by Pádraig Hoare
Long delays for holidaymakers at major European airports including Dublin could lead to short-to-long term opportunities for smaller airports like Cork and Shannon, the head of the Irish Travel Agents Association has said.
Pat Dawson said increased security in Europe happened to coincide with the busiest weeks of the year for holidaymakers and that the delays could persuade many thinking of a last-minute break to fly out of Cork or Shannon.
He said travel industry players had written to the Government requesting extra staff to deal with the delays at Dublin Airport, which are being caused by high volumes of passengers.
If the delays continue, Cork and Shannon should get a share of passengers, Mr Dawson said.
“I think you will see people travelling that extra 90 minutes to Cork or Shannon knowing they will have their car parked and be through security within half an hour.
“That is the beauty of a smaller airport. We would love to see extra routes from Cork or Shannon in comparison to Dublin, but I think passengers will see the extra benefits of hassle-free travel outweighing the smaller amount of routes,” he said.
Mr Dawson said that the reports of massive queues and delays at passport control in major European airports would also lead to holidaymakers turning to Cork and Shannon.
As well as hours of delays, many passengers have missed connecting flights as stricter passport controls are enforced due to security in the Schengen zone. Stricter rules by signatories to the Schengen agreement have seen every passport from arriving passengers checked more thoroughly.
What used to take a few seconds is now taking up to two minutes per passenger to process, aviation bodies have claimed.
Mr Dawson said: “We have people saying they are now looking at smaller airports on the continent to fly into from Cork to begin and end their holiday, such as Rennes, Bordeaux, and Carcassonne.
Faro is undergoing a huge construction project, while Barcelona is threatened by go-slow action. We in the ITAA would now love to see Cork and Shannon capitalise by introducing more routes.”
Cork Airport chief Niall MacCarthy said that in the medium-to-long term, Cork will see benefits from the increased Schengen controls.
“The opportunities are there for us. Smaller airports, where a passenger can park next to the terminal and go through quickly, will come into their own more and more.
“As security becomes more intense, and people encounter more delays, there will be increased traffic for the likes of Cork Airport,” he said.
More than 400,000 passengers are expected to travel through Dublin Airport over the bank holiday weekend.
Dublin Airport said passenger figures are up 4% over the same weekend last year, with over 2,669 flights.
It said this Sunday, over 104,000 passengers are expected to arrive and depart through both of its terminals.
Dublin Airport’s managing director Vincent Harrison said: “The addition of 12 new services to our route network this year, coupled with extra frequencies on many existing routes, has contributed to the increases that we are experiencing in passenger numbers.”
This article first appeared in the Irish Examiner