Management at Cork Airport has hit back at Ryanair and defended the decision to upgrade its main runway this year.
With the airport’s passenger numbers down 99% during the pandemic, they said it made “prudent business sense” to fast-track major capital investment projects now, while the airport is extremely quiet.
The airport hit back after Ryanair confirmed its Cork base will not reopen until winter 2021, at the earliest, blaming what it described as the airport’s “crazy plan to dig up its runway” across September, October and November.
Ryanair said it would continue to fly to and from Cork this summer but only with aircraft that are based at other airports, such as London Stansted.
Ryanair also criticised the Government’s “failed international travel restrictions” which are imposed on inbound airport and port visitors, while its 300-mile border with Northern Ireland remains open.
“Micheál Martin’s Government needs to provide a clear roadmap for the recovery of Cork Airport, which, in fact, continues to be the most expensive of Ireland’s major airports,” the airline said.
The airline did say, however, that it remains committed to Cork Airport.
But Cork Airport’s spokesman Kevin Cullinane said the airport management team has been engaged with all its major stakeholders, including Ryanair, in relation to the runway upgrade project since last autumn.
“The majority of our airline customers are strongly in favour of the runway work being done this year,” he said.
“This runway reconstruction project is vital for the future of the airport and our aim is to complete with the least possible disruption and at the lowest cost.
“The reconstruction of the main runway, when completed later this year, will be a key strategic asset for the south of Ireland for the next 20 years.”
He said they consulted more than a dozen other international airports in the UK and continental Europe which have completed similar runway projects in recent years.
“Airports adopt a range of technical solutions and working windows, but the aim is always the same – to complete the project as quickly and efficiently as possible, using the optimum technical solution, at the lowest cost,” he said.
Senator Jerry Buttimer urged the airline to engage positively with the management team at Cork Airport.
“Ryanair should stop playing politics with Cork Airport and rather engage in a meaningful way with the airport authorities to ensure that services are ready to restart whenever public health guidelines allow and there is demand again,” he said.
Public tendering for the runway upgrade started in November and it is hoped that the contract will be awarded in May.
Mr Cullinane also pointed out that landing charges at Cork Airport have not increased in more than 14 years, and that the airport hopes to table a “generous incentive scheme” to its airline customers soon, which he said would have charges lower than those at Dublin Airport.
Cork Airport was the fastest-growing airport in Ireland in 2019.