Dublin Airport is becoming a significant hub for international transfer traffic, according to Dublin Airport Authority (DAA) Chief Executive Kevin Toland.
“The double digit increases we have had in transatlantic connectivity over the past two years mean that for the first time Dublin Airport is in the top tier of European airports when it comes to flights to North America,” Mr Toland said.
“Last year, Dublin Airport handled more than half a million transfer passengers and we plan to grow transfer traffic to about two million passengers per year in the near term.”
Mr Toland was speaking as DAA released its financial results for 2013, which showed that overall passenger numbers at Dublin and Cork airports increased by 5% to 22.4 million last year. Despite higher passenger numbers at its Irish airports, core business profit at DAA declined by 7% to €26 million last year, due to the Group’s overseas retail business ARI completing a planned exit from Russia and Ukraine.
Dublin Airport’s transfer passengers increased by 36% last year to 548,000 and have increased by a further 30% so far this year, according to Mr Toland. “Transfer traffic is helping us grow the route network at Dublin, as these additional passengers underpin the viability of a route and encourage airlines to launch new services and add capacity on existing routes. This summer, Dublin Airport will be the seventh largest airport in Europe for services to North America, with 268 flights per week between the airport and 13 separate destinations in the United States and Canada.”
Dublin Airport has 17% more seats available to North America this summer, with new direct services to San Francisco and Toronto from Aer Lingus, a new year-round service to Toronto with Air Canada rouge and a new summer service from St John’s Newfoundland with WestJet.
Dublin has many advantages for transferring passengers from Britain and continental Europe, Mr Toland said. “Our location is perfect, we have strong transatlantic, short-haul and Middle Eastern connectivity and US preclearance provides passengers travelling to the United States with a wonderful product that allows them to arrive as domestic passengers in the States.”
Turnover at DAA declined by 6% to €501 million last year, as ARI withdrew from airport retail businesses in Russia and Ukraine. Turnover in Ireland increased by 5% during the year on a like-for-like basis, in line with the overall growth in passenger numbers. Profit after tax from DAA’s core business, which excludes property joint ventures, was relatively flat during the year, declining from €28 million to €26 million.
Earnings before interest, taxation, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) increased by 1% to €161 million in 2013. Operating costs were reduced by 2% to €250 million, as the Group made savings on its cost base overseas. Mr Toland said that cost control would continue to be “a constant focus for the Group”.
Debt levels were reduced by €61 million during the year, which was equivalent to a 9% reduction. DAA has reduced its net debt by €151 million since 2010, with net debt at €614 million at year end.
Passenger numbers at Dublin Airport increased by almost 6% to 20.2 million last year, as 70% of the airlines operating at Dublin experienced traffic growth.
“Dublin Airport had more than one million extra passengers last year, as all segments of the market expanded,” according to Mr Toland. “Long-haul traffic was Dublin’s best performer last year, with transatlantic passenger numbers up 13% to a record 1.9 million and traffic to the Middle East also up 13%, albeit off a much lower base.”
Traffic at Cork Airport declined by 3.5% to 2.3 million passengers last year, due to a consolidation in services to central Europe and weaker traffic on routes to Britain. Wizz Air, which had operated six routes to Poland and Lithuania from Cork, ceased its operations there in 2013 due to competitive pressures.
The overseas arm of DAA’s retail business ARI had a satisfactory year, with sales up 1% at continuing locations. ARI had after tax profits of €18 million in 2013, in addition to which the company’s disposal of assets in Russia and Ukraine generated an exceptional profit of €11 million.
Speaking at the publication of the results, DAA Chairman Pádraig Ó Ríordáin said that securing an equitable resolution to the issues facing the multi-employer IAS pension scheme, which includes employees from DAA, Aer Lingus and SRT, continues to be a key priority for the company.
“DAA is actively engaged with the Government appointed Expert Panel investigating the pension issue and we will continue to focus on this critical issue until a sustainable resolution is achieved,” Mr Ó Ríordáin added.
DAA has had a good start to 2014 in passenger terms, with overall passenger numbers up by more than 3% in the first quarter of this year and traffic at Dublin Airport up by 5%.