Cork airport is set to receive an additional €13.7 million in operational and capital funding supports from the Department of Transport under a revised €80 million funding package for Irish aviation.
The Government has decided to provide an extra €48 million in supports for 2021, in addition to the €31.3 million announced in Budget 2021.
The total of €22 million for Cork and Shannon airports is in addition to the €10m in capital funding announced in Budget 2021.
For the smaller regional airports of Knock, Kerry and Donegal, in addition to the €21m in funding available under the Regional Airports Programme for 2021, further operational support of €6m will be made available.
The funding package will also include an Airport Charges Rebate Scheme for January to March 2021, subject to State Aid approval from the EU Commission.
This is one of the recommendations made by the Task Force for Aviation Recovery and, at an estimated cost of €20m, will support the retention of core connectivity through the Winter season.
Minister for Transport Eamon Ryan said that the Government is “fully alert” to the devastating impact of the global pandemic on international travel and “values the critical role that aviation plays in the Irish economy”.
He said that it may be some time before it is possible to permit a large scale return to air travel, but that the Government “remains committed to ensuring that the aviation sector can maintain the necessary core capability to retain strategic connectivity and to quickly rebound when circumstances allow”.
Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Michael McGrath, said that it is “vital” for the country’s economic progress to have a strong aviation sector.
He said that the additional funding “represents an investment in a sector that is strategically important for Ireland’s recovery”.
Managing Director at Cork Airport, Niall MacCarthy, welcomed the fuding for the airport which is ordinarily the second busiest airport in the State.
“Engagement and action by the Government in terms of funding for our sector is very welcome and appreciated,” he said.
Mr MacCarthy said that the aviation sector has been “extremely hard hit by the Covid-19 pandemic” and that the airport’s business is less than one-twentieth of what it was last year.
He said that although the airport has “a long journey to travel” as it seeks to regrow its network and become an engine of growth for the south of Ireland economy once again, that the funding is “strongly welcome”.
“This week has seen some green shoots internationally, including the adoption of the new EU traffic light system which is the first step in what we hope will be a move towards a wide scale safe resumption of air travel within Europe. We are grateful for this support from Government as we start on that process,” he said.
Fianna Fáil TD for Cork East James O’Connor welcomed the revised €80 million funding package, and in particular the Department of Transport’s decision to provide a further operational and capital funding supports of €22m for Cork and Shannon Airport.
Deputy O’Connor sits on the Transport and Communication Networks Committee and has been advocating for continued investment in the aviation sector during the current pandemic.
He said that over 140,000 people are employed in the aviation sector alone with many more employed in the tourism industry making it a “vital sector to our economy”.
Cork Senator and member of the Oireachtas transport Committee Jerry Buttimer said the allocation of funding will allow Cork Airport to remain open, carry out infrastructure works and to plan for the future and “further outlines the importance of Cork Airport to the southern region”.
However, he said that he still believes that “the task force for aviation recovery should be reconvened to assist in the future direction of the aviation sector”.
Cork North Central TD Pádraig O'Sullivan said that the funding will “support the future of Cork Airport and with it provide some security for the many people working there”, calling it “a great result” for Cork and for aviation.
Cork North West TD Aindrias Moynihan said that the airport is “essential” for the continued prosperity of the county on the national stage and that he will continue to work with Minister Eamon Ryan to ensure Cork Airport is prioritised.
Meanwhile, a spokesperson for Ryanair said that the Government’s announcement of an airport rebate scheme for a duration of three months “will not be sufficient to reverse the traffic collapse suffered by Irish aviation and tourism this year”.
"Three months of rebates does not go far enough. We urge Minister Ryan to adopt the Aviation Task Force recommendation to fund airport rebates for a period of three years,” the spokesperson said.
Cork Airport was recently hit with the news that Ryanair was grounding all of its flights at Cork Airport from November 4.
CEO of Ryanair Eddie Wilson publicly confirmed the decision to pull all flights from both Cork and Shannon airports for a four-week period at a meeting of the Committee on Transport and Communications Networks on October 28.
He said that the decision was made because “there are no passengers” but told the committee that Ryanair will “put on extra flights if there is sufficient demand to bring people home for Christmas” and will operate flights in and out of Cork and Shannon from mid-December for the Christmas period.
Cork Airport still expects at this stage to have between 14 and 18 flights per week with KLM and Aer Lingus serving Amsterdam and Heathrow during the period from November 15 to December 5.