CORK Airport and other regional airports remain the 'poor relation' of the aviation industry as Dublin still handles 86% of passengers travelling to and from Ireland.
South Ireland MEP Deirdre Clune, a member of the EU Transport committee, has called for a more regionally balanced approach at the Airports Council International (ACI) annual regional airports conference in Cork.
“Our secondary airports like Cork drive investment, growth, tourism and keep rural Ireland connected. We must see them for what they are: resources for communities in rural areas,” she said.
It also emerged last week that the number of air traffic movements at Cork airport declined last month.
Figures from the Irish Aviation Authority shows the volume of air traffic in Irish airspace increased by 5.5% in April 2017 compared to the same month last year.
The majority of this was directed towards Dublin Airport, with an 8.2% drop in commercial flights to Cork.
Flights at Cork Airport also declined the previous month, by 6.2% when compared to March 2016.
This drop in air traffic is likely to be related to the cancellation of a City Jet flight to London City last June.
However, experts say numbers on board flights are important when it comes to getting an accurate reading of performance.
Cork Airport recently reported a 6% increase in the number of passengers.
We need to ensure secondary airports like Cork are connected to Europe's main hubs, Ms Clune said.
“900 million air passengers a year travel to, from, and within the European Union annually. Europe’s secondary airports account for over 260 million passengers per annum," Ms Clune said, adding that air traffic in Europe will nearly double by 2030.
"That’s a big opportunity for rural Ireland to connect with these people.”
Several new routes are due to start in the coming weeks, with flights to North America with WOW Air are due to begin flying from Friday.