Published on July 8th, 2015 | by Jim Lee0
Cork Airport’s fight back begins thanks to the ‘coalition of the willing’
Cork airport has been through though times with falling passenger number in recent times and local interests have repeatedly called on the Government, to take measures to halt the decline, which has seen passenger numbers fall by 43,422, or 5.9%, in the first five months of the year, (from 781,631 to 738,209). The Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Paschal Donohoe, has always said that “local support in the region is a crucial component of any initiatives to reverse the current decline”. The development of key niche markets, leading to sustainable new routes, is also essential, particularly from routes that would grow inbound tourists to the Cork region particularly in view of the fact that currently only 37% of Cork Airport’s passengers are inbound. There is also the need for adequate marketing and support.
Cork Airport already has the country’s second largest route network, with flights to 44 scheduled destinations, and excellent links to three European hubs; London Heathrow, Paris Charles de Gaulle and Amsterdam Schipol. In order to build on this, stakeholders across the region have come together to rise to that challenge. In this regard and working together, Fáilte Ireland, Cork City Council, Cork County Council, Cork Chamber of Commerce, Cork Business Association, Tourism Ireland, IDA Ireland, Irish Travel Agents Association, Irish Tour Operators Association, Irish Hotels Federation and the Cork Convention Bureau, as well as others have set about reversing the decline.
Now the efforts of this ‘coalition of the willing’ have paid off, with the announcement of not one, but two new routes, unveiled within the space of a week.
CityJet’s new route to London City
First up was CityJet, who announced on 1st July that was to operate, a new high frequency Cork-London City Airport service. The new CityJet service will operate three times per day from Monday to Friday, with one return flight on Saturdays and two flights on Sundays. The new service will commence on 1st October 2015 with tickets going on sale immediately.
The details of the schedule is as follows:-
The initial schedule from 1st October is valid until 24th October
07.40-09.05 – Mon-Sat 09.35-11.00 – Mon-Sat
11.30-12.55 – Mon/Tue 13.25-14.50 – Mon/Tue
12.20-13.45 – Wed-Sun (excl Sat) 14.15-15.40 – Wed-Sun (excl Sat)
16.10-17.35 – Mon-Sun (excl Sat) 18.05-19.30 – Mon-Sun (excl Sat)
Schedule from 25th October
06.50-08.15 – Mon-Fri 08.45-10.10 – Mon-Fri
08.00-09.25 – Sat 09.55-11.20 – Sat
12.10-13.35 – Mon-Sun (excl Sat) 14.05-15.30 – Mon-Sun (excl Sat)
16.00-17.25 – Mon-Sun (excl Sat) 17.55-19.20 – Mon-Sun (excl Sat)
Speaking at an event to launch the new service, Cork Airport’s Managing Director Niall MacCarthy said: “We’re delighted to welcome CityJet to Cork Airport,” “The announcement of CityJet’s new route to London City Airport is great news for business and leisure passengers alike. With 18 flights per week, this new service provides regular, convenient access right to the heart of the English capital from anywhere in Munster and adds to competition and choice for passengers in a key market,” he added.
He went on “Over eight hundred thousand passengers from the region already travel on our London services each year, making it the most popular destination from Cork Airport, and with the new CityJet service we expect this to increase further in the months ahead. We will also work with our local tourism partners to promote the Munster region to inbound passengers from London and believe that there is great potential for the inbound tourism product particularly inbound golf, conference and similar business”.
The new service further expands on Cork Airport’s route network and will add 3,420 seats each week, from the airport. Acknowledging the co-operation and support from key stakeholders in securing CityJet for Cork Airport, Mr MacCarthy said they were looking forward to working with the airline on the new service.
