Ryanair expects its Irish passenger numbers to fall by 3% this year, down from 14.8 million last year to 14.4 million projected for 2017.

The airline said it is continuing to grow strongly, “except in its home market where DAA costs are rising, while other EU airports are cutting prices”.

However, a Dublin Airport spokesman told RTÉ that there has been no increase in airport charges in 2017. "Our charges are flat," the spokesman said. 

Meanwhile, Ryanair today launched its winter 2017 schedule, which will see the number of routes it operates to/from Ireland fall by 33 to 97, when compared with the summer schedule.

Dublin Airport will operate the majority of the routes (68) and account for around 12 million Ryanair passengers this year.

Two new routes will be added from Dublin for the winter, to Tours in France and Valencia in Spain. Dublin Airport has welcomed the new routes.

Ryanair CEO Michael O'Leary, who was in Dublin today for the launch of the airline's winter schedule, said Brexit is going to be a huge challenge, adding the British Government does not have a "bull's notion" about what they are doing on the issue.

The Ryanair boss said he wanted a hard Brexit, because when the UK realises just how hard this is going to get they will change their minds.

He warned sterling will get weaker as Brexit negotiations do not go well. 

Mr O'Leary also said he worries about what the Government here is doing on the issue.

He said Philip Hammond and Donald Trump are looking to lower tax rates and Ireland should do something to reduce personal tax rates to attract foreign direct investment.

UK could lose access to 'Open Skies'

Mr O'Leary also said he fears Britain could lose access to the European Union's 'Open Skies' deregulated aviation market in as little as two years' time when it is due to leave the bloc.

"We worry that the price of remaining in Open Skies will be UK accepting freedom of movement of people ... I think that may be unlikely in which case we may be heading for a very hard Brexit," Mr O'Leary told journalists.

"I don't think it is possible to get interim arrangements through 27 European parliaments in a two year period, so the British will fall off a cliff in two years time," he added.