GOVERNMENT talk about balanced regional development and Cork's position as a counterpoint to Dublin has been overshadowed by the latest air travel figures.
Despite the 8% growth of Cork Airport in 2016, its share of the air passengers travelling through the country is dwarfed by Dublin Airport, according to the latest aviation statistics.
Central Statistic Office (CSO) figures show that of the 33m passengers travelling through Irish airports last year, 84.6% travelled through Dublin Airport compared to 6.8% in Cork Airport – the second biggest airport in the State.
An additional 3.1m passengers passed through the country last year compared to 2015 and Dublin picked up a 92% share of these.
While Dublin Airport commands a large proportion of the market, Cork Airport managing director Niall McCarthy said he was happy with growth at Cork.
“We obviously want to grow at as strong a level as we can and we need to put in services that are going to sell. We're very pleased with the growth of 8% and once you're at that level of growth, you are doing well,” he said.
“Dublin is the biggest airport in the island of Ireland, Cork is the second biggest in the Republic, Shannon is the third biggest. Cork is in robust growth,” he added.
Cork Chamber's Conor Healy said the figures represent an opportunity for Cork to make gains with infrastructure issues making Ireland's second airport an attractive alternative to Dublin.
“What we need to ensure is that Cork is in a strong position to compete and to secure new routes and new airlines, and then, that it has the capacity to attract passengers from outside of what's seen as being the traditional catchment area of Cork Airport,” he said.
“The catchment area has potential to spread well up the M8 motorway, towards Dublin and what Cork needs to do is to be able to attract passengers who are now facing challenges in terms of getting to Dublin Airport.
“The M50 is starting to get more congested over the last 12 months, in particular, and I think we need to continue to highlight the offering that Cork has - the ease and the convenience and its reputation as a friendly and very easy airport to get through.
“If we can do that successfully, there's every reason to be optimistic that Cork can start to see passenger growth of numbers that might currently be going to Dublin,” he added.
Cork saw 2.2m passengers use the airport in 2016, a 7.8% increase on 2015 and four times the growth of Shannon Airport.
The only airport in the country that experienced a fall in numbers is Waterford where a 60% dip is accounted for by the cancelling of its only scheduled flight to Luton in the UK.
The busiest month for Cork in 2015 was July with almost 260,000 arrivals and departures, compared to a low in January of just 125,000.
Cork's most popular destinations and arrivals are London's Heathrow and Stansted. Over 390,000 traveled to and from Heathrow last year with nearly 180,000 using the Cork - Amsterdam Schiphol route.