Ryanair is expected to announce plans today to restore routes and reopen its base at Cork Airport.
The announcement by what was its biggest customer pre-Covid will be a major shot in the arm for the airport, which remains closed until November 22 for the multi-million euro rebuild of its main runway.
Pre-pandemic, Ryanair carried some 1.14m passengers on 24 routes out of Cork.
Combined with Aer Lingus, which operated 17 routes, the two airlines carried more than 80% of the airport’s customers.
The airport, which at the peak of the pandemic served just three routes, has now embarked on a major route rebuilding strategy, with the Ryanair announcement set to kickstart its recovery.
The airline and the airport declined to comment last night, but it is expected that the base, which was closed last October, could reopen before the end of this year.
The details will be announced at a press conference at the airport this morning, attended by Ryanair CEO Eddie Wilson and the airport’s managing director Niall MacCarthy.
Ryanair announced the closure of its bases at Cork, Shannon, and Toulouse last October, alongside a raft of base aircraft cuts in Belgium, Germany, Spain, Portugal and Austria, as Covid-19 restrictions decimated the aviation industry.
Ryanair's group CEO Michael O'Leary said at the time that the airline regretted the winter schedule cuts, but said they had been forced upon them “by Government mismanagement of EU air travel”.
The closure of the Cork base led to the cessation of 13 Ryanair routes across Europe for the winter.
It continued to operate the Stansted, Katowice, and Gdansk routes from Cork through the winter, using aircraft and staff based outside of Ireland.
But in early March, the airline warned its staff that it could not guarantee the reopening of its Cork base for the 2021 winter season because of what it branded Cork Airport’s “crazy plan to dig up its runway” for 10 weeks between September and November.
It reopened its Shannon base in April, for the summer season, with 14 routes to destinations including Faro, Lanzarote, Malaga, Mallorca, Manchester, London, Warsaw, and Wroclaw, and added a second aircraft in August for the winter season, with new routes to Birmingham, Budapest, Edinburgh, Luton, and Turin.
Earlier this month, shareholders were told at the airline’s AGM that it has raised its five-year growth forecast from 33% to 50%, with its pre-Covid traffic of 149m expected to grow to over 225m by March 2026 — 25m passengers per annum higher than the previous target.
Mr O’Leary said the airline will open 10 new bases across Europe this year, and will take up slot opportunities that are being vacated by competitor airlines who have collapsed or significantly reduced their fleet sizes.
The airline also aims to take delivery of 210 new, more fuel-efficient and quieter B737 Gamechanger aircraft over the next five years, and following the opening of its new €50m aviation training centre in Dublin earlier this month, it plans to create over 5,000 jobs for pilots, cabin crew, and engineers over the next five years.