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Lets put the international into cork airport

Thursday, 19th February, 2015 12:00am

Evin O'Keeffe, an American who has lived in Cork since 2008. She writes '40 Shades of Life,' a blog about her life in Ireland and the award-winning craft blog, EvinOK.com.

You may have read or heard recently about the decline of Cork International Airport, so I wanted to  write  about it here from an expat's perspective.

Like most Americans living in Ireland, the only way I can  hug  my family is by flying (or taking a ship across the Atlantic). Which usually means Aer Lingus to London or  Amsterdam  then the long-haul flight to the States. Or a bus to Shannon or Dublin then a flight direct to the States from there.

There are many things I  love and don't love about Cork Airport, but beyond that I hope with all my heart the DAA starts acting in Cork's best interests.

What I love about Cork Airport

I love that Cork is pleasant, well-run, efficient (for an airport), clean and drama-free. Like the Christmas Eve 2008 when we had no queue at security and breezed through Duty Free with a whiskey tasting.

Two years later, we were in Dublin Airport and it was madness, but Cork remains efficient, even when busy. The gates are close together within the terminal, there are  food options and it is close to the city, making it accessible by taxi and the bus.

What I don't love about Cork Airport

I've expressed my love of Cork Airport, but it has its limitations.

Not only does Cork Airport have limited options, but those limitations cost travellers valuable hours and money because DAA's Cork leadership limits choices, whether by ineptitude, cheapness, or plan.

During the  2010 Eyjafjallajökull eruptions in Iceland, anyone traveling in or around Europe experienced some kind of delay or at least a great deal of concern. I'll gloss over  most of my experiences  and just tell you about the return flight.

We were delayed in London and the flight to Cork (AKA, where we live) was cancelled. The Aer Lingus desk informed us that we could take the flight to Dublin instead. With our American accents that must have seemed very touristy to her, we explained we had a ticket for Cork and needed to get  there.

She gestured to a map of Ireland and said it was very close and we could take a train or a bus at our expense. We arrived at Kent Station in Cork and saw online that a London to Cork flight was about to land. I understand the volcanic ash determined a lot that month, but did their interest in sending Cork passengers to Dublin instead speak more to the airline's mission to make Dublin a priority in general?

My first visit to the States after moving to Ireland, I booked my flight via Dublin. That was back when there were flights between Cork and Dublin. I bought my Duty Free alcohol in Cork because I wasn't sure how much time I'd have to shop between flights and was assured that one connecting flight would be fine for the purchase to be carried on in the sealed bag.

The cashier followed  the Duty Free rules  and clearly displayed the receipt which proclaimed the bottle purchased the day of my journey. All sorted.

Until I land in Dublin and need to go through security again. They confiscate the bottle, telling me I can't bring my own alcohol. I explain it is Duty Free from Cork. I wave my boarding pass from that flight. I gesture to the sealed bag with enclosed receipt. They lecture me on  the rules  I've broken. The American behind me is really upset at the prospect that I might lose my expensive bottle of whiskey.

I wait patiently because I had faith in Cork Airport's helpful and knowledgeable staff. I pointed to the receipt repeatedly   and one of the times it stuck and they said it was ok. Excellent! But a waste of time to watch them fumble around and threaten confiscating.

Cork is the second-largest city in the Republic. It has a €120million new terminal, a perfectly functional old terminal and a pleasant atmosphere with helpful people working there.  Little stress, no drama, decent pub, and great natural light. It is a pleasure to travel via Cork Airport (aside from their not using the lovely  airbridges/jetways).

Yet, unless you are just popping over to a nearby European destination, Cork airport is just the opening act. It is not reaching its potential because the managing authority is not based in Cork! And increasing Cork's flights, especially ones to new destinations not serviced by Dublin Airport or adding flights to destinations that are booming via Dublin, would not be in the DAA's home base's best interests, so they're just letting Cork stay quiet and lovely and letting it be a cute little €100-million  airport serving far fewer customers than it could.

The Dublin Airport Authority is running the show and if  their guidance of Shannon Airport  is any indication, maybe they're not ready to be in charge of more than themselves.

What I think Cork International Airport needs in an ideal world

Let's put the 'International' in its name to work for ORK.  The airport already has top-notch staff, a state-of-the-art airport, and is perfectly situated between mainland Europe and North America.

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