Sunday, December 21, 2014

Airport needs 'independent' status

SINN Fein Cllr Paul Hayes has called on the Minister for Transport and the Dublin Airport Authority to ensure that Cork is granted an independent and duty-free status in order to increase traffic at the once very busy airport.

The  mountain of debt and the declining passenger numbers at Cork Airport is a major cause for concern for the business owners of West Cork, according to Cllr Hayes.

‘Cork has lost a number of routes over the last few years. From a peak of 3.25m passengers in 2008, Cork Airport looks set to drop to 2.1m this year. The loss of the Cork-Dublin route alone made up about half a million in those figures,’ Cllr Hayes told The Southern Star.

With Aer Lingus and Ryanair both dropping a number of routes to and from Cork Airport, Cllr Hayes feels that unless measures are taken now to support the airport as a vital hub for both business and tourist travel into the region, the decline will continue.

‘The crux of the problem here is that Cork is not competing on a level playing field, especially with Shannon. Because Cork is still servicing a €100m debt associated with the construction of its terminal building, management say they can’t afford to offer the same route incentive supports to airlines on offer elsewhere,’ Cllr Hayes continued.

With this level of debt, Cork Airport cannot expect to see growth or an increase in the routes needed to support the very important West Cork tourism industry, he claims.

‘We are trying to promote the area as best we can, to make the most of the Wild Atlantic Way and I know Cork County Council is serious about the promotion of tourism in the county, and I welcome the CEO’s recent announcement to allocate more personnel to the tourism section of the Council. But all of this positive action to promote the county will be lost if the Government and DAA don’t view Cork Airport as a strategic part of the infrastructure and rid it of its €113m debt and allow it to flourish and compete with the other national airports on a level playing field,’ Cllr Hayes continued.

However, Cllr Hayes’ proposal to write to the Minister for Transport, outlining the Council’s concerns, had to be postponed due to time constraints at a recent Council meeting at County Hall.

‘I’m confident that my motion will be supported, having spoken to a number of other members before the meeting. I’m obviously disappointed that my motion was deferred to the next Council meeting due to time constraints, as I was hoping to keep up the momentum of the campaign.’

Cllr Hayes said he would now utilize the time before the next Council meeting to garner more support for his motion and to continue to lobby other elected representatives to highlight the importance of this issue for the future viability of the airport and its importance to tourism and local economy in the region.


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