As such, it is unlikely, but not impossible, that Cork Airport will be successful.
“We would love to have a transatlantic flight from Cork into the East Coast of the United States, but I think we need to be realistic about that. There are a number of limitations that stop us; because of the length of the runway in Cork, there is only one aircraft that could actually fly to the east coast and that is a [Boeing] 757, which has 205 passengers, a relatively small plane. If you think about it, there are a whole load of immediate impediments from an airline’s point of view,” said Mr Ó Ríordáin.
He said the knock-on effect of the low capacity of the 757 could result in higher prices on a route that would only be in operation once or twice a week and serving a single destination.
He added that, from an airline’s perspective, such a service from Cork would merely be luring passengers from Shannon and Dublin.
“Realistically, the challenges in terms of Cork Airport are significant, and what would Cork Airport be providing, apart from an occasional flight to one destination in the States. Whereas, 80 miles down the road, you have a more significant offering of frequencies and destinations, where customers can take advantage of border protection and there are more significant economies of scale. In terms of our thinking, would we like to have the flight? Absolutely. Are we working towards it? Absolutely, we are, but we have to be realistic as to what the result would look like,” he said.
Mr Ó Ríordáin said the number of passengers using Cork Airport needed to be more than three million to make it sustainable. Currently the airport has only 2.34m passengers, which means it is sustaining operating losses of about €6m.
“Cork Airport has done exceptionally well in retaining numbers. That said, we are not doing well enough because, as a rule of thumb, an airport is viable usually at 3m passengers.”