direct connectivity increasing by only 3pc."
ACI said that most indirect connections offered from Europe to other world regions - 62pc - are channelled through European hubs.
But is also points out that back in 2004, the top three EU hubs - Heathrow, Frankfurt and Paris Charles de Gaulle - had more than three times the level of global connectivity offered by the top three Gulf hubs - Dubai, Doha and Abu Dhabi.
"The situation has nearly reversed, with those Gulf hubs now offering twice the level of international connectivity offered by the top three EU hubs," said ACI.
IAG plans to use Dublin as another hub for services to and from the United States.
"Twenty-first century trends make it clear that connectivity between people - both within and beyond Europe - will be crucial if we are to secure a quality position within the global economy that will deliver growth and jobs," ACI Europe president Arnaud Feist insisted.
"While the rise of other regions in the world will inevitably result in a relative decline in European aviation dominance, this need not and indeed must not lead to an absolute decline in the quality of our air connectivity."