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Dublin is Europe's fastest growing airport with 28m travellers in 2016

By John Mulgrew

Dublin is now the fastest growing major airport in Europe thanks to passenger numbers soaring more than 11% in the space of a year.

The gateway in the northern outskirts of the city saw almost 28 million passing through in 2016.

The surge means Dublin - which in the previous year saw a record 1.2m journeys from Northern Ireland - is now outpacing Barcelona's El Prat Airport and Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport in terms of growth.

In 2015, Dublin saw a 37% increase in the volume of passengers from this side of the border. Figures for 2016 have yet to be released.

Dublin grew faster last year than all European airports which cater for 25m-plus passengers annually.

It said that growth was fuelled in part by flights between Europe and the United States.

Transatlantic traffic increased by 16% to a record 2.9m passengers last year, and transfer passenger numbers were up 23% to a record 1.2m.

The latest data has been released by ACI Europe, the trade body for European airports.

The terminal's managing director Vincent Harrison said the data "confirms that Dublin Airport had a record-breaking performance at home and abroad last year".

"Passenger traffic across the European airport network increased by 5.1% last year, while Dublin Airport increased its traffic by more than twice that amount," he added.

Officials said the record year was helped by 19 new routes, along with additional flights on existing links.

Dublin is due to add three long-haul routes this year: Doha with Qatar Airlines; Boston with Delta Air Lines, and Miami with Aer Lingus.

Long-haul passenger numbers rose by 12% to more than 3.6m. Short-haul traffic was up 11% with almost 24.3m passengers.

Meanwhile, Belfast International Airport also saw the number of people passing through its arrivals and departures halls grow by more than 17% in 2016, with passenger numbers reaching a record 5.15m.

However, it lost Northern Ireland's only transatlantic route after United Airlines announced it was pulling the plug on its service to Newark (New York) after a £9m subsidy from the Stormont Executive was blocked by Europe. However, Norwegian Air is expected to announce a Belfast to US route in the coming weeks.

George Best Belfast City Airport suffered a small drop in passenger numbers, falling 1.2% to 2.67m.

It blamed the dip on the loss of its connection to Gatwick.

The airport was also hit last month by news that Brussels Airlines was pulling its service to the Belgian capital less than a year after the launch.

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