Published on October 31st, 2020 | by Alan Dwyer0
Bleak Outlook Over Next Few Weeks at Irish Airports
With the news that Ryanair was cutting their services across their network and the closure of the Cork and Shannon bases from the end of October, passenger numbers at Irish airports will see another dramatic fall in the coming weeks. Ireland West Airport in Knock will close for four weeks commencing 14th November as there will be no commercial flights serving the airport during this period.
In recent weeks, services have been cut back due to the ending of the summer schedules and with forward bookings continuing to be weak airlines are having to make the decision to reduce services and park aircraft. Just last Wednesday, 28th October, Knock had no commercial flights, Cork airport had just six commercial flights, Shannon had no passenger services, Kerry only had the PSO (Public Service Obligation) flight to Dublin while Dublin Airport had just 144 movements which also included Cargo flights, Business Jets, Delivery flights and Medical flights along with operations by the Coast Guard helicopter.
Speaking this week, Niall MacCarthy, Managing Director at Cork Airport said “The news that Ryanair will be cancelling all flights from Cork Airport for a four week period from mid-November to mid-December is a further body blow to the Irish aviation industry and to Cork and the South of Ireland in particular. The Irish aviation ecosystem is already extremely weakened and fragile and each blow delivers further incremental damage. It is acknowledged that as an island nation with an open economy we have to learn to co-exist with this virus for quite some time yet. In that regard, we welcome the Irish Government’s adoption of the EU traffic light system from 8th November. However, a low cost, scalable, results pre-departure testing regime needs to form the backbone of the return of confidence in safe air travel. The mechanisms and protocols for this are yet to be agreed in Ireland and this is beyond urgent now. We still expect at this stage to have between 14 and 18 flights per week with KLM and Aer Lingus serving Amsterdam and Heathrow during the period 15th November to 5th December. In addition, we plan, with Government support, to continue to provide services for search and rescue flights, coastguard helicopter, Garda helicopter, Irish Aer Corps, Medical evacuation (medevac) and transplant flights. However our passenger numbers for November this year are likely to be 9,000 versus 172,000 in the same month last year, a decrease of 95%.”
Also, speaking about the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the Irish aviation scene, John Mulhern, Chief Executive Officer of Kerry Airport said “Ryanair have confirmed cancellation of all it’s Irish regional airport flights for at least 4 weeks from mid November. This announcement unfortunately affects Kerry Airport despite the losses we and all the regional airports have tried to absorb in our valiant efforts to keep some routes active. Their decision came as no surprise to many, including myself. Like other businesses this relentless wounding continues to pile pressure on our resolve and our future existence. The precise contributing factors to diminished bookings however are up for debate as once again Europe is blanketed in virus transmission and people seem uncomfortable with flying to anywhere that might put their own or others health at risk, whether they have a negative test result themselves or not. Flying itself is intrinsically safe, it’s the place one is going to or coming from and the reliability of rapid screening where the issues may lie. For me it is a battle everyday to find balance between the commercial instinct to drive up passenger numbers by whatever means and the need to protect our vulnerable population, frontline staff and finite healthcare facilities. Particularly now as we must again endure Winters inevitable inpatient-bed pressures in the midst of a 2nd surge of SARS-CoV-2.”
Aer Lingus will also be reducing services and suspending routes from Dublin during November with Italian, German and Spanish routes all being suspended. Reductions on the Dublin – Amsterdam, Dublin – Paris CDG and Dublin – Birmingham from eight down to five per week, Dublin – Manchester down from nine to five per week. The Aer Lingus services from Dublin, Cork and Belfast City to London Heathrow will reduce from a combined 53 services to 33 per week. Transatlantic services to Boston, JFK and Chicago will each retain a daily service as these help maintain the cargo links for Irish trade.
With the continuing Level 5 lockdown in Ireland and the restrictions being placed across European countries, numbers are not likely to see any increase in the weeks ahead. It is hoped that these measures taken by government will allow Ireland’s economic activity reopen and allow Irish people travel over the Christmas holidays to see family and friends.