Published on June 12th, 2016 | by Jim Lee


Good start to Summer at Cork as passenger numbers soars but transatlantic service proves elusive

According to the latest statistics released by the management of Cork Airport on 7th June, passenger numbers at the Airport are continuing on an upward trend, showing further growth of 9.6% in May, compared with the same month last year.

Year-to-date passenger numbers at the airport are up 8.4%. Growth is projected to continue through the summer months into the autumn, as Cork Airport benefits from additional traffic on new summer services, including Düsseldorf with Aer Lingus, Madrid twice weekly, Saturday and Wednesday, with Iberia Express (IB-3638/9) from 18th June and Leeds (EI-3760/1) and Southampton (EI-3740/1) with Aer Lingus Regional.

The inaugural Cork – Düsseldorf (EI-830/1) rotation took place on 1st May, operated by Airbus A320 EI-DVE.

New Aer Lingus service to Dusseldorf

The inaugural Cork – Düsseldorf (EI-830/1) on 1st May, operated by Airbus A320 EI-DVE receiving the traditional water canon salute from Cork Airport’s Fire Service.

In a comment, Niall MacCarthy, Managing Director, Cork Airport said: “I’m delighted with the growth figures for May and year-to-date, which confirm we’ve had over 60,000 additional passengers so far in 2016 versus the same period last year. Based on anticipated bookings and capacity looking ahead, we are forecasting total passenger numbers of 2.25 million people travelling through Cork Airport this year. This will be an increase of 8% over 2015 numbers.”

Passenger numbers are up across all markets with a 15.5% increase on routes to and from Southern Europe; London routes are up 10.2%, UK Provincial routes are up 5.0% and Northern European routes up 2.2%.

Kevin Cullinane, Head of Communications, Cork Airport added: “It’s visibly busier. We have more new routes this summer than last with greater frequencies and passengers are voting with their feet to fly from Munster’s friendliest and most connected international airport. We see it every morning from 04:00 once the overnighting aircraft get ready to depart. Our first departure is at 06:00 and it is noticeably busier through the early morning wave of departures. We’re seeing more flights and more passengers. These are positive indicators of a very busy summer season ahead at Cork Airport.”

A detailed breakdown of the figures for the first five months is shown in the following table:-

Cork traffic figures January – May 2016
Year Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jan-May
2016 125,362 132,377 162,212 171,647 208,022 799,620
2015 117,506 121,150 141,999 167,509 190,045 738,209
Difference 7,856 11,227 20,213 4,138 17,977 61,411
% 6.7% 9.3% 14.2% 2.5% 9.5% 8.4%

Cork Airport upgrades with latest Skidata® Parking Technology

Cork Airport has recently contracted Advanced Parking Solutions to upgrade all its car parks, (totalling 11 entry lanes and 9 exit lanes), with the latest Skidata® Parking Logic software platform that manages 18 Power Gates, within the public car parks, two Lite gates for staff parking and 11 Easy Cash automatic pay stations. As part of the modernisation programme, the Skidata® system was installed onto a new virtualised IT network, within the car park environment, to ensure resilience and security, as well as for fast data and voice communication transfer.

Cork car park project team

Cork Airport Project Team (L to R) Darran Dineen (IT Service Delivery Manager), Bernard Dooling (Car Park Manager), Harry O’Sullivan (IT), Paul O’ Donovan (Car Parks) and Conor O’ Driscoll (IT Business Relationship Manager).

The new Skidata® system has been integrated with Advam’s pre-booking system and also offers 2D/QR barcode reading on all public entry and exit Power gate columns, to allow future ticketless access technologies.

“This was a great example of teams from across the business coming together to deliver a quality product that has a direct impact on the public’s perception of Cork Airport. Car parks tend to be the first and last touch point with the airport for a lot of the travelling public and are hugely important in ensuring a positive customer experience,” said Conor O’ Driscoll, IT Business Relationship Manager at Cork Airport.

Phase 2 of the system upgrade will include integration with Advam chip and pin credit card payment at all pay stations, as well all public entry and exit lanes with chip/contactless credit card payments.

Intensive lobbying fails so far to secure transatlantic service for Cork

Cork Airport Managing Director Niall MacCarthy has welcomed comments from Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Shane Ross TD, calling on the US Department of Transport to confirm its tentative decision to grant a permit to Norwegian Air “as soon as possible”.

Norwegian last year announced plans for low-cost flights from Cork Airport to Boston in 2016, followed by New York in 2017. The airline is also looking at further transatlantic flights from Shannon Airport in the future. Norwegian still hopes to start transatlantic flights from Cork Airport later this year, once the US Department of Transportation has awarded a foreign carrier permit to the airline’s Irish-based subsidiary Norwegian Air International (NAI).

Addressing the International Air Transport Association (IATA) 72nd Annual General Meeting (AGM) and World Air Transport Summit, at the RDS in Dublin on 2nd June, the Minister spoke about the importance of the airline industry moving with the times and market forces. “Without the foresight of the policy makers in the past, international civil aviation would be nothing like it is today. As the global debate continues on the further liberalisation of international aviation, it is apparent that there are interests on both sides of the Atlantic that would like to reverse the process,” he said.

