Ryanair has been accused of snubbing Cork Airport during its one million passenger growth strategy triggered by the scrapping of the €3 travel tax in the budget.
The city’s business, tourism and political leaders rounded on the airline last night for failing to deliver a single new route in to Cork Airport as part of the expansion, which culminated yesterday in the announcement of nine new routes from Dublin Airport from next April.
Chief executive Michael O’Leary said the new routes from the capital to Almeria, Bari, Basel, Bucharest, Chania, Comiso, Lisbon, Marrakesh and Prague, combined with increased frequencies on eight existing routes out of Dublin, will deliver an additional 700,000 passengers per year, and support 700 new on-site jobs at Dublin Airport.
But Michael Magner, chairman of the Cork branch of the Irish Hotels Federation, said Ryanair had effectively snubbed Cork Airport in this phase of expansion. “The management team at Cork Airport is doing a tremendous job marketing the airport and trying to attract new airlines and develop new routes,” he said. “It is very disappointing that Cork didn’t get a single route.
“I would like to know why Ryanair subbed us. Our members have beds that we need to fill, and could fill, and we would welcome a meeting with Michael O’Leary to discuss possible new routes.”
New ryanair flights from Shannon and Dublin. What's the story with cork boy?????— ralph riegel (@ralphriegel) November 14, 2013
Cork Chamber chief executive Conor Healy said there had been an expectation that Cork would benefit from the airline’s expansion.
“It is very disappointing, and concerning, that Cork was left out, in terms of the development of the city and in terms of tourism and business connectivity,” he said.
It is understood that once the Government announced in the budget its intention to scrap the €3 travel tax next April, Ryanair met with the management teams from the five main airports to negotiate new routes as it sought to deliver on its pre-budget promise to deliver an extra one million passengers in to Ireland.
But despite a 30% growth in its traffic at Cork Airport over the last year, Ryanair opted against introducing new routes at Cork.
A Cork Airport spokesman said the management team engaged “very actively” with Ryanair recently to “facilitate accelerated growth” by the airline at the airport, and that that engagement is ongoing.
Airport director Niall MacCarthy said: “The management and staff of Cork Airport will continue to expend every effort to attract new services to the airport... In this context, we are pleased to note Ryanair chief executive Michael O’Leary’s statement this morning that his airline would continue to engage with Cork Airport about further growth in 2014.”
A spokesman for Ryanair rejected assertions that it snubbed Cork Airport.
“The decision was not based on a lack of demand or interest in Cork,” he said. “It was down to lack of aircraft capacity, airport charges, and other costs.
“We are still talking to Cork, and to Kerry Airport but it will be Sept 2014 before anything happens, when we get the first tranche of our delivery of 175 new aircraft”.
However, Fine Gael TD Jerry Buttimer said he plans to invite the airport managers and Ryanair to brief his party’s transport committee on their development plans for Cork Airport.
“I will also press the transport minister and the DAA to outline their development plans for the airport,” he said. “It is time now for the emphasis to be put on the airport. It is important that it doesn’t become the forgotten airport.”
Cork Airport’s passenger traffic peaked at 3.2m in 2008. It lost 500,000 seats in Oct 2011 when the Cork to Dublin service ended.
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