As reported in the Irish Examiner earlier this week, the Irish Aviation Authority — which provides air traffic control services across the country — is considering the introduction of “limited restrictions” to controller services at Cork Airport due, in particular, to low night-time traffic levels. If restrictions were put in place, planes could no longer land in Cork 24 hours a day.
Mr Kelly said the move would severely restrict the airport’s ability to develop new revenue streams from night-time charter flights and freight traffic.
“The international status of the airport will also be damaged by limited opening hours, and may ultimately lead to a downward spiral in passenger numbers,” he said.
“Any proposed limitation of services at Cork Airport sends a negative message to the multinational sector in Cork and across Munster, especially at a time when Cork Chamber of Commerce members are calling for a Cork-East coast USA transatlantic air-bridge.”
He called on IAA to take a “long-term strategic view” by supporting air traffic growth at Cork Airport.
“The DAA also need to increase new routes and services at Cork Airport to develop the southern gateway to Ireland, starting by accelerating their search to find a carrier to operate a Cork/East Coast US route, possibly using the flexible Boeing 757,” he said.
Mr Kelly said Cork is “a major European base” for many US companies, “all of whom require regular, convenient air connectivity services to the US and Europe for their senior staff, so Cork Airport has a bright future, if supported by IAA”.
He pointed to a Cork Chamber survey that found more than half of all indirect travel completed by businesses from Cork Airport is to the US.
The IAA has delayed the introduction of the changes to control cover for six months during which it will monitor traffic through the airport at night.
It is due to consult with airport management and local business representatives on its plans at a meeting on Aug 26.
Cork Airport has said it will oppose any attempt to any move which will impact on current or prospective passenger and freight traffic.