By Siobhan Cronin
THE news that Cork Airport has seen a loss of over 1m passengers in just seven years has prompted a lot of angry reaction.
It was reported last week that Ireland’s second airport has experienced a 36pc decline in passengers since 2008, from a high of 3.25m, down to 2.1m last year.
A number of airlines have also pulled out of the airport in recent years, including Malev, EasyJet, Wizz, ThomsonFly, CentralWings, BMIBaby, Air Wales, British European and Loganair.
The Save Cork Airport page on Facebook was inundated with comments about the future of the airport after the news broke, with the general consensus being the facility is in real trouble unless moves are made immediately to address its debt.
As a result of its new terminal, which opened in 2006, the airport is now carrying a €120m debt, and is being run by the Dublin Airport Authority (DAA).
And this week the Government was told by the chairman of the DAA that it should consider subsidising the Cork-Dublin air route, which was axed in 2011.
Pádraig Ó Ríordáin told the Oireachtas transport committee that Cork Airport needed support.
When the Transport Minister Pascal Donohoe was asked in the Dail last week about the airport’s future, he put the ball back in the DAA’s court, saying any plan to reduce services at Cork Airport was ‘a matter for the DAA and Cork Airport management’. ‘I do not have a direct role,’ he said.
He added that ‘any decision by an airline to reduce services’ or routes was ‘a matter for that airline, based on their own commerical judgement, based on demand for services ...’
He was responding to questions from Fianna Fail deputy Michael McGrath who referenced the growth at Shannon and Dublin. While Deputy McGrath said he wished Shannon well, ‘the starting point is to acknowledge that there is a probem at Cork Airport,’ he told Transport Minister Donohoe.
He referred to the setting-up of the Save Cork Airport page on Facebook last autumn, prompted by an article in The Southern Star, and the fact that it now has over 22,000 ‘likes’.
‘If we don’t face up to it, the decline of Cork Airport will continue,’ said Deputy McGrath.
Recently Cork Chamber CEO Conor Healy addressed the Government’s Oireachtas Committee on Transport and Communications, and outlined the importance of safeguarding Cork’s connectivity for the region’s business and tourism.
‘Cork is the economic hub of Southern Ireland and Cork Airport’s services and air-connectivity are critical to the economic health and global investment appeal of Ireland’s second city and its surrounding region,’ he said.
‘Cork Chamber has grave concerns regarding the adequacy of existing government policy measures to support a fair, balanced and effective approach to the development of Cork Airport as one of the three State airports, the most recent of these serious concerns being the potential sale of Aer Lingus to the International Airlines Consolidated Airlines Group (IAG),’ he added.
Meanwhile, the reaction on the Save Cork Airport page – set up last November by Siobhan McCarthy – has been strong.
A number of people leaving comments expressed their disappointment with local politicians. ‘Looks like a long slow painful death … where are the politicians on this?’ asked Paul Dorgan. ‘We have politicians in Cork? Geez I never noticed,’ commented John Feehan.
‘Politicians are still not involved in saving Cork Airport, it’s time to wake them up and get all the problems sorted before the next election,’ said Michael O’Shea.
‘Lobby your useless politicians now, don’t let them get away with excuses!’ pleaded Annette Murphy.
‘Travelled with a group of 30 UCC students to Brussels today from ... Dublin. A second Cork group was also on the flight. The last two years we went from Cork but Brussels flight taken off for winter this year,’ commented Declan J Walsh, summing up the fall-off in routes at the airport in recent years.
A Save Cork Airport online petition at Petitions24 has over 1,000 signatures so far.