Air traffic through debt-saddled Cork Airport nose-dived last month despite strong growth nationally.
The Irish Aviation Authority hailed an almost 5% increase in overall Irish air traffic last month compared to the same period last year.
However, a comparison of the three state airports shows Cork bucked the trend with a 16.3% slump in commercial traffic (1,246 movements) compared to January 2014, with Dublin Airport up just over 7% to 13,149 and Shannon up 6.4% to 1,253.
En route traffic — flights which pass through Irish airspace but do not land — was up by a robust 5.7% to 20,530 movements last month, while IAA’s North Atlantic Communications service, Europe/North America flights, recorded a 1.1% increase to 29,737 flights in January.
However, the gulf between Cork and the other state airports at Shannon and Dublin was laid bare following publication of their combined terminal movements.
A breakdown shows: n Dublin up 7.2% with an average of 424 commercial daily movements; n Shannon up 6.4% with an average of 40 commercial daily movements; n Cork is down 16.3%, with an average of 40 commercial daily movements.
A spokesman for Cork Airport said bad weather contributed to the decline in its figures last month.
“Aircraft movements at Cork Airport were impacted by inclement weather and high winds in January resulting in a significant number of flight cancellations and diversions.”
“There was also the anticipated drop in flights on routes to Eastern Europe which operated from Cork in January 2014 but not in 2015.”
But the statistics underline the challenges facing the airport which was highlighted at the Oireachtas transport committee on Tuesday.
DAA chairman Pádraig Ó Ríordáin told the committee Cork Airport was at a disadvantage compared to other airports following the separation of Shannon from the DAA, with €100m in debts written off, and its properties now generating substantial rent.
He said this freed Shannon to offer deals to airlines that Cork cannot do.
He pointed out that only 37% of Cork’s passengers were inbound which, he said, was “notably low by international standards”. The fall in traffic also continued despite the fact its airport charges had not increased in more than 10 years and were highly competitive.
The IAA’s chief executive, Eamonn Brennan, said they were delighted to see air traffic getting off to a strong start this year, building on the very encouraging gains of last year.
“Up to 90% of transatlantic air traffic passes through Irish-controlled airspace, so I am particularly pleased with the strong growth in our en route traffic.
“On the domestic front, terminal air traffic at Dublin and Shannon continues to increase strongly with growth of 7.2% and 6.4% recorded respectively in January.”
There was an average of 1,206 daily flights in Irish-controlled airspace during January 2015.
The busiest day was January 4, with 1,418 flights.
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