Transatlantic flights are also unlikely to materialise anytime soon as all the major airlines have ruled out extending such services to Cork although the airport’s management continue to market the possibility to niche carriers.
On a brighter note, Aer Lingus is willing to add a new German route if Cork Airport’s management can prove demand, according to managing director Niall MacCarthy.
With just 16% of the airport’s footfall coming from continental traffic there is substantial room for growth with France and Scandinavia also key target markets.
Cork also remains the country’s second largest airport with more than two million passengers catered for last year compared to 1.7 million at Shannon Airport.
Ryanair’s operations in the mid-west surpassed those in Cork during the year however, as it moved a number of eastern European routes between airports resulting in a reduction of 102,000 passengers in Cork.
Speaking yesterday, Mr MacCarthy said 2015 would undoubtedly see a further decline of about 5% in passengers but expected the airport to return to growth next year.
The key to its success is a coherent, joined-up marketing and tourism strategy that sells Cork and the wider Munster region as a destination and adds to inbound traffic which has lagged behind, the airport chief added.
He said a regional fund like the £56m (€76m) support introduced by the British government to help smaller airports compete would be welcome and help Cork grow as it doesn’t receive any government grant or subvention.
“State aid rules on a fund say that 50% of the tariff is the max that can be subvented in these funds so that would mean the max would be 50% of €8.60 [landing charge per passenger]. Separately, you would be looking at the marketing of Cork,” Mr MacCarthy said.
While being neutral on the IAG bid to acquire Aer Lingus, Cork Airport could benefit from the move as long as guarantees on the Heathrow routes which have been at the nub of negotiations are secured, he added.
“The opportunity for Cork could be potentially for one of [IAG’s] carriers, maybe a Vueling, to come in to Cork and to compete in the ultra low-cost sector so we would see, once the Heathrow issue is pinned down, some potential opportunities.”
Mr MacCarthy also said there is no economic case for reopening the old terminal and said the runway is capable of handling some transatlantic aircraft such as the Boeing 757 which is part of Aer Lingus’s fleet and services the US east coast.