Ireland's five main airports saw passenger numbers plummet by more than 1.5 million in the first three months of this year after global Covid-19 travel restrictions came into effect in March.
Figures from the Central Statistics Office (CSO) also show the number of flights to and from Cork, Dublin, Shannon, Kerry and Knock airports fell by more than 6,500 compared to the same period in 2019.
Despite the overall traffic drop in the first quarter, the data shows modest increases in passengers numbers for January and February. However, passenger numbers for March fell dramatically showing a drop of 57.5% compared to the same month in 2019.
More than 51,000 flights were handled by the five airports, a drop of 11.4% compared to the same period last year. Dublin accounted for 84.6% of all flights (43,513) while Cork handled 7.6% of all flights (3,911).
London-Heathrow, London-Gatwick and Amsterdam-Schiphol were the most popular routes for passengers travelling through Dublin. For Cork airport, the top three routes were London-Heathrow, London-Stansted and Amsterdam-Schiphol. The top route for Shannon was London-Heathrow, the top route for Knock was London-Stansted and the top route for Kerry was London-Luton.
Figures for subsequent months are expected to show further falls in air traffic particularly for April and May when Ireland's lockdown was in full effect. Airlines have been slowly increasing the number of planes in the sky and routes they operate but it is accepted within the industry that it will take a number of years before there is a return to pre-Covid levels of air travel.
Yesterday, Emirates resumed flights between Dublin and Dubai. Airline Norwegian said it will resume flights on 76 routes and bring back into service 12 of its aircraft on top of the eight already flying but is not yet resuming the transatlantic flights.
Separately, German airline Lufthansa warned that it might need to apply for protection from creditors if its state-backed bailout deal failed to win sufficient support at a shareholder vote on June 25.
Its statement came after German billionaire Heinz Hermann Thiele criticised the €9 billion bailout, saying he had raised his stake in Lufthansa to over 15% and hoped alternative options could be explored.