Cork-New York flights 'within two to three years'

(From left) Conor Healy, CEO, Cork Chamber; Aidan Forde, senior advertising manager, Irish Examiner and The Echo; Orla Flynn, deputy president, Cork Chamber, Niall MacCarthy, managing director, Cork Airport, and Ronan McManamy, managing director, Irish Examiner and The Echo. Pic: Denis Minihane.

Cork aims to have a direct flight to New York within three years, the managing director of Cork Airport has said.

Niall MacCarthy, who was speaking following the monthly business breakfast of Cork Chamber, said advances in aircraft technology meant Cork Airport's runway length would no longer be prohibitive.

Cork Airport’s short runway, by international standards, has historically been the reason why most bigger aircraft cannot fly transatlantic routes.

Boeing's 737 Max aircraft, which is more fuel efficient and lighter, led to Norwegian Air International operating the first transatlantic flights in July 2017 to Providence, Rhode Island, an hour from Boston.

Mr MacCarthy said with the next generation of Boeing Max and Airbus A321 and A321LR aircraft, direct flights to New York were "two to three years away" for Cork Airport.

"The length of the runway will not be the previous restriction that it was. We were told originally that we could not do transatlantic because the technology did not enable it.

"The Boeing Max has proved we can, so next is to see how far we can go, and that is New York. The technology is getting better all the time.

We have not got an airline interested yet, but we do foresee that there should be a flight to New York out of Cork -- probably in the next two to three years realistically, to sign up an airline.

"The A321LR and A321Neo are even better at fuel efficiency than the Boeing aircraft and Aer Lingus has an order in for those," said Mr MacCarthy.

The airport is keen to build on its growth so far this year, Mr MacCarthy said, with Berlin and Rome in its sights for future routes. An estimated 2.6 million passengers will travel on Cork Airport's 51 routes.

"We can reach anywhere in Europe we want. The question is around demand. We have seven new routes this year which we were working on two years ago. You are always working quite a bit ahead. We had 9% growth in January and 10% in February, beating Dublin and Shannon, so the proof is in the pudding -- if we continue to grow like that, we will continue to add new routes and serve the people of Munster," Mr MacCarthy said.

Airline consolidation was good for passengers, Mr MacCarthy said.

"Consolidation has been really good for Aer Lingus, which is generating more profits and carrying more passengers than ever before. Weak airlines tend to be unreliable and the passengers don’t have confidence in them. It is in everyone’s interest to have good competition among strong players, that can weather booms and busts, and expanding economies and recessions."

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