The head of Cork Airport has warned that Ireland’s “economy and people can’t stay cut off from the rest of the world for two years” as the country adjusts to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Managing director Niall MacCarthy was speaking as junior transport minister Hildegarde Naughton hinted that further supports for Irish airports could be on the way.
Cork Airport, which has seen passenger numbers plummet 90% while also losing millions in revenue, must receive financial supports from the Government similar to those that are available to Ireland's other regional airports, he said.
“They will be necessary to sustain and in time rebuild our business at Cork Airport," he said. "The return on supports to aviation are significant, given the economic impact of aviation in creating and sustaining jobs throughout our supply chain, tourism, hospitality, and industry.
“We will be living with this pandemic in some form for the next two years at least. In the meantime, we have to learn to co-exist with the virus and keep people in employment whilst staying safe. Our economy and people cannot stay cut off from the rest of the world for that period.”
Quarantines do not work in an air travel context, and people are electing not to travel when faced with a 14-day quarantine on return, he said.
“We strongly welcome the Government’s proposal to sign up to the EU common travel framework in mid-October," he said. "That will require the adoption of a protocol for pre-departure testing for air travel in lieu of quarantines to be successful.
"Testing methodologies are advancing all the time and the adoption by the Irish Government of a standard, accurate, rapid, low-cost screening method for Irish air travel will start the process of recovery for Irish aviation and tourism.”
Ms Naughton said further support for Cork and Shannon airports are currently being considered by the Government.
She said that Department of Transport officials are actively “exploring” measures, but did not specify what was being considered.
Ms Naughton said she is “acutely aware” of the challenges airports were facing, including “seeing firsthand the impact on Cork Airport”.