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Is cork airport taking flight once more

Thursday, 9th July, 2015 1:00am

Cork Airport has endured months of disappointing news, reduced route choices and lower passenger numbers.

With Ryanair's partial flight to Shannon and Czech Airlines' two new routes to Ibiza and Prague cancelled last month before a flight even took off, good news has been in short supply.

However, last week has seen a big turnaround with Irish regional airline CityJet betting big on Cork Airport and the Munster region, generally. This week, Aer Lingus also announced a new twice-weekly route from Cork Airport to Dusseldorf in Germany.

The new CityJet route between Cork Airport and London City Airport will run 18 times weekly from 1 October. It will operate three flights on weekdays, one return flight on Saturdays and two flights on Sundays, with tickets on sale immediately. The first flight will depart from Cork at 7.40am. The new service will add 3,420 available seats each week from the airport.

Furthermore, CityJet CEO and founder Pat Byrne said at the announcement that there is a strong possibility of other routes being added from Cork Airport in 2016.

Cork Airport managing director Niall MacCarthy said the new route is "the biggest announcement in a number of years" and said that more routes are possible if the London routes performed well.

Minister for Transport Paschal Donohoe said the announcements signal confidence in Cork Airport and more positive and busier days ahead.

He also announced the ring-fencing, for the first time, of a fund of €1 million which is to be used for co-operative marketing of regional ports and airports.

"I am aware that key stakeholders in the region have been working very hard to address the decline in passenger numbers at Cork and it is clear that their efforts are paying off. Such collaboration is essential if Cork Airport is to maintain its position in what is a very competitive airport market," the minister said.

The funding will be allocated based on those services offering the best inbound tourism potential with the advertising activity likely to take place in the latter part of 2015 and the early months of 2016.

A number of German tour operators have agreed to include Cork in their programme of destinations for 2016, which should significantly boost the route's inbound numbers.

CityJet is not the first airline to try a flight to London City Airport, with Jet Magic running it for a few months in 2003. Pat Byrne is confident that things will be different this time: "Jet Magic lasted a few months, they were overcapitalised. It was unfortunate timing and a lack of capital."

CityJet are not going to make the same mistakes that Czech Airlines made and Pat Byrne is very confident that the route will be a success.

"There is going to be a marketing budget and it's going to be considerable. We are devoting a considerable chunk of overall marketing budget to making sure that Cork works. And will be promoting throughfares. We will be marketing fares out of here to Paris Orly, Florence, Rotterdam, Amsterdam."

London City Airport offers direct transfers in 30 minutes, meaning it's relatively easy to to use CityJet to fly directly to a range of other European destinations.

"We do Antwerp, Nantes, Jersey. We are working with co-sharing with Lufthnasa and Swiss Airlines to go to Zurich, Geneva and Frankfurt. They're on our list to develop connecting traffic with. We also connect with AliItalia to Milan and Rome, working on developing that, but we're not there yet," he said. CityJet have already been advertising extensively since the announcement on newspapers, radio and TV.

The CityJet founder and Cork Airport managing director Niall MacCarthy both believe there is huge tourist potential in Cork. According to Pat Byrne "a lot of the potential for Cork is inbound. Cork is not sufficiently on the map in Europe. We think we can sell Cork in the various cities that we operate out of. In Europe we will now be promoting Cork. Don't come to Cork as an afterthought; come to Cork specifically.

"We have five flights a day from Paris Orly into London City Airport, where Parisians fly from and is the domestic hub. We are going to promote Cork in France. Florence is a wealthy region and we are going to start promoting Cork in Florence, that's a big deal. That's the unlocked potential I'm talking about," he said.

Cork Chamber president Barrie O'Connell said that it's "critically important that we support this and get behind CityJet to make sure of its success. For business, more incremental connectivity is super news."

He added that the route will further enhance the region's connectivity and "strengthen the breadth of connectivity options available to and from Cork and the entire southern region".

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