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Cork airport must be allowed to be competitive again

Thursday, 9th October, 2014 1:00am

Cork Airport  may soon only be the third busiest airport in Ireland and it's the Government who must act to reverse the trend, according to Cork Chamber.

Shannon Airport will soon overtake Cork as Ryanair's biggest passenger base in Ireland outside of Dublin. Cork Airport is at a competitive disadvantage, due to the debt write-down that Shannon received.

Ryanair announced its summer schedule for Cork Airport this week but no new routes have been added although they will still offer 18 routes and carry 750,000 passengers.

Ryanair also announced two new routes out of Shannon Airport this week, increasing passenger numbers by 18 per cent, meaning that it will carry more passengers than Cork in 2015.

Cork Airport has recently lost routes to Brussels in August, reduced flights to Munich and Malaga and passenger numbers have been falling over the last few years. Hungarian airline Wizz Air left Cork Airport last year. The airline had used Cork as its only Irish hub.

Cork Chamber Chief Executive Conor Healy said that they continue to have concerns with direction Cork Airport is heading: "There continues to be a lack of routes and lack of new routes.

"Cork is now operating at a competitive disadvantage to Shannon Airport, which had €100m of debt written off by the Government and a rent-roll of €11m. The Government is directly supporting Shannon.

"We are meeting Minister Pascal O'Donoghue in the next few weeks and we will be calling on him to personally engage and to get a solution to ensure that Cork Airport is a viable proposition," he said. He added that the continued decline of Cork Airport is very negative for the Cork region.

Passenger numbers peaked at 3.25m passengers in 2008, but may dip as low as two million this year.

Ryanair's chief marketing officer Kenny Jacobs says that Cork Airport needs independence from the Dublin Airport Authority (DAA) in order to reverse falling numbers.

"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 from the new terminal," he said. Cork Airport has over €100m of death from the building of the new terminal.In the past two years, 35 per cent increase in customers who have a Cork address who are flying with Ryanair in Shannon and Dublin. "People are getting in the car, they would prefer not to, but Cork Airport needs to drop its charges," he said.

He said that the lack of new Ryanair routes is due to the high costs of operating from Cork Airport.

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