CORK Airport management will meet local Dáil and Seanad members on Monday to brief them on the future of Cork Airport.
The meeting will come just days after Ryanair warned it would close its bases at Cork and Shannon airports this winter if the government didn’t revise its ‘green list’ of travel destinations.
Ryanair is currently Cork’s biggest airline customer, with 81% market share during the crisis. It overtook Aer Lingus as the largest airline at Cork Airport last year for the first time in the airport’s 59-year history.
A closure of its base would be devastating for the airport which has seen passenger numbers collapse in the pandemic.
Ryanair operated 23 routes from Cork this year, but had earlier announced a 20% reduction in seat capacity for September and October, due to weak demand given current government travel advice and the mandatory 14-day quarantine for passengers returning from non-green list countries.
Only one in three seats are currently being filled on flights, given the government travel advice.
The Ryanair threat comes at a time when Cork Airport is reeling from the effect of the pandemic. Through the development of extra routes and the attraction of new airlines, the Farmer’s Cross airport had become the Republic of Ireland’s second busiest international airport, after Dublin.
It was Ireland’s fastest growing airport in 2019, having enjoyed four years of consecutive growth. Passenger numbers returned to growth in 2016, with a year-on-year increase of 7.7% to 2.23m passengers. In 2017 this number rose to 2.3m, increasing during 2018 by a further 4% to around 2.4m passengers.
Passenger numbers at Cork Airport grew from 2.4m in 2018 to 2.6m in 2019, an increase of 8% year-on-year.
In both 2017 and 2019 the airport was named Airport Council International (ACI) Best Airport in Europe in its class (under 5m passengers).
But in June, Cork Airport’s parent company, the DAA, said the pandemic had already cost it an estimated €160m in lost turnover for 2020. Placing employees on a four-day week and introducing other cuts, the DAA chief executive Dalton Philips said that Covid-19 was now ‘the most serious crisis that has ever faced the international aviation sector and our business.’ And last weekend it was reported that Cork Airport management was seeking urgent State support to keep it in business, as it was facing losses of over €20m after depreciation.
Conor Healy, Cork Chamber chief said significant marketing supports must be put in place for route continuity and development at the airport.