The Irish Aviation Authority is to reduce the number of air traffic controllers working overnight at Cork Airport because of a major downturn in the number of flights the airport handles.
Transport Minister Leo Varadkar had signalled in July that the IAA might completely cut overnight air traffic control activity.
However, the authority backtracked last night, even though it is losing €1m a year on its operations at the airport.
The IAA said it is planning to introduce “a minor change” by reducing, from two to one, the number of air traffic controllers on duty between 12am and 6am.
The IAA maintains it will “still be in a position to offer an effective 24-hour air traffic control service at Cork due to arrangements and flexibilities” that will come into effect on Jan 1.
The authority said it was forced to do this because of current economic conditions and the number of commercial flights handled by the airport, which were down 40% last year compared to 2007.
While mandatory meal breaks must be provided from 12am to 6am, “with flexibility from both the airline operators and Air Traffic Control, 24-hour access to the airport can effectively be guaranteed,” an IAA spokeswoman said.
The IAA said the arrangements would have no impact on existing scheduled traffic. Emergency, medevac, and air ambulance flights would be guaranteed cover.
Cork Chamber chief executive Conor Healy said he was satisfied with the move, which followed “a productive and constructive consultation with the IAA.”
There were also assurances that in instances where more than one air traffic controller was required, the cut would be reversed.
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