Cork Airport has predicted its first passenger growth in almost five years next year following a significant €35m airline route expansion plan announced yesterday.
Aer Lingus Regional, operated by Aer Arann, announced a new service from Cork to Newcastle, as well as increased frequency on its Manchester, Bristol, and Rennes routes for the 2014 summer season.
Aer Arann’s chief commercial officer, Simon Fagan, confirmed the expansion was directly related to the Government’s budget decision to abolish the travel tax from next April.
The services will be operated by two 72-seater ATR72 aircraft, which will be based in Cork from April.
The move will add 50,000 seats to the airline’s Cork network, boosting its passenger numbers from the city to over 300,000 — a 20% increase.
Combined with a recent 50,000-seat increase on Aer Lingus services out of Cork, it will push the airport’s UK traffic over the 100,000 mark.
This will help the airport reach its 4% growth target next year — its first growth in almost five years, airport marketing manager Kevin Cullinane said.
Cork Airport managing director Niall MacCarthy confirmed that a head of aviation marketing will be appointed early next year to aggressively target new business.
The airport, which will cater for up to 100,000 passengers during the Christmas rush, expects to reach the 2.3m passenger mark by the end of this year.
However, while trans-atlantic flights are a possibility, and re-establishing a Cork to Dublin air link is being examined, neither will happen next year, he said.
Meanwhile, the management team at Cork Airport will have greater autonomy to new business, the Government confirmed.
It follows a report in the Irish Examiner on Tuesday, which revealed a series of senior management changes at the Cork Airport Authority ahead of its launch as an independent business unit within the Dublin Airport Authority from Jan 1.
A Government spokesman said a Cork Airport Development Council is being established and, among other things, will determine opportunities for growth.
He said the aim was to grant Cork Airport independence from the DAA in the long run.
There was a broad welcome to yesterday’s route expansion announcement and the airport’s new operating structure from next year.
Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney said the whole region will benefit from the leisure and business travel.
Innovation Minister Seán Sherlock said the expansion would open up business opportunities in the north of England.
Local Fine Gael TD Jerry Buttimer said the expansion, and the establishment of a Cork Airport Development Council, reaffirms the airport’s status as a key transport link for Munster.
Cork Business Association chief executive Donal Healy said every business in Cork will have an opportunity to benefit from the extra consumer spend the new flights will bring to the region.
Michael Magner, the chairman of the Cork branch of the Irish Hotels Federation, said: “We must leverage this increased air connectivity and every effort must be made to stimulate demand from key international markets to attract more tourists to our region. This marketing effort must be meticulous.”
On the up
Cork to Newcastle: The new service will operate on this route four times a week.
Cork to Manchester: Growing from 28 to 34 flights a week.
Cork to Bristol: Growing from 14 to 18 flights a week.
Cork to Glasgow: Capacity to increase by 10%.
Cork to Rennes: A Wednesday flight will be added to Saturday service to accommodate tourists.
Existing flights to Birmingham, Edinburgh and Jersey will be retained.
From April, the airline will operate a total of 174 flights between Cork and the UK every week.
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