Niall McCarthy says with new routes and the securing of transatlantic flights, Cork Airport’s future is bright, with a return to passenger growth due in 2016.
THE news that Cork Airport is to get its first transatlantic services has capped a hugely positive three months for the airport and the Ireland South region which it serves.
Today, CityJet begins a new service to London City Airport that will operate 18 times per week, providing significant additional choice and flexibility for customers flying to London.
London is already our most popular destination, as more than 800,000 passengers per year travel from Cork Airport to the English capital. This new route will operate three times per day on weekdays and we expect it to expand the overall Cork-London market.
Business Traveller magazine has said that London City Airport has the world’s best public transport links for an airport, as travellers can be on a light railway train within minutes of landing with easy and rapid access to Central London, the West End, and the London Underground system. London City Airport’s central location also makes Cork and the Ireland South region a much more attractive short-break option for Londoners.
CityJet has already signalled that it is keen to expand further in Cork and we are working closely with them in relation to promoting the new London City service and also examining the potential for other new routes from Cork.
A transatlantic route has long been a target for Cork Airport and the decision by airline Norwegian to launch a new Cork-Boston service from next May will enable the airport to take its rightful place as a transatlantic gateway to the State. Norwegian has also confirmed that it already plans to launch a Cork-New York service in 2017.
Norwegian is planning on operating the Cork-Boston route up to five times per week and it is also planning a new Cork-Barcelona service with similar frequencies from next May.
Given that it serves the Republic of Ireland’s second largest city, a hinterland of 1.2m people in Munster, and has a cluster of US multinationals on its doorstep, it was always a gap that Cork Airport did not have transatlantic connectivity.
Legacy issues relating to Ireland’s aviation history meant that Cork was not able to offer flights to North America in the past, despite having a large population within its catchment area, a strong economic base, and an excellent tourism product.
But Norwegian’s new transatlantic routes sweep away that history and offer Cork Airport and its hinterland a more connected future. Business and leisure travellers will now be able to fly direct to the East Coast of the United States without the need to fly to an overseas hub or travel by road to another Irish airport.
The new Boston service will link Ireland’s second-largest city and the most Irish city in the United States, and is certain to deliver a significant boost to both tourism and trade in the region.
As has been noted by a number of commentators, the advent of transatlantic services is a real game changer for Cork Airport. But it is not the only good news that the airport has had.
Since July, we have seen positive route announcements from Aer Lingus, CityJet as mentioned, Flybe, and Norwegian. These new and expanded services will return Cork Airport to passenger growth in 2016.
Aer Lingus announced recently that it will operate a twice weekly Cork-Dusseldorf service from next May. Germany is the third-largest market for international visitors to Ireland and this new route will boost the number of German visitors to the region and also provide more direct access to the German market for local businesses.
Aer Lingus is also doubling the frequency on its route from Cork to Tenerife this year, which will now operate twice per week this winter. Flybe has also recently doubled frequencies on its new year-round Cork-Cardiff service, and this is proving very popular with Irish fans travelling to the Rugby World Cup games in Cardiff.
New routes can have a long gestation period and we’re continually talking to potential new airline customers and to our existing airlines to see how we can help them grow at Cork. We offer generous discounts on our already low charges for new services and provide award-winning customer service to passengers using Cork Airport, which is a testament to the commitment and professionalism of the staff .
Our airline customers recently named Cork Airport one of the top three airports of our size in the world for route marketing. This bodes well for the future.
Having landed new routes to Boston, Barcelona, Dusseldorf, and London and with New York in the pipeline, we’ll be working hard to help our airline partners sell as many seats as possible on these new services.
Routes normally require a mixture of inbound and outbound passengers to be sustainable. It is, therefore, essential that the entire Ireland South region supports the new routes that we have worked so hard to win to ensure that choice and connectivity at Cork Airport continues to grow.
In terms of inbound, it is important to remember that each business and conference visitor through Cork Airport is worth an injection into the local economy of €1,400 for an average four-day visit, while leisure tourists spend an average of €492. An extra 10,000 business tourists through Cork Airport are worth €14m to the regional economy while an additional 10,000 leisure visitors are worth an extra €5m.
To help Cork Airport win new business for the region we are working in partnership with key stakeholders such as Fáilte Ireland, Tourism Ireland, Cork City Council and Cork County Council, Cork Chamber of Commerce, Cork Business Association, IDA Ireland, the Cork Airport Development Council, the Irish Travel Agents Association, the Irish Tour Operators Association, the Irish Hotels Federation, and the Cork Convention Bureau.
The more regional cohesion we can build, particularly in terms of inbound tourism promotion, the more routes we will be able to secure from airlines and the more visitors will come to Ireland South. Cork Airport is perfectly positioned with the start of the Wild Atlantic Way to the west and the exciting new tourism product, Ireland’s Ancient East to the east. Working with our local stakeholders we are really well located to grow foreign visitor numbers.
Already, the collaborative approach is paying dividends and we are hopeful of further positive announcements in the months ahead.
The long-held dream of transatlantic connectivity for Cork Airport will become a reality next May. This, coupled with the new routes and expansions from CityJet, Aer Lingus and Flybe, marks the beginning of a new chapter for the airport and a platform on which we can build further growth for the benefit of the entire region.
Niall MacCarthy is managing director of Cork Airport
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