RYANAIR has confirmed that its Cork base will not reopen until Winter 2021 "at the earliest".
The airline said their decision is "due to Cork Airport’s crazy plan to dig up its runway during the months of Sept, Oct & Nov".
In a statement issued today, Ryanair said it will continue to fly to and from Cork Airport, but only with aircraft that are based at other airports, such as London Stansted.
Ryanair criticised the Irish Government’s international travel restrictions, which are imposed on inbound airport and port visitors, while its 300-mile border with Northern Ireland remains open.
The company said: "Micheál Martin’s Government needs to provide a clear roadmap for the recovery of Cork Airport, which in fact, continues to be the most expensive of Ireland’s major airports.
"Ryanair remains committed to Cork Airport and will operate to the airport from bases overseas in S21, and hopes to reopen its base in Winter 2021, if Cork Airport develops a competitive recovery program. As the local TD, An Taoiseach Micheál Martin should be encouraging recovery incentives at Cork Airport, and not further construction work at an airport that is essentially empty."
Responding to the claims by Ryanair Cork Airport said in a statement: "Cork Airport is progressing at pace its critical long-term capital infrastructure programme this year given the decimating impact the COVID-19 global pandemic has had on the aviation industry.
"Management at Cork Airport has been engaged with all its major stakeholders, including Ryanair, in relation to the runway reconstruction and remediation project since last autumn. The majority of our airline customers are strongly in favour of the runway work being done this year.
"This runway reconstruction project is vital for the future of the airport and our aim is to complete with the least possible disruption and at the lowest cost. The reconstruction of the main runway which, when completed later this year, will be a key strategic asset for the South of Ireland for the next 20 years.
"We have consulted more than a dozen other international airports in the UK and continental Europe which have completed similar runway projects in recent years. Airports adopt a range of technical solutions and working windows, but the aim is always the same – to complete the project as quickly and efficiently as possible, using the optimum technical solution, at the lowest cost.
"A number of options are being considered in the context of stakeholder views, with particular regard to the recovery of traffic with our major airline customers. This will be the key determinant to the delivery of these works so that we complete the runway project in the most effective and efficient manner. Public tendering commenced back in November in accordance with EU procurement guidelines for a project of this scale and we plan to be in a position to award the contract in May.
"Cork Airport has been talking to airlines, including Ryanair, in relation to the types of incentive schemes we will offer to enable us to work together to build back our respective businesses.
"We will be tabling a generous incentive scheme, which will once again make charges at Cork Airport cheaper than those at Dublin Airport, to Ryanair and to other customers in the coming days. Charges at Cork Airport have not increased in more than 14 years.
"Cork Airport was the fastest-growing airport in Ireland in 2019 and management is focussed on working with our airlines and partners to secure strong passenger growth post-pandemic."
A Ryanair spokesperson said: “We deeply regret the closure of our Cork base last winter due to the Irish Government’s failed Covid restrictions, which have collapsed air travel at Cork, Shannon and Dublin Airports, even while thousands of Covid cases have been imported across the Northern Ireland border.
"The counties with the highest rate of Covid cases have been consistently been the Border counties, not the counties of Cork, Dublin and Clare, where our main international airports are. NPHET’s policy of targeting our airports while failing to restrict “international travel” across the border with Northern Ireland have done untold damage to Irish air travel and tourism industries."