The warning came last night from the city’s Deputy Lord Mayor Ken O’Flynn, as Aer Lingus Regional confirmed frequency reductions on its Stobart-Air-operated Cork-to-Newcastle and Cork-to-Glasgow routes this summer.
The Newcastle service is being reduced from four flights a week to two from June 19. The Glasgow service is going from five to four flights a week from June 22. It is understood the reductions will allow the airline to recommence a service from Shannon to Bermingham.
The airline also announced it is recommencing a twice weekly service from Cork to Rennes, and from Cork to Jersey, from June 6.
However, Mr O’Flynn said the reduction in frequency is more bad news for Cork Airport, which has lost some 120,000 passengers to Shannon with Ryanair moving several services in the last 12 months.“Shannon Airport is now just 20,000 passengers behind Cork Airport. I would imagine that by the summer, they could well pass us out and put us in third position,” he said.
Aer Lingus Regional, which has operated for over a decade at Cork, where it has 57 staff and two aircraft based, said it has consistently delivered passenger growth in recent years.
“The airline will continue to work with the airport to further increase passenger numbers across its routes this year,” a spokesperson said.
However, Mr O’Flynn said tackling the airport’s debt must become a general election issue. Cork has been saddled with servicing a €120m debt associated with the construction of its terminal building a decade ago.
When Shannon gained independence from the Dublin Airport Authority (DAA), it secured an estimated €38m annual rent income from nearby industrial land, and other terms which have allowed it to offer competitive route incentives.
The latest blow to Cork comes as FedEx on June 1 axes its four-day-a-week freight service to Paris, the airport’s last freight service.
There have been positive route announcements from Cork in recent weeks, including new routes, to Cardiff, Ibiza and Prague, and the launch of the FlyCork.ie website to promote holiday packages directly from Cork.
Recently, Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney ruled out a debt deal in the short term, but said the Government is committed to resolving the situation.
“My preference a number of years ago, and now, is that Cork would be independent and debt free, but that isn’t possible until we manage and deal with the debt situation over time,” he said.
“We need to have a really competitive offering through Cork and the DAA needs to facilitate that and, if necessary, in my view, pay for it for a short period of time to ensure Cork can get some growth going.”