Irish airports operator DAA is warning that passengers numbers next year could still remain 40% below last year’s level.

The company – which operates Dublin and Cork airports – says it will make a “significant” operating loss in the current fiscal year, which runs to the end of December 2020.

DAA is also expecting “continued uncertainty” in the medium term.

It is forecasting passenger numbers next year as low as 21 million for Dublin and Cork, compared with more than 35 million last year.

The operator points out that the last time passenger levels were that low, it had 750-1,000 fewer employees.

In April it put its staff on a shorter working week until 20 June, with the intention of supplementing wages using the Irish government’s subsidy scheme.

But the company says it is developing plans including a “reduction” in employee numbers and other measures, such as a capital expenditure review, to cope with the crisis.

Dublin airport had been constructing a new runway which was due to be introduced in 2021. Construction work on the project resumed this week after the Irish government relaxed social distancing requirements imposed on 31 March.

“We have no choice but to right-size the business to match the number of passengers that are likely to use our Irish airports in the medium term,” says group chief executive Dalton Philips.

DAA’s latest released accounts show it made a pre-exceptional group operating profit of nearly €165 million during 2018.

Clarification on status of runway project inserted in 8th paragraph.