Ryanair (FR, Dublin International) has announced it will move three of its aircraft, 16 new routes and 200 jobs to southern Italy amid a row with the Irish government over a traffic cap at Dublin International that limits the number of passengers at the airport to 32 million annually.

“Ryanair had hoped to base more aircraft in Dublin, offering lower fares to Irish citizens/visitors, but [Irish government policy] means that Dublin capacity is capped, aircraft and growth are being lost to other EU airports, and airfares to/from Dublin are rising,” Ryanair group CEO Michael O’Leary huffed in a statement.

He called on Transport Minister Eamon Ryan to “intervene to lift this cap on an interim basis or quit”, as he believes it will take at least three to four years for a decision to be made if it is left in the hands of the local council.

The low-cost carrier has strongly criticised the government for not lifting a traffic cap that was initially put in place in 2007 to diminish pressure on surrounding road infrastructure. Ryan has deployed the infrastructure argument to point out that the passenger cap is a planning issue the local council needs to decide on and that recent highway expansions had been taken into account when making the initial cap decision.

Ryanair has 46 bases worldwide and it accounts for around 45% of Dublin International’s capacity, ch-aviation capacities data reveals.

Earlier, Minister of State with responsibility for Public Procurement Ossian Smyth, a member of the Green Party, said Ryanair was only using the traffic cap row to deflect from its rising prices. The airline responded by publishing a detailed comparison of its prices with that of Aer Lingus (EI, Dublin International) on flights from Dublin to London and Paris.

Earlier this month, the local Fingal City Council asked airport administrator daa to submit additional documentation to support its planning permission for an expansion of the airport and an increase in the traffic cap.

The daa, backed by airlines and business groups, is looking to increase the cap from 32 million passengers to 40 million. However, the company faces criticism from environmental activists who believe the increase would increase carbon emissions, traffic congestion, and noise pollution.

Dublin airport hosted 31.9 million passengers in 2023, which is 60% more than 10 years ago, official figures published by daa show.

Ryanair’s move to Reggio di Calabria

Ryanair’s focus on southern Italy will be especially relevant for Reggio di Calabria, where the airline is opening a new base and investing over USD100 million. The base will be its third in southern Italy after Lamezia Terme and Crotone.

The 200 jobs in Reggio di Calabria will include work for pilots, crew, and engineers, Ryanair said in a statement published earlier this month. Additionally, local officials said that Ryanair’s summer programme for Calabria would include a total of 30 new routes.

“From April there will be a direct connection with Turin, Venice, and Bologna and with the capitals of Germany and Albania and important cities of Spain, France, and England,” Italy's Undersecretary of State for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Maria Tripodi stated. She added that “between the airports of Lamezia Terme, Reggio Calabria, and Crotone there will be a total of 30 routes with traffic that will grow by over 20% up to 1.3 million passengers for the next few months of 2024.”