Calls to scrap air tax as 1.2m Northern Ireland passengers opt to fly from Dublin
DUBLIN Airport claims to have seen its passenger numbers from Northern Ireland soar by 37 per cent to 1.2 million in 2015.
A million overseas travellers also made trips to and from Northern Ireland via Dublin Airport, according to its communications chief Paul O’Kane.
And the figures have reinforced calls for the government to act quicker to either reduce or remove air passenger duty (APD), which adds up to £60 to a flight ticket and is seen a key factor in the alarming leakage south.
Dublin Airport said the significant increase in passengers from the north choosing to use its facilities was due in part to a further expanded route network with 23 new services and extra capacity on 40 existing routes at Dublin last year.
“Passengers from Northern Ireland love the choice, convenience and value Dublin Airport offers with its extensive long-haul and short-haul route network and high frequency connections to a huge number of destinations,” O’Kane said.
He said Dublin Airport is also growing its importance as a key international gateway for overseas visitors to Northern Ireland, as 67 per cent of all passengers who came by air to the island of Ireland travelled via Dublin Airport last year.
“The additional routes provided at Dublin Airport are bringing increased numbers of overseas visitors to Northern Ireland, and also expanding the choice and convenience for Northern Ireland residents,” according to O’Kane.
Half of Northern Ireland residents used Dublin Airport for holiday trips last year, with 26 per cent flying from Dublin on their main holiday and a further 24 per cent using Dublin for an extra holiday. Business travel accounted for 11 per cent of trips and 20 per cent of passengers were visiting friends or relatives.
Three quarters of all passengers from Northern Ireland take a direct flight from Dublin to their final destination with about a quarter making onward connections at another airport, according to the figures.
“The connectivity Dublin Airport offers is excellent and is growing every year, which is underscored by the high level of Northern Ireland travellers who take direct flights from here to some of our 180 destinations in 40 countries,” O'Kane added.
Passenger numbers at Dublin Airport have increased by 12 per cent to more than 18.8 million in the first in the eight months of this year. During 2015 the airport welcomed a record 25 million passengers.
Belfast International Airport, the second-biggest airport in Ireland, has also been growing its passenger numbers, reporting a 16 per cent uplift between January and early summer on the back of added capacity by easyJet, the reintroduction of the United Airlines service to Newark-New York and the arrival of Ryanair.
Indeed Aldergrove remains on course to smash through the five million passenger mark before the end of this year - and remains hopeful that it can land a new major international carrier.
But its managing director Graham Keddie insists delays by the Executive in convincing Westminster to act quicker to reduce APD is allowing Dublin to steal a march on Belfast.
Earlier this year he met Finance Minister Mairtin O’Muilleoir and told him it was his view that Stormont should have full control of APD "so that we can make decisions in the interest of our community in terms of tourism, business and job creation".
Mr Keddie said: “APD is unquestionably a barrier to growth. The Republic of Ireland has done away with the tax, and Scotland wants to do the same, but so far there has been a reluctance at Stormont to grasp the nettle.
“The zero-rate tax in the Republic is handing Dublin a huge advantage over our airports in Northern Ireland.
"Even though we are seeing impressive passenger growth, much more could be achieved if APD didn’t exist - and it's not fanciful to say that thousands of new jobs could be created if this particular tax was consigned to history.”