He went on; “It is unfortunate that the Norwegian Air Group, a relatively small new entrant to the transatlantic market, appears to have fallen victim to this wider global debate.

“The airline is already providing new routes at low-cost between places on both sides of the Atlantic that have never had transatlantic services before. The Irish airline within the group also wants to provide such services: for example, the Cork to Boston route that was due to commence last month. However, the Irish airline has been unable to start operating these services because it is still waiting for a permit from the US authorities.”

Expressing his disappointment at delays in the process to grant permission to NAI to operate the transatlantic route from Cork to the Leaders of the global air transport industry gathered at the event, the Minister added: “To my knowledge, this is the first time since the EU-US Open Skies Agreement came into force in 2008, that an airline has announced new transatlantic services to the travelling public, but has been unable to operate the services due to delayed government approval. Clearly this is not in the interests of the many people in the Cork and Boston regions that are looking forward to using the new service.

“The EU-US Open Skies Agreement has been a huge success and is an example to the rest of the world of the benefits of open skies. It has been good for airlines, passengers and wider EU-US economic and social relations.”

The Minister concluded: “I look forward to US authorities confirming its tentative decision to grant a permit to the Irish airline as soon as possible. Such competition is exactly what the Agreement was designed to achieve when it was put in place nearly a decade ago.”

Meanwhile, according to the airport, there is strong public support for Norwegian’s plans for low-cost transatlantic flights from Cork Airport, new polling released on 1st June, has revealed. In the new polling, carried out by leading Irish research company Red C, a nationally representative sample of 1,004 adults aged 18+ across the Republic of Ireland, were asked about their views on the planned new flights. The polling sample also included approximately 280 Munster residents.

Results from the Munster residents polled reveal that:

  • 58% said they were aware of Norwegian’s plans for new US flights from Cork and Shannon
  • 96% felt that it was important to have US routes from Cork and Shannon Airports
  • 89% felt that a low-cost offering on transatlantic routes is needed in the Irish market

More than three-quarters (82%) of Munster residents said that, if they were to fly to Boston or New York in the next 12 months, they would use Norwegian’s proposed services from Cork.

The polling results across the broader nation-wide sample of 1,004 adults also revealed strong support throughout Ireland for the planned new flights. Results from the nation-wide polling across the Republic of Ireland reveal that:

  • 86% felt that it was important to have US routes from Cork and Shannon airports, with 64% agreeing strongly
  • 86% felt that a low-cost offering on transatlantic routes is needed in the Irish market, with 68% agreeing strongly
  • More than half (56%) of all Irish residents polled said that, if they were to fly to Boston or New York in the next 12 months, they would use Norwegian’s planned services from Cork or Shannon.
Norwegian CEO Bjorn Kjos

Norwegian CEO Bjorn Kjos

In a comment on the poll results, Norwegian CEO Bjorn Kjos said: “Our plans for low-cost transatlantic flights from Cork have already received widespread support from the Irish Government, aviation authorities, airports and travel groups – this new polling now reveals that the new flights also have broad public support, with passengers keen to benefit from affordable, direct new routes.

“As we await a final decision from the US authorities, this polling is a timely reminder that the views and needs of passengers should be put first. We are confident the US Department of Transportation will approve Norwegian Air International’s application, creating new jobs, more competition and affordable fares to consumers on both sides of the Atlantic.”

Mr. MacCarthy, Managing Director at Cork Airport added: “The research carried out by Norwegian reinforces our long held view that transatlantic services will be a hugely positive asset to our route network at Cork Airport and there is a strong demand for these to start as soon as possible. Low cost transatlantic services from Cork will shake up the Irish marketplace and increase the choice, options and competition for consumers on both sides of the Atlantic.

“These new transatlantic services have been a long time coming and we’ve been working tirelessly with Norwegian as well as key stakeholders in Ireland, Europe and the US to get the necessary US Department of Transportation approval. We’d urge the US authorities to make a positive announcement as soon as possible so these historic services to Boston and New York can finally become a reality.”

Earlier, the Mayor of County Cork, Councillor John Paul O’Shea had come out strongly in response to an objection lodged by the Irish Air Line Pilots Association (IALPA), against the granting of a licence to NAI. In a statement he said: “The submission made by IALPA is filled once again with the same previously old misleading claims. The comments made in relation to Norwegian’s alleged use of contract crew has already been refuted repeatedly by the airline on the record and to the satisfaction of Irish and EU authorities. This argument holds no weight at all and is completely unsubstantiated”. He went on “IAPLA has questioned the integrity of our Irish employment laws and that of our publicly elected officials. In Ireland, we have stringent employment legislation in place to protect employees. Norwegian has given written assurances that it will only employ crews from the EU or the US; it cannot be made any clearer and this assurance has been accepted by Government authorities on both sides of the Atlantic”.

He was particularly angry at the claim that local politicians in Cork, “were somehow used as pawns by the airline in the recent General Election,” which he described as, “downright insulting”. “Everyone with an interest in progressing business and tourism in Ireland has been hugely supportive because they can see the benefits as they’re not clouded by protectionist views that are anti-consumer and anti-competitive” he added.

