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The debate on the future of Cork Airport has intensified in recent months, reflecting the widespread concern about the continuing decrease in flights since 2009.
There have been calls for the airport to be freed from the debt of the construction of the new terminal and for the old terminal to be reopened.
These well-meaning suggestions are unlikely to have any positive impact on the airport’s fortunes, for the following reasons.
1. Cork Airport is now operating as an independent business within the Dublin Airport Authority and is making an operating profit. It is not servicing any part of the debt, as it’s simply unable to do so. Therefore, providing it with notional debt-free status will not have any impact on its ability to attract new business.
2. There is capacity within the new terminal to cater for double the present throughput of passengers. Opening the old terminal would greatly add to the airport’s cost base, without any guarantee of extra traffic. To the best of my knowledge, no airline has offered to take over the operation of the old terminal, let alone pay for the cost of running it.
If the Government is looking for a solution, it should launch a scheme similar to that operating in the UK. This provides financial assistance for airlines that apply to launch routes from smaller regional airports. It has been a tremendous success, with airlines applying to operate no less than 19 new routes.
Such a scheme would incentivise airlines to open new routes from Cork, Shannon and from the regional airports throughout the country.
If successful, the scheme would be a massive boost for tourism in the regions and reverse the trend of recent years, by which Dublin has grown at the expense of every other airport in the country.
Cllr. Tom O’Driscoll
Cork City Council
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