Dublin Airport is turning away airlines seeking to fly into Ireland more often and may not be able to add extra flights for one-off events while it waits at least two years for approval to increase a cap on passengers, its operator said on Wednesday.
The number of passengers permitted at Ireland's main airport each year was capped at 32 million when planners approved the construction of a second terminal just over a decade ago.
The airport almost hit that figure in 2019 and is on track to reach or come close to it again this year following a rapid recovery from the Covid-19 disruption to air travel, Dublin Airport Authority (DAA) CEO Kenny Jacobs told lawmakers.
The DAA will seek to increase the cap to 40 million, in line with Ireland's projected population growth, as part of plans tobe lodged next month to add new infrastructure to the airport.
Jacobs cited the dip in travel following Ireland's 2009 financial crash, the building of a new runway and the pandemic as reasons for only now lodging an application, when there was already enough demand from airlines to potentially fly 35 million-36 million passengers.
"We have turned a few airlines away and told a few airlines that they can't grow," Jacobs told a parliamentary committee.
"We are flagging that we might need to do more next year. We have removed a growth incentive that we used to have in place for airlines because we're saying, Look, we are managing to the cap and we're not going to be incentivising new growth."
The cap would lead to "difficult choices" in 2024, particularly for non-scheduled or charter flights and could mean some fans attending May's Europa League final or Six Nations rugby matches in Dublin may have to fly in to Cork, Shannon or Belfast, he said.