The return to growth in Cork Airport’s traffic will end this week, with the airport to shut for 10 weeks on Monday as the runway reconstruction project gets under way. An empty Aer
Lingus aircraft flying to Shannon on Sunday evening will be the last departure until the airport reopens on Monday, November 22.
Kevin Cullinane, spokesperson for the DAA, which operates Cork and Dublin airports, said that whiletraffic is improving at Cork, this remains the best time to carry out the works.
“When the pandemic brought in restrictions, we moved to have this project brought forward,” he said.
“We went to our board and the Government to source funding and began the procurement process. From the time we got a commitment to where we are now is 12 months. Normally a project like this would take at least three years.
“Carrying out the works now, over 10 weeks, will also impact fewer passengers.
Meanwhile airports are reporting a steady return of air traffic and passenger numbers since restrictions on non-essential travel were lifted in July.
New traffic figures also show that in recent days, for the first time since the onset of the pandemic, the average weekly air traffic in Ireland reached 50% of 2019 levels.
More than 500 flights are now operating in and out of Ireland each day. However, data from Eurocontrol shows that despite the steady increase, Ireland remains close to the bottom of the table for returning flight numbers, with countries like Spain, Italy, and France now operating at more than 70% of their 2019 levels of traffic.
Passenger numbers through Cork Airport last month — the first full months since restrictions were lifted — reached 74,000, almost twice the 40,000 that used the airport last August. However, it remains significantly down on the 297,000 passengers who travelled through Cork in August 2019.
In January, when Ireland was impacted by severe Covid infection numbers, Cork Airport had just two airlines operating flights — one Aer Lingus flight to Heathrow and a KLM flight to Amsterdam. Currently, six airlines now operate 20 routes from Cork. Pre-Covid, there were nine airlines operating flights on a total of 50 routes.
Minister of State with the Department of Transport, Hildegarde Naughton, visited Shannon Airport this week to see first-hand the operations since the recommencement of international travel.
There are currently 72 weekly flights operating through Shannon up to the end of October. Aer Lingus, which had ceased all flights through Shannon during the lockdown, has now resumed flights to Heathrow. Ryanair also announced plans recently to base a second aircraft at Shannon.
“Last week alone, passenger numbers were up by approximately 130% on the same period on 2020, and the airport has seen an 84% rise since the lifting of restrictions,” said Ms Naughton.
“While these are encouraging numbers, I am aware that this is only the beginning of recovery for aviation.”
Kerry Airport held its AGM last week where chief executive John Mulhern said passengers were returning in “significant” numbers. Dublin Airport saw almost 1.3m passengers last month, and while the figures show growth, the numbers remain 63% below pre-pandemic