Cork Airport should receive financial support from the State in a similar way to other regional airports its operator the DAA, a State company responsible for both airports, has said.
Both Dublin and Cork airports are self-funded and do not receive support from the taxpayer but they have been severely impacted by the collapse in global air travel due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
At an Oireachtas committee yesterday the DAA passenger levels will fall to 9 million from 32.9 million last year in Dublin and to less than 1 million in Cork, from almost 2.6 million last year.
"Worryingly, almost every expert is predicting a slow and protracted recovery for the industry," Ray Gray, chief financial officer with the DAA said.
Speaking to TDs he said Cork faces particular challenges, including maintaining a level playing field with its national competitor airports. The State through the National Development Plan has committed €72 million in capital funding to regional airports over the period 2018 to 2027 including Kerry, Knock and Donegal airports. The funding helps regional airports comply with international regulatory requirements such as air traffic control, fire services, and security. "Cork Airport plays a critical role in serving the South of Ireland. It requires specific support as its revenue base has all but disappeared," Mr Gray said.
"A specific mechanism will be required to offset essential operating costs and incentivise route development. Cork should also be admitted to the existing Regional Airport Capital Funding Programme," he said.
Mr Gray said the financial losses being experienced by DAA right now are very significant. "We, like the country and many other businesses, are reliant on borrowings to fund the day to day operation of our business. This is simply not sustainable and puts the maintenance and delivery of strategic airport infrastructure for a small open economy at risk. It is important that the State intervenes now to offset this risk."
Mr Gray told the Dail Covid-19 committee: "We need a sustainable regime for safe travel in a new environment where the health measures are right and effective. There has to be confidence for the traveling public."
Asked about Ireland's travel restrictions, he said: "Statistically, there is no doubt that there is less travel coming into Ireland compared to our European counterparts and that is because of the calls that have been made for understandable public health reasons.
The DAA has a number of other overseas businesses that have also felt the brunt of the collapse in international aviation.