Cork Airport is on target to complete the refurbishment of its runway on time and restore passenger numbers to 70 per cent of its peak by the end of next year, Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney has said.
Paying tribute to the management, he said the airport was on schedule to reopen in just over a month’s time. “They are spending a huge amount of money and resources on effectively rebuilding the runway, and they are on schedule to reopen on November 22nd,” he said.
"But I think what is more important in terms of positive news is that they are now predicting they will have 1.8 million passengers through the terminal next year, which is 70 per cent of where they were at their height in 2019. That is a really strong bounce-back for tourism through Cork Airport next year."
The Minister was speaking after a visit to the airport where he was briefed by Cork Airport chief executive Niall MacCarthy on the progress on a €40 million revamp including the refurbishment of the airport’s main runway, Runway 16/34, which closed on September 13th to allow reconstruction work to start.
Open for Christmas
Earlier, Cork Airport head of communications Kevin Cullinane confirmed to The Irish Times that the refurbishment including the installation of new runway lighting will be completed by November 22nd to allow the airport to open in time for the busy Christmas period.
He explained that Cork Airport’s only jet-capable runway was built in 1961 and was originally 1,883m in length but was extended by a further 300m in 1989. Since then it has only undergone significant investment in 1999 when an overlay was put on the original runway.
“Therefore, the pavement on the original runway is now 22 years old and the pavement on the extension is 32 years old and a runway like the one here in Cork, that is in constant use 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 364 days a year, it degrades over time and needs reconstruction,” Mr Cullinane said.
He said the reconstruction of the main runway was originally scheduled to be undertaken over nine months in late 2022 and early 2023 but, with passenger numbers down 97 per cent at the height of the coronavirus pandemic, it made good business sense to fast track the project while the airport was quiet.
“Because of the Covid-19 pandemic, Cork Airport had a unique opportunity to close the runway for a much shorter 10-week period, in a shoulder period after the summer, and get the job done as quickly and efficiently as possible rather than carry out the work over nine months in 2022 and 2023.
“This will save considerable time and money, is much safer in construction and aeronautical terms, and impacts a fraction of the annualised 200,000 passengers we predict in 2021 rather than the 1.8 million we predict for 2022 or the 2.6 million to 2.8 million we would have in a normal year.”
Just last month, Cork Airport received a significant boost when Ryanair DAC chief executive Eddie Wilson announced it is to base two of its Boeing 737-800 series at the airport, resulting in the reopening of 20 Ryanair routes from Cork once the runway reopens for business on November 22nd.
The 20 routes will involve the reintroduction of many routes as well as the introduction of new services from Cork to Birmingham and Cork to Edinburgh which have remained unserved since the collapse of regional airline Stobart Air in June, he said.
Mr Wilson said that Cork Airport and its parent company, DAA, the airport and travel retail group, have worked closely with Ryanair over the last number of months to extend the traffic recovery scheme to the end of October 2022 to incentivise Ryanair traffic at the airport to return to pre-pandemic levels.
“Ryanair has responded by reopening its base and restoring its traffic at Cork in full for summer ’22. This is fantastic news for Cork Airport and the entire southwest region as the restoration of the two-aircraft base at Cork will secure 60 Ryanair jobs and deliver thousands of tourism jobs in the area.”
Among the winter routes that Ryanair plans to resume from Cork are services to Birmingham, Edinburgh, Liverpool, Gatwick, Luton and Stansted in the UK, Gdansk and Poznan in Poland, Lanzarote and Tenerife in the Canary Islands and Alicante and Malaga in mainland Spain.
Next summer Ryanair plans to also operate services from Cork to Bordeaux, Carcassonne in France, Faro in Portugal, Gran Canaria in the Canary Islands, Girona, Mallorca and Reus in mainland Spain and Milan Bergamo in Italy as well the 12 destinations which will resume in winter 2021.