Airport operator Daa has reported after tax profits - including exceptional items - of €19m for last year, down 50% on 2014.

The airport operator said the big drop in profits was as a result of the impact of an exceptional charge of €21m due to a €72m investment made to resolve the long-running pensions dispute at the company.

Excluding exceptional items, the company's after tax profits rose by 41% to €40m on the back of higher passenger numbers and commercial income. Its turnover rose by 13% to €564m for the year.

Daa said that total retail sales at the Dublin and Cork airports rose by 6% to 227m.

Passenger numbers at Dublin Airport rose by 8% to 21.9 million last year. The airport saw an extra 1.5 million passengers in 2014 as it set new records for long haul traffic, transatlantic traffic and transfer business.

The Daa noted that long haul traffic in Dublin rose by 14% while transfer passengers increased by 37% to a record level of 749,000.

The UK market provided Dublin Airport's largest growth in volume terms last year, as the number of passengers between Ireland and the UK rose by 8% to 7.8 million. 

The airport's transatlantic traffic grew by 14% to a record 2.1 million passengers, with the Daa noting that this traffic has grown by 42% over the past four years.

Dublin Airport will  be Europe's sixth biggest airport for transatlantic connectivity this summer, coming after the hubs of London Heathrow, Amsterdam Schiphol, Paris CDG, Madrid and Frankfurt.

However, traffic at Cork Airport fell by 5% last year to 2.1 million passengers, largely due to the fact that a number of its key Central European routes were transferred to Shannon Airport. 

The Daa said that stabilising numbers at Cork and returning the airport to growth will be its major focus this year.

"Daa recorded a solid year of progress in 2014," commented the company's CEO Kevin Toland.

"We had the highest year of overall passenger growth since 2007 and our international travel retail business ARI performed strongly in continuing markets," he added.

Daa also said that passenger numbers are up 15% so far this year.