New Study Highlights Cork Airport's Crucial Economic Role to the South of Ireland

Cork Airport’s level of connectivity, which is the highest outside of Dublin, the country’s largest air gateway, is crucial in generating more trade, drawing more foreign direct investment as well as attracting more tourists. And, given the airport’s significant role in the local economy, its managing director, Niall MacCarthy has called for more local support.

A new study has reinforced how crucial Cork Airport, Ireland’s second largest airport, is to the economy of the South of Ireland. The Economic Impact Study, carried out by an independent international aviation consultancy, found that Cork Airport is “fundamental to the growth of the local economy and has key catalytic impacts that contribute directly towards tourism, trade, investment and productivity for the whole of the region”.

The report also stresses that without Cork Airport, the regional economy in Munster would not be as large, affluent or diverse as it is today. The airport’s importance to the region is reflected in the fact that it supports or facilitates 10,710 jobs made up of direct, indirect, induced and catalytic employment. Cork Airport directly supports 1,920 jobs at the airport, with airlines, ground transport, handling, maintenance, food and beverage, logistics companies, Government agencies and hotels.

There are 1,170 indirect jobs facilitated by Cork Airport, relating to suppliers and supporting businesses involved in the supply chain of the airport’s activities and 1,420 induced jobs, generated by the employees of firms directly or indirectly connected to the airport spending their income in the local economy.

The study also found that there are 6,200 jobs facilitated through catalytic impacts or wider economic benefits of Cork Airport. Air transport to and from Cork Airport creates catalytic impacts primarily through increased connectivity and improved regional economic performance through tourism, tourism, trade in goods and services, investment and increased productivity.

Cork Airport also contributes €727 million to Gross Domestic Product (GDP), which equates to 2.2 per cent of the total South West economy. This is made up of €134m GDP as a result of direct jobs, €82m for indirect, €90m for induced and €421m for catalytic impact, according to the economic impact assessment.

While there are a number of factors that contribute to the economic success of the region such as government policy, taxation and local skillset, the network of routes from Cork Airport is an important factor, claims the report. This is backed up by the views of 139 businesses with 93 per cent identifying that the level of direct routes from Cork is important when deciding to locate or expand in the region, according to the Cork Chamber of Commerce Biennial Business Air Travel Survey 2014.

Cork Airport’s level of connectivity, which is the highest outside of Dublin, the country’s largest air gateway, is crucial in generating more trade, drawing more foreign direct investment as well as attracting more tourists. And, given the airport’s significant role in the local economy, its managing director, Niall MacCarthy has called for more local support.

“We have one of the most modern terminals in Europe serving the most passengers in Ireland outside of the capital. While we have a loyal customer base in Cork, we need the ongoing support from business and leisure travellers to ensure we continue the best choice of destinations from Munster. This support will ensure our continued contribution to jobs and growth as well ensuring the region remains connected to key destinations across the UK, Europe and beyond,” he said.

“Cork already has a reputation for attracting some of the biggest and best global companies and we know that the connectivity from the South of Ireland is one of the reasons these companies chose to do business here; it is a necessary element for growth and development. Cork Airport’s connectivity is unrivalled by any other airport in the region. As well as connecting to key destinations in the UK and across Europe, we have direct routes to international hubs at London Heathrow, Amsterdam Schiphol and Paris Charles de Gaulle,” he added.

The study highlighted that air services directly facilitate the large volume of tourists that visit Ireland as well as accommodating business growth. According to Tourism Ireland, “the Southwest attracts 28 per cent of our tourists, and as the most visited region outside Dublin, a successful, sustainable Cork Airport gateway is crucial to the continued success of the of the region as a destination”.

Additionally, Fáilte Ireland supports the airport’s potential for the region by stating: “Cork has a strong heritage particularly in the arts and acts as a gateway to the natural beauty of the Southwest of Ireland and the Wild Atlantic Way.”

Currently however, only one third of the passengers using Cork Airport are inbound visitors and MacCarthy has called for financial support to help market the region much better in overseas markets. “The South of Ireland has massive potential to increase visitor numbers but we need funding to promote the excellent tourism product aboard. While we have a broad network of routes already, this will help encourage airlines to introduce new routes and increase traffic at the airport,” he said.

Welcoming over 6,000 passengers a day, and more than 11,000 passengers a day in peak season, Cork Airport is the Republic of Ireland’s second largest and busiest airport after Dublin. More than 2.1 million passengers travel through the airport each year, flying to top destinations across the UK and throughout continental Europe.

Our own analysis shows that Cork Airport has seen departures decline for the past three years below the 10,000 annual departures figure, having hit a high of almost 15,000 in 2007 and 2008. Operations at the airport are dominated by local carriers Aer Lingus and Ryanair which together accounted for 99.4 per cent of available departure seats last year: Aer Lingus with a 59.1 per cent share and Ryanair with a 40.3 per cent share. However, this year has seen the return of Czech Airlines and links to Prague and Ibiza and a Flybe service to Cardiff.

In the chart, below, we highlight the ten largest destinations from Cork Airport based on departure capacity in 2014.


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