The Irish Travel Agents Association (ITAA) has expressed its disappointment that runway upgrades at Cork Airport are only being carried out now, and will see the airport closed for 10 weeks. The Association believes that this work could have been undertaken earlier in the year, while the airport was operating a reduced flight schedule as a result of COVID-19 travel restrictions.
The airport will be closed for almost three months from September in order to facilitate major runway upgrade works. Airport officials plan to operate on a summer schedule, and then pause all operations for construction works in order to be in a position to reopen for the Christmas period.
The ITAA have stated that there will be a pent up demand for travel around September and October, with many people looking to travel abroad for the first time since the beginning of the pandemic and these works will unnecessarily delay the reopening of Cork airport, which has already lost some of its routes to larger airports.
ITAA CEO Pat Dawson stated, “We are very disappointed to hear that Cork Airport will be closed for almost three months later this year, right at the point when international travel is set to pick up again. While we understand that it is essential to have the runways resurfaced, this is a long standing issue which should have been addressed before now. With so few people using the airport at the height of the pandemic, it would have been easy to work flight schedules around completing the runway upgrades in order to allow the airport to reopen when the threat of COVID-19 has passed.”
He continued, “We believe that there will be a pent up demand from the public for international travel in the later part of this year, as people continue to receive vaccinations against COVID-19. Cork Airport has already lost some of its routes to other larger airports. The travel trade will be negatively impacted by this, because due to these runway upgrades it is looking like they will have no product to sell from Cork Airport until 2022.”
Cork Airport has responded with a statement that said it was “prudent business sense” to fast track major capital investment projects now, while the airport is extremely quiet.
“Management at Cork Airport has been engaged with all its major stakeholders in relation to the runway reconstruction and remediation project since last autumn, given it is the single biggest construction project at Cork Airport since the opening of the new Terminal Building in 2006,” the statement reads.
“Public tendering commenced back in November in accordance with EU procurement guidelines for a major capital project of this scale and we plan to award the contract next month.
We will continue to be open all Summer this year, round the clock, for whatever flights are operating and we will then complete the rebuilding runway project over a 10-week off-peak period allowing us to reopen for what we plan will be a busy Christmas and a bumper 2022 for everyone in the travel industry.”