Cork Chamber is set to spearhead a renewed campaign to secure independent and debt-free status for struggling Cork Airport.
The business body, which has more than 1,000 members in the region, has secured a meeting with Transport Minister Paschal Donohue at which it will call for urgent government action to halt route losses and the alarming slide in passenger numbers.
Chamber president, Gillian Keating, said they would tell the minister that current government aviation policy was facilitating a situation where a debt-saddled Cork Airport, which is still under the control of the Dublin Airport Authority (DAA), is haemorrhaging routes to a debt-free independent Shannon.
“Month after month, we are seeing flights being pulled from Cork Airport,” Ms Keating said.
“Cork Airport is a viable business, thanks to the team driving it. They have done trojan work to turn the business around in recent years. But government policy towards Cork Airport, is tepid at best, and is very strong in terms of Dublin and Shannon airports. The DAA also have a role to play here. There must be a realisation at DAA level that Cork is not sustainable in the current environment. It is not a great story to have two regional airports competing on different playing fields. The Government needs to support the people who have turned Cork around and they are not doing that with the current tepid policy.”
Cork Airport has seen its traffic fall by 5%, about 77,000 passengers so far this year.
Ryanair’s transfer of routes from Cork to Shannon has resulted in the loss of around 160,000 passengers.
Because Cork is still servicing a €100m debt associated with the construction of its terminal building, management say they can’t afford to offer the same route incentive supports to airlines on offer elsewhere.
Since gaining independence, Shannon has been able to offer deals which allow airlines to operate effectively free of landing fees.
But despite this and other challenges, Cork Airport is still making an operational profit. However, it is braced for further route losses over the coming weeks.
Mr Keating said the chamber will stress to Government the success stories from the Cork region in terms of employment and tourism.
She said: “If they (the Government) want to get a bang for their buck, and underpin the infrastructural elements they are investing in in this region, they have to do something in relation to Cork Airport,” Ms Keating said.
Earlier this year, the chamber launched a stinging attack on the Government’s draft national aviation policy. They said Cork Airport was under-represented in the document, compared to the vision outlined for Dublin and Shannon.
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