Thirty-two million, 34m, 36m, 38m. This increasing sequence was the order of growth in passengers through Irish airports from 2016 to 2019.
The next number Fáilte Ireland was hoping to see was probably 40m, but of course it wasn’t. It was 19, COVID-19!
Even in 2022, average passenger loads did not fully recover, but as COVID-related travel restrictions were removed or relaxed globally, there was a surge in bookings and travel. Having laid off large numbers of skilled employees during the pandemic who have proved difficult to replace, there are still some capability constraints internationally. The speed at which travel recovered caught the airports and airlines off guard. Many travellers have poor memories of travelling through Dublin last summer between delays, cancellations and having to arrive extra early for flights. This should be a non-issue [within reason] according to Tourism Ireland, which projects a full restoration of direct air access capacity to the island of Ireland in June 2023.
It is that time of the year during which many conversations will include a segment on, “Have you any holidays booked yet?” This is a two-sided coin; going abroad for the “cheap” all-inclusive or staying at home, risking the weather, but avoiding the airport.
The cost of the former may not be as bargain basement as people remember, with flight prices increasing substantially due to energy prices, inflation and rising interest rates. On the other side, talk of very expensive pints in Dublin and a lack of hotel beds does not instil confidence in the home option. So what to do?
Summer holiday coverage
This week in Irish Country Living, we start our summer holiday coverage. We will give readers a flavour of what you can get in Ireland if not chasing the international tourists around the country to the expected haunts. Aside from the fantastic experiences, it is very possible to get a reasonably priced holiday here in Ireland – although it might mean you don’t get to peer over a certain set of cliffs.
Following this travel theme, Miriam responds to a reader’s query about solo travel: “I have nobody to go on holidays with.” Having personally done my fair share of solo travelling, I am fully in agreement with Miriam’s advice. Although effectively a solo traveller, I was never really on my own as I joined tour groups. By going to places my friend group were not interested in, I met like-minded travellers who had the same issue. So if you decide to fly, on your own, with family or friends, what are your options if you want to avoid the other (potential) 33 million people travelling through Dublin airport?
To start our holiday coverage, Maria will be chatting with the heads of Ireland’s regional airports about routes, challenges and opportunities ahead of the summer. This week, it’s Mary Considine, CEO of Shannon Airport Group. She took up the role in October 2019, so knows a thing or two about disruption. I have not been to Shannon since before the pandemic but the mere option of bringing full-size liquids on board definitely has me thinking west could indeed be best.
A Killarney hotelier recently told me how amusing it is to watch international tourists come out the front door of Kerry Airport. She said: “They look around nervously, semi-bewildered when they realise they are outside. Full sure they have gone the wrong way and managed to miss a security check or queue they should have joined.”
The joys of regional airports.