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This release was compiled during the COVID-19 pandemic. For further information see Press Statement Aviation Statistics Quarter 4 2020.

CSO statistical release, , 11am

Aviation Statistics

Quarter 4 and Year 2020

Number of passengers handled by main Irish airports
 20192020% change
Quarter 48,540,952759,015-91.1
January to December38,053,4188,293,330-78.2

Drop of almost 80% in number of passengers handled by main Irish airports in 2020

Figure 1: Passenger numbers handled by main Irish airports
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In 2020, 8.3 million passengers passed through the main Irish airports, a drop of almost 80% (-78.2%) on the previous year. See table 1.

In the fourth quarter of 2020, 759,015 passengers passed through the main Irish airports, a fall of 91.1% over the same period in 2019.

The data shows significant decreases in air passenger numbers for 2020. These decreases are associated with the restrictions imposed due to COVID-19. The five main airports accounted for 99.6% of all air passenger numbers while Dublin airport accounted for 87.3% of all air passengers carried in 2020. See table 2.

The results also show that:

  • More than 95,000 flights were handled by Ireland's main airports in 2020, a fall of two-thirds (-65.2%) compared to 2019. Dublin accounted for 84.5% of all flights (80,540), while Cork handled 6.8% of all flights (6,484). See table 5.
  • London-Heathrow and Amsterdam-Schiphol were the most popular routes for passengers for Dublin airport in 2020. For Cork airport, London-Heathrow and London-Stansted were the most popular routes. The top route for Shannon and Knock airports was London-Stansted, and the top route for Kerry was London-Luton in 2020. See tables 6A to 6E.
  • In 2020, almost nine out of every ten (89.8%) passengers travelling on international flights through the main Irish airports were travelling to or from Europe. The two most popular countries of origin/destination were the United Kingdom and Spain. Outside of Europe, the United States of America was the most popular country of origin/destination in 2020. See table 7.
  • Ireland's main airports handled a total of 138,787 tonnes of freight in 2020, the vast majority (93.8%) of which was international freight. This was a decrease of 11.8% in freight handled in 2020 when compared with 2019. See table 8.
  • When seasonally adjusted, there was a decrease of 30.0% in the number of passengers that passed through the main airports in Quarter 4 of 2020 compared with Quarter 3 of 2020. See table 10.
Passenger number distribution by airport, 2020
Passenger number distribution by airport, 2016
Table 1: Number of passengers handled by main airports, Quarter 4 and Year 2018-2020
AirportQuarter 4January to December
2018120192020% change 2019-2020 2018120192020% change 2019-2020
Total8,419,0468,540,952759,015-91.1 36,521,13338,053,4188,293,330-78.2
1 Minor revisions to 2018 data
Table 2: Total passenger numbers handled by all airports, 2016 - 2020
Airport201620172018120192020% change 2019-2020
1 Minor revisions to 2018 data
2 No commercial flights since June 2016 from Waterford airport
Table 3: Passenger numbers by month handled by main airports, 2020
Note: Knock airport was closed from April to June 2020
Table 4: Passenger numbers classified by arrivals and departures handled by main airports, Quarter 4 and Year 2018-2020
 Quarter 4January to December
 2018120192020 2018120192020
Total arrivals4,197,3904,261,942371,69518,222,48418,995,8814,157,239
Total departures4,221,6564,279,010387,32018,298,64919,057,5374,136,091
Shannon353,012341,41611,977 1,677,6611,616,422273,585
Total passengers8,419,0468,540,952759,015 36,521,13338,053,4188,293,330
1 Minor revisions to 2018 data
Table 5: Number of flights classified by arrivals and departures handled by main airports, Quarter 4 and Year 2020
 Quarter 4 January to December
Cork288 3,234
Dublin5,759 40,357
Kerry211 1,088
Knock59 826
Shannon317 2,240
Total arrivals6,634 47,745
Cork298 3,250
Dublin5,802 40,183
Kerry212 1,084
Knock59 826
Shannon325 2,221
Total departures6,696 47,564
Cork586 6,484
Dublin11,561 80,540
Kerry423 2,172
Knock118 1,652
Shannon642 4,461
Total flights13,330 95,309
Table 6A: Top 10 arrivals and departures for Dublin airport by number of passengers, Quarter 4 and Year 2020
Quarter 4January to December
 ArrivalsDeparturesTotal  ArrivalsDeparturesTotal
Amsterdam - Schiphol 28,03128,68956,720London - Heathrow216,501228,912445,413
London - Heathrow24,50028,90753,407Amsterdam - Schiphol 181,991183,295365,286
