Allow expansion of flights to Cork to ease the burden on Dublin Airport, industry boss says

The Cork-based boss of the Irish Travel Agents Association is calling on the daa – which operates and manages Cork and Dublin Airports – to “share the love” and allow the expansion of flights to Cork and other regional airports, to meet the pent- up demand among holidaymakers.

Pat Dawson, CEO of the ITAA and founder of Dawson Travel in Cork, is calling on the government to put a limit on the flight capacity of Dublin Airport, and spread the load of heavily booked flights to other regional airports.

“Flights are very, very heavily booked at the moment…The pent-up demand we’ve been all talking about since the impact of Covid certainly came through. Cork and other regional airports will need to expand in 2023, and the daa will have to look at spreading the love, because we can’t have 85% of the flying capacity in one airport for all sorts of reasons – never mind delays and whatnot , but also for economic reasons,” he said.

However, Kevin Cullinane, daa Group Head of Communications, said it is “not as simple” as transferring business from Dublin Airport to Cork Airport.

“Regional airports such as Cork Airport may well have spare facilities and capacity, but it is extremely important to note that Dublin Airport does not dictate the route network of airlines.

“It is the airlines themselves that decide where they want to fly from and when. Airlines alone make these commercial decisions concerning their route network and they do so based on purely economic factors,” he said. The ITAA’s Quarterly Survey for the second quarter of this year shows that holiday bookings are on the rise.

Over 10% of travel agents experienced a rise in bookings from April to June compared to the same period in 2019. 55% of travel agents surveyed cited an increase in turnover in the second quarter, and over one in five saw bookings rise.

Mr Dawson said that introducing more airlines to Cork Airport could maintain healthy competition for customers and keep flight prices lower for the consumer, another reason to disperse flight capacity outside of the capital.

Mr Dawson said: “Dublin Airport has 300 flights a day flying out, Cork doing well might have 30 or 35 flights a day. It’s just a crazy imbalance for tourism.”

Cork Airport communications manager Barry Holland, said the Airport’s Aviation Business Development Team is constantly engaged with existing and prospective airline partners to enhance connectivity:

It must be noted that the introduction of new routes is ultimately a decision for airlines. Airlines make these decisions on a purely commercial basis, factoring in route viability, passenger demand and yield.”

Mr Holland highlighted recent route announcements such as Rome and Newcastle, which bring the number of routes on offer from Cork this year to 42 – a “marked recovery” post-pandemic towards the largest number of destinations ever available from the airport which was 52 in 2019

The 2022 passenger traffic projection for the airport was recently revised upwards from 1.8m to 2.1m, on the back of very strong demand for services along with recent route announcements by Ryanair.

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