Airport managing director Niall McCarthy predicts further gains in 2018, even though Brexit and a weak sterling will have an impact on the number of British visitors.
At a meeting in the airport with county councillors and their officials yesterday, Mr McCarthy said flights to Madrid were a great success and he expects flights from Zurich to carry an additional 8,000 passengers next year.
Meanwhile, Volotea will increase its flights to Verona in northern Italy to twice weekly next summer. It will operate flights on Saturdays and Wednesdays, from May 26 to August 29.
Mr McCarthy said €1.2m is being spent on marketing the Cork region in Britain, Europe, and the US.
He said it is vitally important that the Norwegian Airlines transatlantic link to Rhode Island, near Boston, is intensively marketed to ensure its success. A radio station from the US is to broadcast live from Cork over two days early next month.
Mr McCarthy said Cork Airport got bad press during the recession and admitted some “people were almost ashamed to say they worked here”. However, he said that corner has been turned and the future looks much brighter.
In answer to a question about the possibility of direct long-haul flights to the Far East and Australia, Mr McCarthy said that was “not on the immediate agenda”.
He said if the Rhode Island venture proved a success, he hoped Cork Airport could move on to getting further routes into America and Canada.
While there will be no US pre-clearance immigration services in Cork, it was pointed out the service was definitely not a disadvantage.
Some councillors said they had spent up to two hours queuing for pre- clearance at Dublin Airport, whereas the Rhode Island airport is smaller, and efficient, and visitors from Ireland can clear baggage and immigration in around 45 minutes.
In Europe, the airport is targeting new connections to Berlin and a number of Scandinavian destinations.
The reopening of flights to Nice are also on the shopping list and the airport boss said his team is very keen to get a new route to Bratislava, the capital of Slovakia.
It is unlikely, however, that the Cork-Brussels route will be reactivated as Mr McCarthy said it “was a loss-maker” for airlines.
He said many passengers who previously used that route had now switched to flying into Amsterdam and taking an hour-long train ride to the Belgian capital.
He suggested the county council could assist the airport, with either expertise or money, to enhance Cork’s profile with additional international marketing.