Passengers hit in pocket as Aer Rianta workers walk out for hour

AROUND a dozen flights in and out of Cork Airport were affected by yesterday afternoon’s hour-long meeting of Aer Rianta staff.

The afternoon Flybe services from and to Birmingham were cancelled, leaving dozens of passengers having to pay for alternative flights.

John Alderman, Terri Wood and Cathy Ke from UCC’s National Microelectronics Research Centre were due to fly to Birmingham at 2.10pm to attend a conference beginning tomorrow. Mr Alderman said: “It was disappointing that we only found out about the cancellation when we arrived here. We’ve managed to book seats with Aer Lingus via Dublin, but we’ll be three hours late and it has cost us €60 each.”

A group of women from Coventry who spent the weekend in Cork for a hen party were also upset by the cancellation with Michelle Canciani saying: “There was nobody here to fill us in on what was happening and we’ve paid €135 to travel with another airline at 5.20pm.”

A Flybe spokesperson said all but 10 of the 63 passengers booked to fly from Birmingham yesterday afternoon took up the airline’s offer of travelling on today’s service, while the 43 passengers from Cork were offered the same alternative.

Sheila Murphy, acting manager at Cork Airport, said things ran smoothly despite the afternoon delays.

“People have been very understanding, and things have returned to normal since the workers returned. It’s a quiet hour of the day for us here so only a small number of flights were affected,” she said.

Local union bosses apologised to passengers whose travel plans were disrupted. But they said it was the first opportunity they had to consult workers on Transport Minister Seamus Brennan’s decision to split Aer Rianta into three separate airport companies.

“Workers are very angry he failed to hold meaningful talks with unions first. This is the next step towards privatisation, which has led to job losses in places like Newcastle which have much bigger catchment area to support their airports,” SIPTU regional secretary Gene Mealy said.

Cork Employees Against Break-up, a group of management and Aer Rianta workers, outlined their concerns to politicians and business groups last night.

Ironically, Fianna Fáil TD Denis O’Donovan was also held up yesterday, his flight to Dublin delayed by about an hour due to the work stoppage. He said: “The workers are entitled to raise questions and hopefully they’ll get the answers they’re looking for. But the belief among tourism and business people is Cork Airport out on its own would make for a better future.”

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