London - Stansted15,72314,88630,609London - Gatwick174,253167,784342,037
London - Gatwick13,22310,81524,038London - Stansted127,771129,619257,390
Paris - Charles De Gaulle10,46511,22721,692Manchester126,540128,987255,527
Manchester8,93510,55919,494Paris - Charles De Gaulle99,03498,545197,579
Dubai7,3057,64414,949Frankfurt - main82,07886,613168,691
Bucharest - Henri Coanda6,5937,46314,056Edinburgh72,67273,181145,853
Malaga6,7627,18813,950 New York - John F Kennedy75,84567,507143,352 
Table 6B: Top 5 arrivals and departures for Cork airport by number of passengers, Quarter 4 and Year 2020
Quarter 4January to December
 ArrivalsDeparturesTotal  ArrivalsDeparturesTotal
London - Heathrow4,5644,7269,290London - Heathrow45,12645,84490,970
Amsterdam - Schiphol 3,7323,2106,942London - Stansted41,51342,33683,849
London - Stansted2,6992,4865,185Amsterdam - Schiphol 23,40922,83846,247
Katowice1,6231,7573,380London - Gatwick17,50116,76234,263
London - Gatwick6767471,423 Lanzarote10,73110,07920,810
Table 6C: Top 5 arrivals and departures for Shannon airport by number of passengers, Quarter 4 and Year 2020
Quarter 4January to December
 ArrivalsDeparturesTotal  ArrivalsDeparturesTotal
London - Stansted1,9221,5293,451London - Stansted25,57823,68349,261
London - Gatwick7699171,686London - Heathrow21,38824,13545,523
Manchester8638101,673London - Gatwick14,86815,69430,562
Wroclaw / Strachowice8337691,602Manchester11,45511,62823,083
Warsaw - Modlin314252566 Boston - Logan7,0687,55214,620
Table 6D: Top 3 arrivals and departures for Knock airport by number of passengers, Quarter 4 and Year 2020
Quarter 4January to December
 ArrivalsDeparturesTotal  ArrivalsDeparturesTotal
London - Luton1,4611,3662,827London - Stansted17,16120,30037,461
London - Stansted9029041,806London - Luton15,13815,30330,441
Liverpool - John Lennon8037401,543 Liverpool - John Lennon12,17312,79824,971
Table 6E: Top 3 arrivals and departures for Kerry airport by number of passengers, Quarter 4 and Year 2020
Quarter 4January to December
 ArrivalsDeparturesTotal  ArrivalsDeparturesTotal
Dublin1,3161,2612,577London - Luton13,04513,14426,189
London - Stansted8338851,718London - Stansted9,72910,79620,525
London - Luton7947301,524 Dublin8,1958,71316,908
Table 7: Number of passengers classified by country of flight stage origin and destination handled by main airports, Quarter 4 and Year 2020
ContinentCountryQuarter 4January to December
ArrivalsDeparturesTotal ArrivalsDeparturesTotal
 Czech Republic5594661,02523,70122,88846,589
 UK - England96,28599,453195,7381,360,2841,396,1072,756,391
 UK - Northern Ireland......5371538
 UK - Scotland8,3147,94716,261141,306143,701285,007
 UK - Wales4854429279,0249,46918,493
 UK - Other0003,5533,8967,449
 Total UK105,087107,843212,9301,514,7041,553,1743,067,878
 Other 7,6698,30915,97863,04062,547125,587
 Total Europe330,735349,082679,8173,697,5923,706,5297,404,121
North AmericaCanada2,8942,7635,65726,66527,16253,827
Total North America21,44918,25439,703307,819295,401603,220
AfricaTotal Africa86951815,3764,0139,389
United Arab Emirates8,6739,32417,99790,56381,639172,202
Total Asia12,41112,59925,010118,737102,605221,342
Other1Total other3,1143,2656,3793,2373,3276,564
All continents2 367,795383,295751,090 4,132,7614,111,8758,244,636
1 Due to residual coding errors some passengers cannot be assigned a country of flight origin/destination.
2 This figure refers to international passengers only and excludes domestic passenger numbers.
Table 8: Air freight classified by national and international traffic handled by main airports, Quarter 4 and Year 2020
 Quarter 4 January to December
National freight traffic
Cork0 0
Dublin2,111 7,182
Kerry0 0
Knock0 0
Shannon863 1,412
Total national freight2,975 8,594
International freight traffic   
Cork2 34
Dublin30,335 116,067
Kerry0 0
Knock1 4
Shannon3,971 14,088
Total international freight34,309 130,193
Cork2 34
Dublin32,447 123,248
Kerry0 0
Knock1 4
Shannon4,834 15,500
Total freight37,284 138,787
Table 9: Air freight classified by arrivals and departures handled by main airports, Quarter 4 and Year 2020
 Quarter 4 January to December
Cork2 20
Dublin16,645 66,276
Kerry0 0
Knock1 4
Shannon2,335 7,460
Total arrivals - freight18,983 73,761
Cork0 14
Dublin15,802 56,973
Kerry0 0
Knock0 0
Shannon2,499 8,039
Total departures - freight18,301 65,026
Cork2 34
Dublin32,447 123,248
Kerry0 0
Knock1 4
Shannon4,834 15,500
Total freight37,284 138,787
Table 10: Seasonally adjusted number of passengers handled by main airports
AirportQ4 2019Q3 2020Q4 2020% change Q3 2020-Q4 2020
Total passengers9,430,5911,196,848837,663-30.0

