CORK Airport management has said it is ‘devastated’ by today’s news that Ryanair is pulling its base out of the airport.
The airline said today that it was closing its bases at both Cork and Shannon airports for the winter, as travel restrictions are decimating its bookings.
Airport MD Niall MacCarthy said his team ‘is really devastated to hear of Ryanair’s decision to close its base at Cork with the loss of so many direct and indirect jobs and the cessation of thirteen routes’.
He added: ‘We have done everything in our power at Cork Airport to retain the base here and the connectivity that it delivers for the South of Ireland region. However, since the pandemic, many Ryanair flights to and from Cork have been operating with fewer than ten passengers.’
Mr MacCarthy said that the Irish aviation sector has been decimated by Covid-19 and the country needs to get to a position where the appropriate travel policies are in place to enable Ireland to co-exist with the virus whilst safely re-opening air connectivity.
Cork Airport was Ireland’s fastest-growing airport before Covid-19. ‘We are now looking at a 95%-plus reduction in traffic levels for this coming winter compared to last year,’ he said.
Despite the base closure, Ryanair will still retain three routes serving Cork over the winter – Stansted, Katowice and Gdansk.
However, these routes will be operated by aircraft and staff based outside of Ireland. Ryanair has had a base at Cork Airport since 2005, and this winter will be the first time in fifteen years that the airline has not had any aircraft based in Cork.
‘With the appropriate financial supports and travel policies from government, we will work tirelessly to secure the return of the Ryanair base at Cork ahead of next summer, when hopefully, the airline will be in a position to replace lost services,’ said the airport boss.
In addition to the three retained Ryanair routes, Cork Airport will also have a service to Amsterdam with KLM this winter and Aer Lingus will operate services to Heathrow and Amsterdam.
‘The continuity of all or any of these services cannot be taken for granted and we will continue to work with the Government and our airline customers to retain this hard-won connectivity as best we can this winter,’ said Mr MacCarthy.
Meanwhile, a Fianna Fáil TD for Cork North Central has expressed his deep disappointment at the news that Ryanair is to close its Cork operations for the winter.
Deputy Padraig O’Sullivan said the move will have a negative effect on people’s connectivity and on business, not only in Cork but the southern region as a whole. ‘This move will further jeopardise the Cork Airports future, which is struggling true an unprecedented health crisis,’ he said.
‘People are naturally very fearful for their livelihoods. No consideration has been given to the impact of this on jobs in the area. Last week Ryanair’s Eddie Wilson came before the Oireachtas Transport Committee demanding that Ireland fully adopt the EU ‘traffic light system’ for a safe return to international flying. It was understood that this would allow Ryanair to begin to more properly plan routes and schedules for the months ahead.
‘The traffic light system and Ryanair’s major ask has been met. But now, within a few short hours, they are announcing this closure. They clearly intend to use the new EU protocols to fly the more lucrative routes in and out of Dublin, Stansted, but not Cork.
‘I’m calling on Minister Ryan to look at our air transport model in this country. For too long, large low-cost operators have been allowed to drive competition out of the market, leaving the regional airports at the mercy of the super carriers. The concept of service and loyalty must be reintroduced back into Irish aviation,’ concluded Deputy O’Sullivan.
Reacting to the news , Independent TD Michael McNamara said the Government needs to introduce a system of rapid testing at airports in the short term and must also develop a new State aviation policy to ensure international transit carriers do not fly exclusively into Dublin.
Fórsa trade union has said the winter closure of Ryanair bases in Cork and Shannon has struck a devastating blow for crew and pilots at these bases, their families and communities, as well as for other airport staff and the economies of both regions.
Ian Mc Donnell, the Fórsa official representing pilots at Ryanair, has expressed disappointment that the airline’s management did not make contact and allow for proper time to engage with the union before making the decision.