The head of the national organisation representing Ireland’s travel agents has accused airlines of using the M8 Cork-Dublin motorway as “an excuse” for not providing more flights out of Cork airport.
Pat Dawson, CEO of the Irish Travel Agents Association, said that hundreds of Cork people travel to the capital every day for flights, and noted that there would be “riots” if the opposite was expected of Dublin commuters.
“Our members in the southern region are very concerned about the lack of route choice out of Cork, and the lack of competition,” Mr Dawson said.
“The problem is that there are roughly 10 planes a day of Cork people flying out of Dublin where there is an airport there for them. The motorway is used as an excuse, and that’s fine, they’re great roads.
“But if you’re from Cork and you’re flying out of Dublin you have three hours on the road to get to Dublin Airport, and you have to check in two hours ahead of your flight. The motorway is being used by the airlines as an excuse not to promote Cork.
“If you asked 10 planes of Dubliners every day to drive to Cork to get their flights there’d be riots in the morning.”
Mr Dawson said he does not blame the staff at Cork Airport, who are “knocking on every airline’s door trying to get flights”.
“Dublin has approximately 3,000 flights a week leaving in the summer. Cork has a little over 200,” he said. “It is disproportionate, and is causing problems in Dublin. Last week there were queues of over an hour to get through passport control in Dublin.
“Airlines have also cut one million charter seats out of Ireland.
“The tour operator business in Ireland is almost dead and buried. In 2007 there were 1.3m chartered seats leaving this country, now it’s less than 200,000.”
Mr Dawson said Cork Airport needs a third airline to come in and “shake up the market”— and said that while the proposed Norwegian Airlines Cork to Boston flights would be a significant boost for the region, he is not expecting any development until next year at the earliest.
“It would be huge for Cork, but I don’t expect anything on it until the elections are over in the US,” said Mr Dawson. “Maybe in March 2017, we might see something, but it would make Cork a real international airport.
“I would like to see more visibility of senior politicians in Government and in opposition, they need to be more vocal, it is vital for the airport.”
Mr Dawson said that the Norwegian flights could pave the way for other airlines to operate transatlantic flights out of Cork.
“Aer Lingus will follow suit,” he said. “Everyone is watching this thing to see if it will happen, but it really has to be pushed and pushed by politicians, not every two or three months when news comes out.
“If Norwegian got the go ahead today, Aer Lingus would have a 757 ready to go tomorrow.”