Cork Airport is to close for almost three months from September to facilitate major runway upgrade works.
The decision by Cork Airport to close the facility for ten weeks from September 10th to upgrade works was underpinned by the dramatic impact of Covid-19.
Irish airports have been badly impacted by the pandemic and the collapse in air travel. Passenger numbers in Cork have dropped by over 95 per cent.
Cork Airport will close from September 10th to November 22nd to allow the runway works progress.
Airport officials plan to operate a summer schedule and then pause all operations for construction — then being in a position to
reopen for the Christmas period.
The closure of the airport will ensure the €30m project is done in a fraction of the time compared to it being done around daily flights.
A key element of the project will be replacing the surface pavement of the runway.
Warnings from Taoiseach Micheál Martin and Tánaiste Leo Varadkar that Irish people shouldn't plan on overseas summer holidays or even Christmas 2021 breaks has come as a major body blow for a sector desperately waiting for a recovery in passenger business.
Airports Council International-Europe (ACIE) stressed that a new industry study has forecast “a systemic collapse” in aviation-related industries because of wholly inadequate State aid rules.
It revealed that, since November 30th when new travel rules began to be implemented across Europe due to a surge on Covid-19 cases, air routes began to vanish.
Do not under-estimate the job ahead in late 2021 into 2022 and beyond replacing the damage done by the pandemic to Ireland's connectivity and aviation-tourism infrastructure.
In just two months, some 700 routes have disappeared from Irish and European airports — bringing to more than 7,000 the total number of routes lost since March 20th, 2020.
One senior Irish aviation source warned the damage to the aviation sector should not be underestimated.
“With Ireland West-Knock fully closed, no scheduled operations out of Shannon Airport and Cork Airport remaining connectivity hanging by a thread, do not under-estimate the job ahead in late 2021 into 2022 and beyond replacing the damage done by the pandemic to Ireland's connectivity and aviation-tourism infrastructure.
“This ranges from airlines to ground handlers, restaurants to car hire operators, bureaux de change to the airport companies themselves whose businesses have been simply devastated by this pandemic. A major multi-year recovery programme will be necessary to rebuild these devastated businesses.”
Aer Lingus and Ryanair are now monitoring summer schedules amid the threat of extended quarantine controls in Ireland and Government advice against summer holiday travel.
Both are now also understood to be examining transferring aircraft onto business-friendly routes — potentially outside Ireland.
Aer Lingus is already applying to operate long-haul flights from Manchester to the US while Ryanair's passenger capacity is set to be
Increased with the clearance by EU aviation officials of the new Boeing 737-MAX aircraft to resume passenger operations.
Because of Ireland's new travel rules and requirement for a negative PCR test, Aer Lingus has offered free flight changes up to two hours before departure and free changes to any summer holiday flights now booked.
However, Cork Airport passenger operations have now been reduced to a single daily Aer Lingus service to London Heathrow — often with less than 50 passengers on board.
That contrasts with eight airlines selling 51 routes out of Cork in summer 2019. ACIE warned that it has now revised downwards its passenger volume predictions for Europe this year.
The council had expected passenger numbers to fall by 43 per cent — but has now increased the scale of the collapse to 56 per cent.
Fears are mounting that Ireland and Europe's aviation sector won't return to pre-Covid-19 levels before 2030.
Irish and European aviation bodies warned that, unless urgent action is taken by Brussels and individual member states, the collapse in air traffic could result in a 52 per cent drop in employment supported by aviation across the continent.
Taken across Europe, that would amount to an economic body blow of €450 billion.