Christmas travellers flying between Dublin and London are set to face significantly higher costs, with prices potentially soaring to £426 due to Ryanair’s announcement of a substantial cut in available seats.

The airline has slashed over one million seats from its winter schedule, attributing the cuts to a contentious cap on passenger numbers at Dublin Airport.

Ryanair has cautioned that fares will skyrocket not only for the festive season but also for mid-term breaks, St. Patrick’s Day, Cheltenham, and other major events until the cap is lifted.

Kenny Jacobs, CEO of the Dublin Airport Authority (DAA), which oversees the airport, expressed agreement with Ryanair on the urgent need to raise the current 32 million passenger limit.

Despite the mounting pressure, Transport Minister Eamon Ryan has reiterated his stance of non-interference with the planning process.

The DAA has sought planning permission from Fingal County Council to facilitate building works that would raise the cap to 40 million passengers annually. The DAA is also considering an interim solution to increase the cap to 35 or 36 million to accommodate the holiday rush.

The Irish Small and Medium Enterprises Association (ISME) criticised the situation, labelling it “completely bizarre” that such a critical piece of national infrastructure is subject to the jurisdiction of a local authority.

A Department of Transport spokesman confirmed that there has been no change in the government’s position, emphasising the minister’s commitment to an independent planning process.

Ryanair has decried the cap’s impact, claiming it is severely detrimental to tourism, employment, and the economy. The airline highlighted that it typically provides an additional 300,000 seats on its London routes during Christmas, which will not be available this year. This shortage could also affect special seasonal flights, such as those to Lapland, traditionally popular for festive family trips.

With its winter plans thwarted, Ryanair intended to transport 7.5 million passengers to and from Dublin Airport but has only been allocated 6.4 million seats.

This reduction is due to the Irish Aviation Authority’s recent cap on winter seat capacity at 14.4 million, imposed after nearing the airport’s annual limit last year.

Eddie Wilson, Ryanair’s CEO, voiced frustration over the cap, predicting a significant negative impact on Dublin’s economic activities. He warned that without the ability to add extra flights during peak times, prices would surge due to limited availability. Wilson specifically called out Minister Ryan, urging him to issue a ministerial order to lift the cap, a request that has been denied.

Business group Ibec echoed Ryanair’s concerns, advocating for the cap’s removal to support population growth and international connectivity needs.

Neil McDonnell of ISME argued that national infrastructure should not be constrained by local planning decisions, suggesting the current cap leads to price rationing and unfairly inflates fares.

Fine Gael TD Alan Farrell defended the cap, noting it addresses not only congestion but also noise issues affecting nearby residents. He pointed out that the airport seeks to remove night-time restrictions, which has caused disturbances with flights arriving during early morning hours.

Travel expert Eoghan Corry explained that the predicted fare hikes are a result of supply constraints failing to meet demand, particularly for last-minute bookings.

According to Corry, Ryanair’s warning of increased prices is grounded in the reality of the current passenger cap and its limitations on available flights.

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