The reconstructed main runway at Cork Airport has been officially reopened.
And management says that not only has the work been finished on time but also within budget.
The completed work, which aviation authority chiefs say is the fastest large-scale construction project undertaken in the State in recent years, will see flights return again on Monday morning.
Over 430 people were employed in construction and supply jobs, including works on the airfield and runway, as well as in terms of lighting, drainage and ducting.
Taoiseach Micheál Martin officially opened the newly reconstructed main runway at Cork Airport at a ceremony on the runway at the airport today.
The event was also attended by Minister Hildegarde Naughton, Minister of State at the Department of Transport, and senior cabinet members, along with civic and business leaders.
Cork Airport managing director Niall MacCarthy described it as a "brave decision" to undertake the work in the first place, though it had come in for criticism from tour operators, travel agents, and others, who said business was badly affected due to the closure, which was effective from September 13.
There were concerns it would not be completed on time and would impact on Christmas tour operator business.
However, the alternative to get the much-needed work done at the 60-year-old airport was nighttime closures over a 10-month period next year.
The reconstruction has come in on time and under budget.
Part of the decision to do it this year was because passenger numbers in and out of the airport had fallen due to the pandemic.
Despite being Ireland’s fastest-growing airport in 2019, when it had 2.6m passengers, Cork Airport recorded an 80% decrease in passenger numbers in the full year to December 31, 2020, with just 530,000 people using it.
Traffic declined across all destinations, with passenger numbers to and from Southern Europe being hit worst, down 87% year-on-year, while Western Europe was down 80%.
Passengers to and from UK Provincial cities were down by 81% while traffic to and from London decreased by 76%.
But numbers are expected to increase as routes return and new routes open up, such as the new weekly service to Geneva this winter operated by Swiss International Air Lines.
KLM Royal Dutch Airlines is to double its daily service between Cork and Amsterdam Schiphol from next week.
And Ryanair has also announced a €200m investment in Cork Airport and a full recovery of its pre-pandemic passenger capacity with the reopening of its two-aircraft base.
The Taoiseach said the project "future-proofs a critically important strategic asset for Cork, the south-west region, and for Ireland for many years to come".
“The investment by the Government of €10m in this project will ensure continued, essential, connectivity — connecting people and places, families and friends, economies and businesses; with enormous benefits for the city, the wider region and for the country," he said.
Minister Hildegarde Naughton said: “Cork Airport is a key strategic national asset and all of us know the key role Cork Airport plays locally and nationally.
“It has been connecting people, places, families, and businesses for the last 60 years.”
The managing director at Cork Airport, Niall MacCarthy said: “The airport made the brave decision to close completely to undertake the reconstruction works and be delivered in a quicker time, in a safer environment, and with less long-term impacts on airlines and passengers than an alternative of night-time closures next year over a 10-month period next year.
“We are very confident about the future of Cork Airport and, with your support as stakeholders, we will grow this airport back to be an engine of growth for the South of Ireland economy once again.
“We are renowned for our customer service at Cork Airport and from Monday, November 22, nothing will please us more than welcoming our passengers back again.”