The introduction of transatlantic flights from Cork Airport may negatively impact Shannon, the chief operating officer of Aer Lingus has conceded.
Speaking at Cork Airport on plans to grow services out of the region, Mike Rutter said he didn’t think Norwegian Air International would have an impact on Dublin once it began flights next year to the US from Cork next year.
He did concede that Shannon’s position as a carrier for Aer Lingus passengers to Boston and New York could be affected by Cork transatlantic flights, along with London’s Heathrow and Gatwick airports.
He said: “We don’t see that Norwegian will have any effect upon Dublin in a transatlantic fashion. Any marginal loss of traffic — and I mean marginal — we can more than fill. We have more demand than supply at the moment sometimes. We’re quite comfortable that when they start, it won’t affect Dublin.”
He added: “It may have an effect upon Shannon, where historically Aer Lingus has been committed to serving Boston and New York. We obviously will do our best to make sure that effect is as minimal as possible.”
Aer Lingus has no plans to introduce its own transatlantic flights from Cork Airport, he said, but that may change in 2020 with the airline eyeing the A321neo aircraft — a smaller version of the A320 Airbus that is suitable for transatlantic travel.
“Beyond 2020, we are very interested in the A321neo long-range, which will potentially open up shorter sectors with lower density marketplaces. When we get to that stage, we’ll have a look again at the opportunities that may come around for us.”
Mr Rutter said Aer Lingus was utterly committed to Cork and that he wanted to emphasise the airline would remain not just a key base but a driver for further growth. Aer Lingus wanted to aggressively push its German routes to Düsseldorf and Munich from Cork, he added.
“Nobody should be under any illusion that we intend to do anything other than expand business in Cork. Our primary aim is to make Cork robust by spending enough money and we have made significant financial investment in the two German routes. They haven’t moved to land of milk and honey yet. Hopefully, they will stand on their own two feet in a couple of years and we can be aggressive in terms of growth.”
Aer Lingus will strongly support submissions made in favour of approving construction of the M20 Cork-Limerick motorway in next year’s capital investment plan review, Mr Rutter said. He cited the infrastructure linking Belfast to Dublin as a driver of Dublin Airport’s growth.
“We have been for a long time very strong advocates for building the motorway between Cork and Limerick.
“Anywhere else across Europe, motorway structures allow the building of regional airports or global airports. Dublin has been a massive beneficiary of the infrastructure build to Belfast,” he said.
He said that a very high percentage of its transatlantic traffic comes from and has grown exponentially out of the North because of the M1 to Dublin.
“We believe the region [Munster] needs to have a viable infrastructure if it is to exploit its opportunities,” he said. Aer Lingus said its 2017 Cork summer schedule will see 1.1 million seats for sale from Cork to London and other European destinations, plus an extra 113 flights.
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