Wednesday, 25th June 2014
- Cork Airport Development Council should be given the remit to contribute to a long term plan for Cork Airport.
- Speaking in the Dáil on the State Airports (Shannon Group) Bill, 2014.
The establishment of a new high level stakeholder body, the Cork Airport Development Council, is a positive move for Cork Airport. But the expertise on this group should be harnessed to develop a comprehensive long term plan for the development and growth of the airport.
The Development Council provides a forum for senior stakeholders from a range of sectoral and geographic backgrounds who have an interest in the development of Cork Airport to engage with management at the airport and to help contribute to traffic and route growth. That this group has representatives from organisations such as Fáilte Ireland, the Cork Chamber of Commerce and EMC among others will ensure that local views will contribute to the future development of the airport so that it meets the tourism and business needs of the region. If this impact of this input is to be maximised then it must feed into a formalised long term plan.
The first item that this group should focus on is expanding the air connectivity available from Cork. In looking at this a priority must be developing air links with key international hubs with flights at times that suit businesses. We must protect and develop key routes such as Heathrow, Gatwick, Amsterdam, Paris, Frankfurt, Munich and Rome, but perhaps more importantly an air link to Dublin.
Having this range of flight options ensures that passengers using Cork Airport, for both business and tourism, can get direct flights to key international hubs which enable them to link to destinations across the globe. Focussing on these routes will enable Cork businesses to grow and expand internationally. This will benefit the language schools in Cork, third level colleges including UCC and CIT, the many leading international businesses that operate from Cork and all of those involved in the tourism sector. These groups and businesses would be able to market Cork to a wider audience as a destination for business and tourism.
Regrettably the challenges facing Cork airport are compounded by the high level of debt that the airport carries. All parties involved in Cork Airport must continue to explore ways to reduce the debt levels it is carrying. Reducing this burden will allow the airport to reduce prices and attract airlines. Unless the debt is reduced the ability of the Airport to reach its full potential will not be delivered.
I hope that that the Development Council will be the catalyst the will enable Cork Airport to grow so that it can reach its full potential. And I hope that the input of people from outside of the DAA group will facilitate a detailed consideration of how to restructure the debt at Cork Airport so that it does not continue to be a heavy weight preventing the airport attaining its obvious potential.