Irish and transatlantic air traffic volumes fell by more than half in the first nine months of the year, according to the Irish Aviation Authority.

Its figures show that air traffic between January and September was down 56.6% on the same nine month period last year.

Volumes were strong in January and February but the impact was keenly felt from March onwards with a slight recovery over the summer months.

The trend accelerated again after the summer with Irish air traffic down 65% in the month of September.

The IAA said aviation could not withstand such losses in the short to medium term.

"As the Covid-19 pandemic spread, air traffic dropped from 73,557 flights in February to 14,907 flights in April. The traffic loss in April represented an 84.5% drop compared to April 2019, when there were 96,131 flights," Peter Kearney, Chief Executive IAA said.

Mr Kearney called for a coordinated approach across Europe as a means to providing a sustainable solution to the current situation.

He believes that the EU Traffic Light plan for air traffic, once bedded in could help in this regard.

"The plan, if applied consistently across Europe and endorsed by Governments is a key stepping-stone for the reopening of travel across Europe, particularly important for an island nation such as Ireland," he said.

Meanwhile, one of the world's biggest aircraft leasing companies has warned that Ireland is at risk of becoming a "flyover country with little connectivity" to the rest of the world unless the Government acts to re-open air travel.

Aengus Kelly, chief executive of Dublin-based AerCap, says we need rapid Covid testing at the country's airports to "facilitate safe travel in and out of the country".  

Mr Kelly said that "the country must prepare, otherwise airlines won't come to the country".

He added that as we are now going through low levels of travel, this is the time to start the industry's preparations. 

Aengus Kelly said there was plenty of testing capability to facilitate this. 

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Mr Kelly said we could follow the example of Hawaii, which completes a 14 day lockdown this week. After that Hawaii requires those travelling to the islands to carry out a PCR nose/throat swab test 72 hours prior to arrival.  

The AerCap CEO said "that is something we could quite easily do" and also suggested the establishing of air bridges.

"Many citizens' livelihoods are being heavily impacted by an inability to put this in place," he added