By Pádraig Hoare
A tussle for supremacy between Aer Lingus and Ryanair at Cork Airport is set to benefit passengers all over Munster, with new routes being announced and more in the pipeline.
Ryanair has announced it will fly from Cork to the Hungarian capital Budapest from April next year, the fourth new route it has added in recent weeks.
The airline said it is aiming to carry 1.1m passengers through Cork next year, or growth of around 20%, after it added Malta, Luton and Poznan to its schedule.
Cork Airport is forecasting growth of 4% overall this year, with scheduled flights to over 40 destinations operated by nine airlines.
Ryanair flights to Luton begin in October, Malta in March, and Poznan in April.
The Michael O’Leary-led airline is also extending its summer service from Cork to Faro into the winter season, making it a year-round service.
There are now 16 Ryanair routes operating out of Cork.
The ramp-up of Ryanair operations has not gone unnoticed by Aer Lingus.
The IAG-owned airline is planning to combat Ryanair’s bid for Cork Airport domination by extending its own services in the coming months.
When asked by travel industry figures this week if it was committed to expanding in Cork, Aer Lingus chief executive Stephen Kavanagh was bullish.
He said Aer Lingus would be making announcements in the coming weeks focusing on expansion in mainly European cities.
The new routes are a boon to Cork Airport chiefs, with Cork’s first ever transatlantic flights to Providence in Rhode Island postponed for the winter season, before returning next spring for the summer schedule.
After falling numbers in recent years, Munster rival Shannon Airport has grown 5% in the first six months of this year compared to the same period last year, bolstered by the beefing up of north American routes.
However, numbers at Shannon remain significantly behind those of Cork, which saw growth of 3.7% in the first six months against the same period last year, with just short of 1.1m going through the airport, according to CSO figures.
Cork Airport managing director Niall MacCarthy said the facility was the “perfect choice” for Ryanair’s new routes and its planned 20% passenger expansion.