You may have read or heard recently about the decline of Cork International Airport, so I wanted to write about it here from an expat’s perspective. Like most Americans living in Ireland, the only way I can hug my family is by flying (or taking a ship across the Atlantic). Which usually means Aer Lingus to London or Amsterdam then the long-haul flight to the States. Or a bus to Shannon or Dublin then a flight direct to the States from there. I wrote more about that in a separate post though, but this one is about what I love and don’t love about Cork Airport and how I hope with all my heart the DAA starts acting in Cork’s best interests.
Disclaimer: This post is entirely a rambling rant with my opinions spread out like a cheese platter. As opinions go, they are entirely my own. You might not agree with me. But that’s ok. Just be polite about disagreeing with me because this blog is all-ages-appropriate and any comment with spicy language will be removed, which is rotten because that goes against all my beliefs in free speech. But honestly, I’d love to hear your thoughts. This is too big an issue for just one opinion or idea, it will take a lot of support, creativity, and dedication to resolve this. And talking about issues is a great way to raise awareness and get things done.
What I love about Cork Airport:
I LOVE that Cork is pleasant, well-run, efficient [for an airport], clean, and drama-free. Like the Christmas Eve 2008 when we had NO queue at security and breezed through duty-free with a whiskey tasting. Two years later, we were in Dublin Airport and it was madness, but Cork remains efficient, even when busy. The gates are close together within the terminal, there are food options (including two pubs, a cafeteria, a fast-food option, and a coveted Cork Coffee Roasters). It is close to the city, making it accessible by taxi and the bus, which I’ve never seen but heard it exists.
What I don’t love about Cork Airport:
I’ve expressed my love of Cork Airport, but it has its limitations. Two big ones that they see as cost-avoidance measures, but might open up a lot of business.
- The Airbridges/Jetways are not used in Cork Airport.
- Limited flights and constant proverbial carrot dangled that transatlantic flights will be added.
- Reliance on Dublin and Heathrow for major destinations.
Not only does Cork Airport have limited options, but those limitations cost travellers valuable hours and money because DAA’s Cork leadership limits choices, whether by ineptitude, cheapness, or plan.
Is Dublin the favourite child of the DAA and Aer Lingus?
During the 2010 Eyjafjallajökull eruptions in Iceland, anyone traveling in or around Europe experienced some kind of delay or at least a great deal of concern. I’ll gloss over most of my experiences and just tell you about the return flight. We were delayed (photo of departures board at LHR above) in London and the flight to Cork (aka, where we live) was cancelled. The Aer Lingus desk informed us that we could take the flight to Dublin instead. With our American accents that must have seemed very touristy to her, we explained we had a ticket for Cork and needed to get there. She gestured to a map of Ireland and said it was very close and we could take a train or a bus at our expense. We arrived at Kent Station in Cork and saw online that a London to Cork flight was about to land. I understand the volcanic ash determined a lot that month, but did their interest in sending Cork passengers to Dublin instead speak more to the airline’s mission to make Dublin a priority in general?
Does Dublin think Cork doesn’t know how to do its job?
My first visit to the States after moving to Ireland, I booked my flight via Dublin. That was back when there were flights between Cork and Dublin. I bought my duty-free alcohol in Cork because I wasn’t sure how much time I’d have to shop between flights and was assured that one connecting flight would be fine for the purchase to be carried on in the sealed bag. The cashier followed the duty-free rules and clearly displayed the receipt which proclaimed the bottle purchased the day of my journey. All sorted. Until I land in Dublin and need to go through security again. They confiscate the bottle, telling me I can’t bring my own alcohol. I explain it is duty-free from Cork. I wave my boarding pass from that flight. I gesture to the sealed bag with enclosed receipt. They lecture me on the rules I’ve broken. The American behind me is really upset at the prospect that I might lose my expensive bottle of whiskey. I wait patiently because I had faith in Cork Airport’s helpful and knowledgeable staff. I pointed to the receipt repeatedly, and one of the times it stuck and they said it was ok. Excellent! But a waste of time to watch them fumble around and threaten confiscating.
DAA Selfishness or Sabotage – Conspiracy Theory:
Cork is the second-largest city in the Republic. It has a €120million new terminal, a perfectly functional old terminal, and a pleasant atmosphere with helpful people working there. Little stress, no drama, decent pub, and great natural light. It is a pleasure to travel via Cork Airport (aside from their not using the lovely airbridges/jetways). Yet, unless you are just popping over to a nearby European destination, Cork airport is just the opening act. It is not reaching its potential because the managing authority is not based in Cork! And increasing Cork’s flights, especially ones to new destinations not serviced by Dublin Airport or adding flights to destinations that are booming via Dublin would not be in the DAA’s home base’s best interests, so they’re just letting Cork stay quiet and lovely and letting it be a cute little €100-million airport serving far fewer customers than it could.
The Dublin Airport Authority is running the show and if their guidance of the Shannon Airport is any indication, maybe they’re not ready to be in charge of more than themselves. Though in January 2008 Deputy Paul Connaughton expressed a belief that it might be something more deliberate than mismanagement or miscommunication:
The decision smacked of unfair trading and insider knowledge to ensure the issue was handled in such a way that there was no hope for Shannon Airport. It was national sabotage. The DAA representatives did not come out of it with clean hands because, as the bosses of Shannon Airport, they had the information.
Read the entire Joint Committee on Transport Debate between State Airports: Discussion with Dublin and Shannon Airport Authorities (Wednesday, 16 January 2008): http://debates.oireachtas.ie/TRJ/2008/01/16/00003.asp
What I think Cork International Airport needs in an ideal world:
- Become independent from DAA (like Shannon did)
- Lease RyanAir the old terminal
- Better communicated city-airport bus system (let’s draw up maps not just timetables, people!!!)
- Make use of the airbridges/jetways (walkways between airport and plane) which opens up accessibility to those in wheelchairs as well as staying dry/warm.
- Make it possible to allow for the size/weight of larger planes thereby allowing regular year-round direct transatlantic flights. At the moment, it takes seven (7) hours to fly from Shannon to Boston or from Dublin to Boston, but eleven (11) hours from Cork to Boston because of the plane switch at Heathrow (12 hours if switching planes in Amsterdam).
Let’s put the International in its name to work for ORK.
What do you think?
Here are links to press articles and other informational sites about Cork Airport:
More than a million fliers bypass €120m Cork Airport | Irish Independent
Cork Airport: Biggest queue is just three deep | Irish Independent
Cork Airport working to reverse numbers decline | Cork Independent
Cork Airport needs independence from Dublin | Cork Independent
RyanAir and Cork’s Old Terminal news:
Ryanair say movement is needed to lower Cork Airport Charges | Evening Echo
Ryanairs boss says he can solve Cork Airports woes (2010) then DAA makes Dublin more attractive so O’Leary offers €350m for Dublin terminal (2012)
DAA, Shannon Airport, and Cork Airport:
Cork Airport is driving the region forward | Cork Independent
Cork Airport | Official Website
My previous ORK related blog posts: