A Cork senator has called for increased levels of support for Cork Airport and says the facility needs to be presented as a genuine alternative to Dublin Airport going forward.
The comments, from Jerry Buttimer, come after Junior Minister Hildegard Naughton highlighted in the Dáil how international air passenger traffic had dropped at the airport by 97%.
Ms Naughton said that international air passenger traffic had collapsed due to Covid-19 and that “the Irish aviation sector is currently experiencing its most challenging crisis, more severe than 9/11, or the global financial crash.”
Mr Buttimer sits on the Oireachtas Transport Committee. He said Cork Airport needs to be presented as a genuine alternative to Dublin Airport.
“We must make sure that in a post-Covid era, that the Daa has the flexibility and the support of the Government to increase passenger numbers and routes, but also to make sure there is an alternative to Dublin.
“Cork Airport is the catalyst for securing jobs. It is that hub that secures connectivity. It is also huge for the whole region. It is important we present Cork as a big alternative to Dublin. We can’t funnel everything through Dublin. We need to progress transatlantic and new route developments in Europe. This will help negotiate new contracts,” he said.
The Cork senator also said the Government has to ensure the long-term future of the airport is secure.
“The airport has always demonstrated its worth to Cork. We need to put in place a recovery plan for the tourism and aviation sector. The Government has to ensure that the viability and the long-term future of Cork Airport are secure. The three most prominent members of the Cabinet are from Cork. They have a moral duty to safeguard the future of Cork Airport. We must also ensure it has the flexibility to negotiate.”
Cork Airport’s head of communications Kevin Cullinane said that the only service operating out of Cork Airport at present is the Aer Lingus service to Heathrow which operates three times a week.
“There are no services operating on the other four days. It is unprecedented,” he said.
Mr Cullinane said the vaccination rollout provides employees in the aviation industry with confidence.
“The vaccination rollout gives us a glimmer of hope. Everyone is hoping that it can be accelerated.
“It will be a very slow and gradual recovery for our sector. We will stay focused and look to reboot and regrow our business when international travel can safely reopen again.”