JetBlue and United were among the airlines to lose slots at this busy airport

Something that many outside the aviation world may not be aware of is that every airline that flies in or out of a given airport is assigned a “slot” that gives it permission to use the gate at a given time.

With demand for the infrastructure often surpassing availability amid air travel numbers that skyrocketed over the last half-decade, airlines often have to compete for a limited number of slots. Such a system also prevents larger airlines from pushing out low-cost carriers for flight space and thereby creating an anti-competitive market.

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At other times, airports will also introduce artificial caps to control the flow of travelers. According to the annual winter planning report released by Airport Coordination Limited (ACL) and first reported by Simple Flying, Dublin Airport (DUB) in Ireland will see flights with a total of 14.4 million seats between Oct. 27, 2024 and March 29, 2025.

Dublin Airport’s passenger cap limits which airlines can fly there

While 14 million sounds like an impressive number, it is actually 792,952 seats smaller than the same time period between 2023 and 2024. In order to keep within the 32 million passenger cap that Dublin Airport introduced back in 2007, multiple airlines that had requested space to fly into the airport were either turned down entirely or offered significant fewer slots than they had requested.

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JetBlue Airways  (JBLU) , which launched new summer flights to Dublin from New York and Boston in March 2024, got none of the requested 144 slots to run the same routes in the winter season. United Airlines’  (UAL)  request to add 74 slots to the 542 slots it already has at the airport was also turned down.

Some airlines were squeezed out of the airport entirely — Jet2, a British low-cost carrier that shuttles travelers to nearby sun and ski destinations in Europe, requested permission to fly out of Dublin but was not given a single slot. Latvia-based airBaltic lost the 56 slots it had before and with it the right to fly into Dublin for the winter season.

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While it also lost some of its desired slots, local Dublin-based low-cost Ryanair  (RYAOF)  will still dominate slot space with 49.9% of all the slots at the airport. Other Irish airlines Aer Lingus  (AIRXF)  and Emerald Airlines will hold a respective 31.7% and 12% of the total slots which leaves behind a very small percentage to assign between airlines from other countries.

Turkish Airlines, Etihad, Air Canada  (ACDVF) , TAP Air Portugal and Lufthansa  (DLAKF)  are some of the other airlines that have been fighting for slots at the airport and the limited number was taken up by some airlines left unhappy with what they were given.

“Artificially constraining capacity at Ireland’s main international gateway would unfairly deprive airlines and passengers at Dublin Airport of the benefit of their recent substantial contribution to capital projects at the airport, while reducing competition, damaging economic growth, tourism and employment in Ireland,” Ryanair’s Director Of Network Optimisation Michael Healy said in a statement shared with media outlets.

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