In response, CityJet’s Executive Chairman Pat Byrne said “We believe the Cork to London City route has significant potential and indications are, as we launch a major marketing and promotional drive, that there are many travellers, both business and leisure, that want to enjoy the fast access and hassle-free experience that London City Airport offers”. Cork has some of the major multinationals in the State and is a location of choice for pharma, healthcare, ICT and biotechnology companies. Its economy continues to thrive and grow and CityJet wants to partner that growth by delivering flights into the heart of London’s financial district. Mr. Byrne added that their experience in operating into and out of London City Airport, is that any passengers who try it, remain on the route. “We are really looking forward to introducing ourselves to Cork and providing customers with a convenient and hassle-free service, with complimentary on-board catering and a generous 23kg free check-in baggage allowance” he added.
CityJet has seen significant growth in its traffic in recent months as it has embarked on a major marketing drive and offers a wide range of fares to suit both business and leisure customers. Last month, CityJet announced a 50% increase in passenger numbers in May year on year on its Dublin to London City route.
Also at the event was Cathal O’Connell, who joined CityJet as commercial director at the end of March. He was formerly with BMI Regional, where he served as chief executive, from 2013. Previous to that he worked at Aer Lingus, Stobart Air and Eastern Airways.
Finally in a comment on the new service, the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Paschal Donohoe said “This new CityJet service from Cork Airport is very welcome, particularly against a background where passenger numbers at the Airport have been falling in recent times. The coming together of all stakeholders in the region to address the decline in passenger numbers is starting to have a positive impact. I see this announcement by CityJet as part of the on-going efforts which must be continued if Cork Airport is to reach its full potential”.
New Aer Lingus route to Düsseldorf
On 6th July, Aer Lingus followed up on the CityJet announcement by confirming that it is to operate a new Düsseldorf service for summer 2016. The new service, which will commence in May 2016, will operate twice weekly on Wednesday and Sunday. In a statement welcoming the announcement of the new route, Mr. MacCarthy noted that Germany is the third largest market for visitors to Ireland and Düsseldorf is also a significant international business and financial centre. He expected that there to be strong demand for this route from both inbound and outbound passengers and expanding connectivity into Germany has been a key target for Cork Airport. Düsseldorf is located in the centre of the Rhine-Ruhr region, Germany’s largest metropolitan area, with a population of about 11 million people.
Unfortunately due to a family bereavement Mr. MacCarthy was unable to attend the launch event which was attended by leading figures from business including Barrie O’Connell President of Cork Chamber of Commerce, Minister Paschal Donohoe, Minister of State for European Affairs and Data Protection, Dara Murphy and other local politicians, Stephen Kavanagh. Chief Executive, Peter O’Shea, Ground Operations Manager and Davina Pratt of Aer Lingus, Kevin Toland, Chief Executive of the daa and leading business and tourism interests.
Speaking at the event Kevin Cullinane, Marketing Manager at Cork Airport said it was a great day for the Airport and the region adding “Aer Lingus put the challenge to us to prove that there is demand for a new Cork-Düsseldorf route and to show it would be properly supported and marketed both here and in Germany. I’m delighted to say Cork Airport, the region and tourism stakeholders rose to that challenge”. He went on to say that they had convinced a number of German tour operators to include Cork in their programme of destinations for 2016 and this helped underline the commitment that there is to this new service in terms of inbound tourism. ”The collaborative model used to win the new Düsseldorf service for Cork has potential to deliver additional new services for the airport and the region” he added.
daa Chief Executive Kevin Toland also welcomed the announcement of the new Aer Lingus Cork-Düsseldorf service. “This is the second new route for Cork Airport announced within the past week, and our team in Cork are continuing to seek out new opportunities with additional services with both existing and new customer airlines,” Mr Toland said. It was “just rewards” for the Cork management team and “a sign of great things to come”.
Minister Donohoe said the announcement by Aer Lingus demonstrates confidence in Cork Airport and signals more positive, and busier, days ahead. “I am aware that key stakeholders in the region have been working very hard to address the decline in passenger numbers at Cork and it is clear that their efforts are paying off”. “Such collaboration is essential if Cork Airport is to maintain its position in what is a very competitive airport market” he added. Speaking again of the ‘coalition of the willing’ who made this possible he said that the new service would add to the many excellent routes available for business and leisure passengers in the Cork region. “Cork Airport management, together with the assistance of the region’s key stakeholders, have worked hard to secure this service it is now up to the community to ensure its success” he concluded. On a personnel note he commended Stephen Kavanagh and the staff at Aer Lingus for the sensitive, compassionate and caring way they handled the tragedy in Berkeley, California, which resulted in the death of six young Irish people and serious injury to seven others. People should not be surprised, as such compassion was in the airline’s DNA and its actions went far beyond commercial and or business decisions.
Aer Lingus Chief Executive Stephen Kavanagh said: “Aer Lingus is proud to be Cork’s largest airline with over 1.26 million guests flying annually to and from the 22 destinations on our network. We are delighted to be able to expand that offering and look forward to working with the airport, the tourism agencies and our other partners in the Munster and Düsseldorf regions to make this new route a success.” Düsseldorf will be Aer Lingus’ second German destination from Cork Airport, as the airline also serves Munich on a year-round basis. Last year, more than 560,000 Germans visited Ireland and growing visitor numbers from Germany is a key target for the Irish tourist industry. Aer Lingus’ commitment to Cork is clear with four based A320s plus two Aer Lingus Regional ATR72s with 270 local Cork employees. Their 22 routes include key Euro hubs such as Heathrow, Paris and Amsterdam as well as other cities such as Barcelona, Brussels, Geneva and Munich. A full range of holiday destinations is complemented by services to six regional UK destinations. So why Düsseldorf, Flying in Ireland, asked Mr. Kavanagh? Firstly he replied, Aer Lingus has a long and good association with the city and secondly the south west of Ireland is underserved from Germany. Düsseldorf airport has the large catchment area of Cologne, Essen and Dortmund and as a significant base for Air Berlin, it offers future code share opportunities. It also has both business and leisure opportunities compared with, say Frankfurt or Berlin, and complements the Munich service. With convenient mid-day flights there has been an immediate demand for over 1,500 seats from the German travel trade.
Germany is the world’s largest outbound tourism market. German visitors to Ireland typically stay an average of almost 10 nights here and almost 10% stay for 15 nights or more. Düsseldorf Airport is Germany’s third largest, handling 21.8 million passengers last year. It has excellent connectivity to the rest of Germany with more than 400 trains per day stopping at one of its two onsite train stations, offering convenient direct mainline trains to many other German cities or a suburban rail option into the city centre.
New co-operative marketing fund announced to further support the regions
At the formal launch of the new service, Minister Donohoe went on to announce that a fund of €1 million was being provided through Tourism Ireland to be used for regional co-operative marketing activities over the next twelve months. The fund will be used to exploit the marketing opportunities presented by new access routes to the gateways to the Wild Atlantic Way and Ireland’s Ancient East, and to maximise the potential of existing services from overseas. Local authorities and local tourism enterprises will be asked to supplement funding available from the Department, via Tourism Ireland, to allow a more significant total amount, which will, in turn, be matched by air and ferry carriers and other overseas tourism partners. This ring-fenced fund will for the first time, allow co-operative marketing of our regional ports and airports.
Minister Donohoe said: “We have ambitious growth targets for Irish tourism which will benefit every part of the country. Our continued strong growth has meant that accommodation and other capacity pressures in Dublin are arising, particularly during the peak summer season. This in turn could limit growth elsewhere as so many use Dublin as a gateway. Fortunately, new tourism propositions like the Wild Atlantic Way and Ireland’s Ancient East provide compelling reasons for our best-prospect overseas visitors to travel throughout the country, and directly access these propositions. While Tourism Ireland already engages in co-operative marketing activity with airlines, airports and ferry providers from its general marketing budget, including directly into the gateways outside Dublin, this is the first time that an allocation to the agency is being ring-fenced for the purpose”.
Minister Donohoe said he would be writing to the relevant airports and ports in the coming weeks inviting them to consult with relevant airlines and ferry operators and then submit proposals through Tourism Ireland for the funding. The funding will be allocated based on those services offering the best inbound tourism potential with the advertising activity likely to take place in the latter part of 2015 and the early months of 2016.