Cork Airport’s managing director Niall MacCarthy takes issue with our columnist Archon’s recent criticism. Passenger numbers are up, he says, and the forecast is for more growth and more new routes
JUST over a year ago we welcomed the first ever scheduled transatlantic service out of Cork Airport, and it was unquestionably one of my proudest moments.
When that Norwegian Air Boeing 737 aircraft took off, it opened a whole new chapter for the airport.
Now, a year on, the positivity that we witnessed on July 1st last year has continued to thrive, in terms of bookings. Passenger numbers are up, and we have a forecasted growth of 4% in 2018. While our passenger numbers did decline between 2012 and 2015, they are now climbing back significantly, and we are on track to deliver our third consecutive year of traffic growth and serve 2.4 million passengers by the end of this year.
In fact, passenger numbers are up 15% since 2015. We have seen an 80% increase in new airlines since 2017 and have experienced a 40% expansion of routes this year. These statistics firmly position us as the second busiest airport in the country after Dublin, as we continue to increase the lead over the third biggest.
A recent article in this paper spoke about an ‘uncertain future’ for Cork Airport. Our growth in recent years completely refutes this.
It also said our mainstay routes are limited to ‘Heathrow’ and ‘Stansted’ and, while these are among the top three most popular routes out of Cork – along with Amsterdam-Schiphol, there are 40 other scheduled services now being offered by nine scheduled airlines.
For the record, London-Heathrow, London-Gatwick and Amsterdam-Schiphol are Dublin Airport’s most popular routes; for Shannon it’s London-Heathrow; Knock it’s London-Stansted; and Kerry it’s London-Luton. See the common thread here?
We are an airport for the people of the south of Ireland, and the more that use the airport, the more we can offer in terms of routes. Today, we provide access to over 40 destinations, and this year we welcomed Air France, connecting Cork to Paris; while last year, Swiss launched a new Zurich service (and doubled its capacity for this summer); and so, too, did Volotea’s Cork to Verona route.
In the past fortnight Ryanair announced it is commencing a new five-times-weekly service to London Luton in October, while Aer Lingus is to launch a new year-round service to Lisbon the same month. Ryanair has also extended its summer route to Faro into the winter season ahead.
Of course, one of the biggest talking points in 2017 was the commencement of the direct service to Boston Providence with Norwegian. In recent weeks, bookings opened for 2019, with the service running from spring to autumn at the same (three times weekly) frequency as 2018. This is extremely positive as Tourism Ireland recently confirmed an increase of 12.4% in inbound passengers from North America in the first five months of 2018.
Indeed at Cork Airport, we have seen a substantial increase in inbound visitors in recent years. This growth is continuing in 2018, with a forecast of an additional 127,000 inbound visitors.
New services from the likes of Air France, Iberia Express and Swiss bring new tourists into West Cork, filling hotel rooms, B&Bs, restaurants and tourist attractions with visitors from new markets.
Always with an eye on the future, we are continually striving to work with airlines to secure further new routes where demand can be proven, and we understand direct routes to destinations such as New York, Berlin, Rome, Copenhagen and Nice are on people’s ‘asking’ lists.
Outside of routes, investment is continuing to take place within the terminal itself, with Swissport opening Ireland’s first Aspire business lounge at Cork Airport this summer. Our success is being recognised.
Cork Airport was named Airport Council International (ACI) Best Airport in Europe (under 5 million passengers) last year. A huge achievement. We are also in the running for Best Airport in the UK & Ireland with UK travel trade magazine, TTG.
Cork Airport is on a growth trajectory — growing year-on-year since 2016 and with more announcements planned shortly. For this to continue, Cork Airport needs the ongoing support from the public — travellers, media, and businesses. This is not only vital for the continued contribution to jobs and growth, but also will ensure the south of Ireland and West Cork remains connected to key destinations across the UK, Europe, USA and beyond.