A MILLION people will make their way to Ireland from around the world this Christmas.
Irish airports are preparing for the festive hustle and bustle that will see families greet loved ones at the arrivals gate.
From this week the Republic’s main airports – Dublin, Shannon, Cork and Knock – are anticipating high levels of passengers from locations across Britain, which is home to 430,000 Irish-born people - 407,000 in England and Wales and a further 27,000 in Scotland.
Dublin, the country’s biggest airport, is expecting 255,553 people to arrive from Britain alone.
While in total, 660,000 people will be arriving into Dublin Airport over Christmas from destinations all over the globe.
North of the border, Belfast International Airport is expecting similar figures to last year’s 124,000.
In the south of the country, the second biggest airport in the Republic, Cork Airport will see 70,000 passengers arrive from Britain over the festive period – the vast majority of the total number of passengers passing through the airport.
With over one-in-six Irish people now living abroad and with 80,900 people having emigrated in the last year, Christmas - a time when people traditionally come home – has become the busiest time of the year for travel to Ireland.
London’s airports are expected to be particularly busy.
Heathrow’s terminals will see more than 65,000 passengers heading to Dublin, Cork, Belfast and Shannon airports.
Shannon will handle similar numbers to last year’s 51,000 passengers.
Luton Airport, in Bedfordshire just outside London, will see more than 40,500 passengers bound for Ireland pass through its gates.
The airport is particularly popular with Belfast-bound passengers, with 17,000 of those travelling to Ireland heading to Belfast International.
Luton is also one of two British airports that operate a route to Waterford Airport in the South East of Ireland – which will handle 1,200 passengers over Christmas.
Meanwhile, Dublin Airport is the third most popular destination for passengers flying from London’s Gatwick Airport over Christmas, while Belfast comes in 10th.
The Irish Sea will be busy too, with several crossings a day between the two main passenger ferry companies, Irish Ferries and Stena Line.
Irish Ferries do not reveal their figures ahead of Christmas – but with the capacity for 10,000 passengers and 6,000 vehicles per day on key Christmas dates, it is expected to be the company’s busiest period.
Stena Line will carry 135,000 people from Britain to Ireland over the festive period between its seven ships’ daily crossings.