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Cork airport needs independence from dublin

Thursday, 9th October, 2014 1:00am

Corkman Kenny Jacobs has one of the toughest jobs in the world. Being chief marketing officer for Ryanair used to be a very tough job but it has gotten much easier recently as 'new Ryanair' have emerged.

The addition of allocated seating and a free second carry-on bag have helped to change and soften the company's image. He also says that there is a lot of 'cache' working in the airline industry and it's great to be the person delivering Ryanair's "newfound interest in focussing on their customers".

He is also very outspoken about what Cork Airport needs to reverse falling numbers; independence from the Dublin Airport Authority (DAA).

"As a Corkonian, the number one issue in the next election should be: what are we going to do to get the airport back in growth?

"We are growing incredibly fast at Shannon. Next year, Shannon will overtake Cork as an airport for us. We will have 825,000 customers in and out of Shannon and 750,000 in and out of Cork.

"Go back three, four years ago; Cork was about twice the size of Shannon. Dublin Airport is continuing to grow and it's down to the fact that Cork Airport charges us the same as Dublin Airport, which is very rare for a second city to do that. It charges us more than airports like Malaga, Lisbon, Seville, so that's the big thing that needs to change. It's down to the legacy debt," he adds.

Cork Airport management have "got to sit down with the DAA and the Government, Cork Airport. How do we find a solution to this? The past three years have shown that all that's happened is the airport's traffic has declined."

This week, Ryanair launched their summer 2015 schedule, three months earlier than they did last year. It includes 18 routes including Lanzarote, Faro and Tenerife which will deliver 750,000 customers per annum in total and support over 750 on-site jobs in Cork, according to the airline.

Ryanair are more important than ever in Cork Airport but the total number of flights have declined.

"It has to be made attractive and viable for airlines to fly to Cork. One thing that has to be done is pressure put on politicians to say: 'right guys, you're the ones who made us build the new terminal, help us sort this out'.

"Learn from what Shannon has done with its independence, learn from what airports like Stansted have done. It's pretty simple what needs to be fixed, we just have to get off the pot and do something about it, as the numbers will only go in one direction if there isn't a new plan," he says.

Kenny said they would never rule out a Cork-Dublin flight but says that it's less in demand than people think. "We recently did a survey with customers in Cork on where people would like to see a flight to and Cork-Dublin wasn't in the top five. Business people would be quite vocal but you can drive to Dublin in two and-a-half hours."

Business people have been increasingly using Ryanair for travel and Ryanair are increasingly trying to attract them. Of the 80 million people who flew with Ryanair last year, about 25 per cent were business people.

"What we are now doing is offering a better deal for business people. There are SMEs in Cork who would be savvier with their money than large corporates. But the vast, vast bulk of business travel out of Cork is to London. Dublin and London will be over 75 per cent of where Cork business people are looking to go to."

Trans-Atlantic flights are on the horizon for Ryanair, in the next five years he says, but he also essentially ruled out that Ryanair would fly from Cork. He adds that he would find it hard to see Trans-Atlantic flights from both Cork and Shannon in the next five years and says it is only 90 mins to Shannon.

"Even pre-austerity, US multinational execs would have flown into Dublin or Shannon or London (and travelled to Cork) and that hasn't changed."

Some business leaders in Cork have called from flights to East and West coast of the US. However the chief marketing officer thinks a route to the West coast of the US is not likely to viable but if there is demand for a flight, Ryanair would provide.

Why has new Ryanair emerged now?

"It was always part of the plan, I think. The centre of gravity always has been and will continue to be, low costs mean low fares. We are the number one airline in Europe on the back of that very straight forward proposition.

"You get to be number one and you say, what is the next stage of our evolution? The next stage is to keep the low fares, which we can do because of our scale, but we are going to really focus on improving the experience. Things have changed with our customers and the market. People have a higher expectation," he says.

Kenny Jacob grew up in Montenotte and went to CBC primary and secondary. He then went to UCC for a Comm and left Cork in 1997 and lived in Germany, France, UK and a stint back in Ireland with Tesco, but he says Cork is still home although he lives in South Manchester.

He enjoys working with Michael O'Leary and laughs that he might wonder why Kenny didn't stay up with the parents in Montenotte, rather than in the Ambassador Hotel!

Ryanair launched its Cork summer 2015 schedule by releasing 100,000 seats for sale across its European network, at prices from €19.99 for travel in November, December and January. These seats are available for booking until midnight tonight (Thursday).

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