Dublin pulls further and further ahead of NI’s three airports

News Letter editorial
News Letter editorial
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Passenger numbers at Dublin Airport are soaring in a way that makes it one of the fastest growing facilities in Europe.

It is approaching the list of the top 10 busiest airports in the continent.

Across Britain and Ireland, only London Heathrow and Gatwick have more passengers.

Even the extremely busy Manchester and London Stansted airports have a smaller annual footfall than Dublin.

Dublin’s annual passenger movements last year passed 30 million. Last month was its busiest April, with 2.8 million people flying in or out. If that was averaged over a year, the annual passenger numbers would be well above 30 million.

Airports in Northern Ireland were never likely to be able to compete with Dublin — NI’s capital Belfast has a population roughly half that of Ireland’s capital.

But we do need to be honest that our airport strategy has made it impossible for any one of the airports to compete with Dublin. Last year only six million passengers used NI’s busiest airport — Belfast International at Aldergrove — which was one fifth of Dublin’s total movements.

But nine million people used the Province’s three airports. If all NI traffic was concentrated in a single airport, it might then gain a critical mass that would attract not only some of the people who currently travel from NI down to Dublin Airport, but also some southern travellers too.

Such an airport, with 10+ million passengers, would be all the more likely if we had a motorway to and from Belfast International, from both the M1 to its south and the M2 to its north. Then passengers would be able to drive from Dublin by motorway all the way to a Belfast hub, in the same way that passengers heading to Dublin from NI can do so.

If passenger movements did indeed reach 10 million, as they easily could, NI might have the numbers to justify reopening the nearby rail line and long-haul flights. It would never overtake Dublin but would mean NI had a serious facility.