DAA ‘very confident’ of Cork Airport recovery

The chief executive of Dublin Airport Authority, Kevin Toland, has said he is “very confident” of reaching a long-term sustainable solution for Cork Airport.

Speaking at yesterday’s publication of the DAA’s latest annual accounts, Mr Toland said that improving fortunes at the country’s second-largest airport is down to all stakeholders, including Tourism Ireland, who need to improve their marketing of Cork as a destination to visitors from overseas.

He said a joined-up marketing initiative — involving all relevant stakeholders — is needed, something which is done more effectively in other countries. Currently, only 38% of passengers through Cork are inbound travellers.

While the DAA does not break out individual financial performances for each of its airports, Cork remains significantly loss-making. It also lost around 100,000 passengers to nearby Shannon last year, after the transfer of a number of routes to that airport.

As a result, Cork’s passenger numbers fell by 5% to 2.1m passengers in 2014, although traffic to the UK increased by 5% to 1.2m.

The DAA said that landing charges are not to blame for Cork’s decline.

Mr Toland — who referred to Cork Airport as a “world-class” airport experience — said its debt levels, reportedly around €128m, are “irrelevant” and are being serviced.

He added that the slower economic recovery in Munster and difficult competitive environment, with too many airports existing on the island of Ireland, were having a negative effect.

Asked about his wishlist for new connections from DAA-controlled airports, Mr Toland said continued growth from the new link with Ethiopian Airlines and links with China, potentially within the next 18 months, Israel, Russia, and fresh North American expansion are being targeted at Dublin Airport.

Expansion to and from Germany, France, Italy, and Sweden is the growth blueprint for Cork, meanwhile.

Before exceptional items, the DAA generated profits of €40m last year, up by 41% on the previous 12 months. Profit was down by 50%, to €19m, when a €21m charge — partly relating to the investment made in the long-running DAA/Aer Lingus pensions deficit issue — is included. Revenue, meanwhile, was up by 13% at €564m.

In a separate economic impact of its airports, the DAA said that Dublin facilitates 97,400 jobs and is worth some €6.9bn, or 4% of GDP, to the national economy.

Cork, meanwhile, supports 10,700 jobs and is worth €727m, or 2.2%, to the economy.

Regarding 2015, the DAA said it has made a strong start to the year, with passenger numbers up by 15%, year-on-year, including a 17% jump at Dublin.

Management said this year’s priorities include further growth at Dublin, a continued focus on cost reduction, and a stabilising of passenger traffic at Cork Airport, where it will continue to work with the airlines and key stakeholders to return the hub to growth.

With regard to Aer Rianta International — the DAA’s retail arm, which, earlier this year, won a seven-year contract to operate the duty-free concession at Auckland International Airport — Mr Toland said there exists a “very active pipeline” of deals, with some at a “very advanced level”.


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