Background Notes


Statistics on Aviation are collected under Statutory Instrument (S.I.) No. 10 of 2020 - Statistics (carriage of passengers, freight and mail by air) Order 2020.

The data in this release provides details on the number of passengers classified by arrivals and departures, and by reference to national and international traffic; the number of flights by arrivals and departures and information on air freight and mail (in tonnes).  The release also highlights the top routes for each of the five main airports: Dublin, Cork, Shannon, Knock and Kerry. In 2020, the top five airports represented 99.6% of all air passengers.

Data sources

Aviation statistics are compiled from data supplied by all Irish airports. The following Irish airports provide data to the Central Statistics Office: Dublin, Cork, Shannon, Kerry, Knock, Waterford, Connemara, Donegal and Inishmore. Galway and Sligo airports ceased operations in 2011. There have been no commercial flights in Waterford Airport since June 2016. Data for the five main airports is supplied on a monthly basis. Data for regional airports is supplied annually to the Central Statistics Office.


The statistics in this release are not fully coherent with the Air and Sea Travel statistics. The differences in passenger numbers which are typically less than 0.5%, arise because the Air and Sea Travel statistics exclude transit passengers, domestic air travel and flights to Northern Ireland. It should be noted that passenger numbers for Shannon and Dublin airports exclude transit passengers on technical transit flights as these are fuel stop only flights.

Seasonal adjustment

Seasonal adjustment for passenger numbers is conducted using a direct seasonal adjustment approach. However, the overall passenger totals are estimated using the indirect approach, i.e. the ‘Total passengers’ is derived by adding the monthly seasonally adjusted passenger numbers for each airport. The main reason for adopting the indirect approach is to attribute the monthly and annual changes in passenger numbers to each airport. Seasonal adjustment models are developed for each airport based on unadjusted data spanning from January 2012 to the current period. These models are reviewed on an annual basis; however seasonal factors are updated each quarter.

The adjustments are completed by applying the X-13-ARIMA model, developed by the U.S. Census Bureau to the unadjusted data.  This methodology estimates seasonal factors while also taking into consideration factors that impact on the quality of the seasonal adjustment such as:

• Calendar effects, e.g. the timing of Easter,

• Outliers, temporary changes and level shifts in the series. 

Seasonally adjusting the Aviation data series during the COVID-19 crisis period will be challenging until the scale and shape of its impact on the time series is better understood. The initial seasonally adjusted results might be revised for some months ahead as future observations become available. Users should be aware that there is increased uncertainty around the seasonally adjusted figures during this period. 

For additional information on the use of X-13-ARIMA see


Main airport: A main airport is defined as an airport through which in excess of 150,000 passengers fly per annum. The five main airports in Ireland are Dublin, Cork, Shannon, Knock and Kerry.

Regional airport: A regional airport is defined as an airport through which less than 150,000 passengers fly per annum. The three regional airports in Ireland are Donegal, Connemara and Inishmore.

Scheduled flight: The term 'scheduled' in this release, refers to a commercial air service operated according to a published timetable, or with such a regular frequency that it constitutes an easily recognisable systematic series of flights.

Non-scheduled flight: The term 'non-scheduled' in this release, refers to a commercial air service other than scheduled air service e.g. chartered or private aircraft flights.

Direct transit passengers: These are passengers who, following a short stop, continue their journey on the same aircraft with the same flight number as the flight on which they arrived. These passengers are en route to another destination and generally do not disembark from their aircraft.

Transfer passengers: Transfer passengers or ‘connecting passengers’ are defined as passengers who make a stop at an airport without any purpose other than to board another aircraft to reach another destination. Unlike transit passengers, transfer passengers disembark the aircraft and pass through the airport en route to their connecting flight.

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