The Irish carrier will operate two new routes from the country’s second largest airport to France beginning next June with La Rochelle and Nantes first to get the green light as part of a wider European expansion.
The airline is also examining the possibility of expanding into other French cities like Toulon and Brive (near Bordeaux) but executive chairman Pat Byrne ruled out an Italian expansion until 2017 at the earliest.
Speaking at the Cork Chamber of Commerce business breakfast at the Cork International Hotel, Mr Byrne said he was confident the new routes would prove very popular.
“In the longer term we would look [to see if there is] a market there between Cork and Toulon,” he said.
“We suspect there might be so we’re researching it at the moment. We thought we’d start with La Rochelle and Nantes because you can’t miss with them. Cork people are very fond of those places and we want people on the other end coming here.
”We’re waiting for our new aircraft; the new-generation aircraft which will be on-stream in 2017 and will have a very extended range which you need for some of the Italian destinations. We would be looking for opportunities for Cork to Italy but it wouldn’t be until 2017.”
Fares to La Rochelle and Nantes will start at €69 with no additional baggage costs up to 23kg.
Having signed a major arrangement with Scandinavian Airlines earlier this week to operate a network of regional routes from Helsinki, Oslo,and Stockholm, CityJet is in talks with two other European airlines over similar arrangements.
“We’re talking to two other airlines in Europe at the moment,” said Mr Byrne.
“We’re very interested in what we can do for them and we already provide a service for Air France as well. We think the opportunity is huge.”
Mr Byrne said he was confident of getting one agreement over the line in the six months with the service potentially starting towards the end of 2016.
CityJet’s expansion came as Aer Lingus announced new summer routes from Cork and Dublin as well as expanded services from Shannon.
The new destinations from Dublin include Pisa, Murcia, and Montpellier while a new twice-weekly service will operate from Cork. A combination of new routes and increased frequency on existing routes as well as larger aircraft will provide 250,000 extra seats on Aer Lingus flights.
“Today’s news is further evidence that the fortunes have really turned at Cork Airport as we head into next year with solid growth in passenger numbers,” said Cork Airport managing director Niall MacCarthy.