Ireland’s #2 airport dominated by Irish carriers flying to UK; Aer Lingus adding Geneva for winter

Image: Soutwest celebration
Air Southwest launched a four times weekly Plymouth – Cork service on 28 April. Pictured celebrating with traditional cream teas are Mike Coombes, Air Southwest deputy chief executive, and Kevin Cullinane, marketing manager, Aviation Marketing Department, Cork Airport.

Cork (ORK) is the second busiest airport in the Republic of Ireland, though with just over three million passengers last year it lags a long way behind Dublin which handled over 23 million. However, thanks primarily to a range of low-cost carriers, passenger numbers doubled between 1999 and 2006. Last year traffic increased by 5.6% to 3.18 million passengers, after growing 10.3% in 2006, and 21.1% in 2005.

Chart: Cork Airport annual passengers 1998 - 2007
Source: DAA

The main driver of growth in recent years has been the increase in passenger numbers to and from continental Europe. After a surge in 2005 the UK market has seen traffic fall in each of the last two years, while domestic traffic has doubled in the last two years.

Chart: Cork airport seasonality
Source: DAA

Cork’s seasonality profile is typical of many European airports with a peak in July/August and demand trailing off either side to reach its lowest point in January.

17 UK airports currently served but not Luton

Image: Natasha Manning and Piotr Jabzonski standing in front of a wizzair plane for a commemorative photo
Wizz Air recently launched flights to Warsaw from Cork. Pictured is Natasha Manning of Cork Airport marketing department making a presentation to Captain Piotr Jabzonski before the inaugural flight. Also pictured are cabin crew Agnieszka Guzik and Marta Szarejko.

A total of 17 UK airports are served from Cork. On routes to Birmingham and Manchester there is even competition as both Aer Lingus and bmibaby offer flights. London is well served by Aer Lingus (35 weekly departures to Heathrow), Ryanair (20 to Stansted and seven to Gatwick). Curiously there are no flights to London Luton.

Last December Ryanair began two new services to the UK when they commenced daily flights to East Midlands and Glasgow Prestwick. However, it has recently been announced that both of these routes will cease at the end of October.

In passenger numbers, the top UK routes last year were London Heathrow (470,000), London Stansted (305,000), Birmingham (123,000), London Gatwick (117,000) and Liverpool (92,000).

Irish airlines dominate scheduled services

Image: Two female air stewards holding up model planes, with two older gentlemen in the background.
In June, Aer Arann and Aer Lingus signed an Interline Agreement that allows customers to directly connect to Aer Lingus transatlantic services from Cork Airport. Dermot Mannion, chief executive, Aer Lingus, said: “This agreement creates a natural synergy between Aer Lingus and Aer Arann, offering customers in the Cork market greater accessibility to the USA. The streamlined booking process allows customers to book flights on both to and from Cork direct to seven destinations in the USA in one single booking transaction.”

The three largest carriers at Cork are all Irish; Aer Lingus, Ryanair and Aer Arann. Between them they account for around 87% of all scheduled capacity and flights. In 2007 charter traffic represented around 13% of total passenger numbers.

Chart: Top airlines at ORK - Aer Lingus, Aer Arann and Ryanair leading
Source: OAG Max Online for w/c 1 September 2008

Aer Lingus carried 1.2 million passengers in 2007, up almost 20% on 2006, while Ryanair’s traffic increased by 5% to 863,000. Aer Arann saw demand increase by 11% to 332,000. Although Poland is well served by Wizz Air (which operates to Gdansk, Katowice and most recently to Warsaw) Malev ended its Budapest service earlier in the year and SkyEurope will soon cease operating to Bratislava. Centralwings, LOT’s recently abandoned LCC subsidiary, also came and went on routes to Krakow, Warsaw and Wroclaw.

For travellers to and from Spain, Aer Lingus currently operates to Alicante, Barcelona and Malaga (plus Lanzarote and Tenerife in winter) but not Madrid, while Carcassonne (new for 2008), La Rochelle (also new for 2008), Nice and Paris are all served in France (at least in summer). The only Italian route is to Rome Fiumicino operated by Aer Lingus four times weekly. Other major European cities served by Aer Lingus are Amsterdam, Berlin, Lisbon, Munich and Prague. According to Irish CSO statistics the most popular international routes in 2007 were Amsterdam (155,000 passengers), Paris CDG (101,000) and Lanzarote (94,000).

There are currently no direct scheduled services to Brussels or anywhere in Austria, Scandinavia or Switzerland. However, Aer Lingus will begin twice-weekly flights to Geneva in December.


  1. Simon WP Morgan says:

    Aer Arann will start Prestwick flights this winter, replacing Ryanair’s axed service

  2. Luke says:

    Aer Lingus will start a new flight to East Midlands replacing Ryan Air

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