In conclusion the Mayor noted that this process has been going now for two years and “as a result both the local economy here in Cork and Munster, as well as in the U.S., has lost out. It is clear to me from reading the submissions, both in favour and against, that there is no reason, legally or morally; why this route cannot take off as soon as possible the US Authorities finally grant the licence.”

Separately, the Cork Chamber of Commerce, on behalf of the Irish Community, issued a comprehensive and detailed letter to the ‘Friends of Ireland Caucus,’ urging them to show support for NAI’s application for the foreign air carrier permit. This was in advance of a rally planned for Washington D.C. on 12th May by opponents of NAI’s application. The letter urged this group of over 50 US political representatives, with close relations to the Irish diaspora, to support NAI’s application on behalf of the hundreds of thousands of American and Irish consumers and business people who they said would “benefit from new, accessible and affordable flights between our two countries and Europe”.

Norwegian B787 (ref 2764)

Norwegian Boeing 787 Dreamliner

According to Conor Healy, Chief Executive of Cork Chamber, “This letter, signed by key representatives both regionally and nationally, aims to collectively voice Ireland’s strong support for the recent decision by the US Department of Transportation (DOT) to tentatively grant NAI a foreign air carrier permit and to correct the misleading information that has been distributed by opponents of NAI”.

“Opponents of NAI have repeatedly and maliciously impugned Ireland’s aviation safety oversight, regulatory structures and labour protections, and labelled Ireland as a mere ‘flag of convenience’ and the letter clearly corrects this misleading information. This is deeply inaccurate, misleading and simply untrue”.

Mr. Healy stressed, “The opposition to the NAI permit is based on restricting consumer choice and restricting competition and is not on the grounds of safety or labour. Irish safety standards are amongst the highest in the world and only EU and US crews will be employed who will be subject to EU law.”

“Once approved, NAI is committed to commencing operations on two new routes from Cork to Boston in 2016 and Cork to New York in 2017. The Cork-Boston route was due to commence in May and has had to be postponed. This is a highly unfortunate development for our economies and a missed opportunity for US and Irish consumers to enjoy additional connectivity between our Nations”, Mr. Healy went on to say.

“Ireland, being one of the most open economies in the EU, has strong existing trade links to the United States and this relationship has been mutually beneficial for citizens of both countries, with goods and services flowing in each direction. Irish firms continue to invest heavily in the US, and vice versa. Irish owned businesses employ over 100,000 people in the US; similar in scale to the level of employment provided by US owned firms based in Ireland. The trading and investment relationship between our two countries is therefore extensive and positive for both economies”.

“Air transport connectivity between the United States and Ireland is a key component to vibrant economic and tourism development between our two great nations. In the case of NAI’s brand new Cork-Boston route, the ultimate beneficiaries of this air access will be the Irish and US citizens in those regions, as well as the wider economy”.

“We now look forward to reaching a successful final outcome facilitating the first direct transatlantic flights from Cork to Boston, and subsequently to New York”, Mr. Healy concluded. A fully copy of the letter can be found here.

Cork Airport to host ACI Regional Airports Conference

Finally, Cork has been selected as the location to host the ACI Europe Regional Airports Forum in May 2017, following a competitive bid by Cork Airport. The announcement was made at the Airports Council International (ACI) EUROPE Regional Airports 2016 Conference in Vilnius, Lithuania in early May. Next year will be the tenth year of ACI EUROPE’s conference. The exhibition dedicated to regional airports is expected to see hundreds of delegates travel to Cork from across Europe, as the membership of the ACI covers 450 airports in 45 countries, across the continent.

There was other good news for Cork Airport as it was shortlisted once again for the ACI EUROPE Best Airport Awards. The wards will be judged in a number of categories which recognise excellence and achievement across a whole range of disciplines relating to airport operations.

In 2015 Cork Airport was named in the top three in the ACI Europe Best Awards for facilities, retail, security, community relations, customer service and environmental awareness and operations.

Award entries are currently being assessed by a panel of expert judges and key stakeholders. Winners will be announced in front of an audience of 400 Chief Executives and industry leaders as part of the proceedings of the Gala Dinner at the ACI Europe General Assembly, Congress and Exhibition on 21st June 2016 in Athens.

Tags: , ,

About the Author

Jim has had a life-long interest in military matters and aviation. Initially, he fused both of these interests together with a passion for military aviation, initially as a photographer. He has travelled extensively over the years and has been the guest of many European air forces, plus the air forces of the United States, Russia and others throughout the world. His first introduction to journalism coincided with an interest in the civil aviation industry was when he initially wrote for and later edited, ‘Aviation Ireland’, the club magazine of the Aviation Society of Ireland. Jim was a contributor to Flying in Ireland since its inception over 10 years ago and is now a key contributor to this site. He has also contributed items for a number of other aviation magazines and has produced a number of detailed contributions to Government policy documents, most recently the Irish Government’s White Paper on Defence. He is also deeply involved in the local community and voluntary sector and has worked both in local government and central government.

Comments are closed.

Back to Top ↑