Cork Airport

Cork Airport History

Cork Airport is the international gateway to the South of Ireland and is uniquely positioned at the start of Ireland’s Ancient East and the Wild Atlantic Way.

It is the country’s second busiest and best-connected international airport flying to destinations across the UK and Continental Europe.

Cork Airport’s customer service has won national and international awards as voted by our passengers and industry peers.

Below you find the year by year history of Cork Airport.


Cork Airport recorded a fourth consecutive year of growth, with passenger numbers growing by 8% to 2.6 million with several new routes added to it’s expanding route network: -

Dubrovnik, Lisbon and Nice with Aer Lingus.

Budapest, Katowice, London Luton, Malta, Naples and Poznan with Ryanair.

In February, Cork Airport hosted ‘Airports Council International’ (ACI) Europe Digital Communications Forum. Over 40 top communications specialists from some of Europe's largest airports from 20 different countries attended the two- day forum.

Ryanair extended its summer services to Alicante, Budapest, Malta and Poznań to twice-weekly for the forthcoming winter season.

In March, a new Airport Control Centre and purpose- built office suite was officially opened by An Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs & Trade, Simon Coveney TD following significant investment by the daa.

A new traffic management system was designed and introduced which included investment to the upgrade the forecourt, improved way-finding signage, access to car parks, two-way road system and enhanced public transport lanes.

Cork Airport scooped the prestigious title of ‘Best Use of Facebook' (Airport) at The International Moodie Davitt Digital Awards — covering digital, social media and marketing activities.

Cork Airport was the first airport in the Republic of Ireland to roll-out the sunflower lanyard initiative supporting passengers with hidden disabilities to avail of additional support.

In June, Cork Airport was named Best Airport in Europe serving under five million at the 29th ACI EUROPE Annual Assembly & Congress Best Airport Awards for the second time, having also won its category in 2017. The Awards recognise excellence and achievement across a variety of airport disciplines relating to airport operations.

Cork and Dublin Airports signed a landmark commitment to become net zero for carbon emissions by 2050 at the latest in association with ACI EUROPE, the trade association for the European Airport Industry.

In July, Cork Airport won for ‘Best Twitter in House’ award at the national Social Media Awards (Sockies).

Cork Airport was the first airport in Ireland to introduce a new breakthrough cleaning technology which reduces cleaning chemical usage by over 80%. The toxin-free organic cleaning solution ‘Tersano Lotus Pro’ transforms ordinary tap water into a powerful cleaning agent.

Cork Airport and Electric Ireland signed a deal to supply 8 million kwh of green electricity per annum. This switch to 100% green electricity forms part of Cork Airport’s sustainability strategy and Carbon Management Plan.


In its third consecutive year of growth, passenger traffic at Cork Airport grew by a further by 4% in 2018, with almost 2.4 million passengers travelling through the airport in 2018 compared to 2.31 million in 2017.

In April, the main runway was re-named, following changes to the Earth’s magnetic poles. The airport’s runway, which was designated as Runway 17/35 in 1961, is now Runway 16/34. The runway now stands at 164°M and 344°M respectively.

In May, Air France commenced a new year-round daily service to Paris Charles de Gaulle direct from Cork linking the south of Ireland to the French capital and connectivity to a further 180 global destinations on their route network.

In June, Ireland’s first ASPIRE airport lounge officially opened at Cork Airport. Operated by Swissport, the opening of the lounge was a direct response to an increase in demand from business travellers across the south of Ireland. The lounge features ‘Best of Irish’ additions to the food menu along with local luxury food items and offers our outbound travellers the very best in terms of comfort and luxury.

In September, Cork Airport won a prestigious World Routes 2018 Marketing Award, a global accolade recognising excellence in aviation marketing and a testament of our efforts to secure route expansion and growth.

In October, Aer Lingus launched a twice-weekly, year-round service to Portugal’s capital city of Lisbon. Ryanair also launched a six- times weekly year-round service to London Luton making it the fourth London Airport served directly from Cork.

In November, Cork Airport won the Social Good – Corporate award at the Ireland Chapter of Project Management Institute’s (PMI) prestigious National Project Awards in recognition of its Charity of the Year programme.

Global aviation analysts OAG revealed that Cork Airport topped the punctuality league for international airports in Ireland in 2018, with an on-time performance of 80.2%.


Passenger traffic grew by a further 3.5% in 2017 with 2.3 million passengers passing through the airport compared to 2.2 million in 2016.

In February, a major press conference took place with Norwegian CEO Bjørn Kjos announcing a three times weekly direct transatlantic service would take off from Cork Airport to Boston Providence on July 1, 2017.

A €4 million investment over a three month period took place involving a major upgrade of Food and Beverage Outlets at Cork Airport. The changes included a new Food Court located airside in the Departures area along with addition of Craft Lane Bar and Restaurant as well as a new AMT Coffee Kiosk. The Arrivals Hall located landside, also saw the addition of a new Kinsale Café and Bar.

An additional passenger security screening channel was introduced to alleviate pressure during peak travel periods ensuring that passengers are queuing for the shortest amount of time.

New airline partners introduced significant European route additions: -

WOW air commenced a four times weekly direct flight to Reykjavik in Iceland which also offered onward transatlantic connectivity to ten destinations across North America. 

SWISS International Air Lines commenced a twice weekly summer service to Zurich which quickly increased to three times per week due to the route’s popularity across the South of Ireland and Switzerland. In September, a further announcement was made that the airline was to double its capacity at Cork Airport for Summer 2018 built on the success of their 2017 launch.

Volotea commenced a new summer route to Verona in Italy.

Aer Lingus Regional (operated by Stobart Air) launched a new summer route to Newquay in Cornwall.

In May, Cork Airport was proud host of the 10th Airports Council International (ACI) Regional Airports Conference and exhibition at Fota Island Resort. Over two hundred delegates from global airlines and airports attended the two-day event.

In June, Cork Airport was named Airport Council International’s (ACI) ‘Best Airport in Europe’ (under 5 million passengers) The Awards recognise excellence and achievement across a variety of airport disciplines.

In September, a new state-of-the-art Fire Training Facility was officially opened by Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Simon Coveney TD at Cork Airport following an investment of €1.8 million. The new training facility ensures the Fire & Rescue Services crew has access to world-class training scenarios and programmes.

In December, Cork Airport was officially announced as one of the friendliest airports in the world. Cork Airport ranked No 2 out of 160 airports across 36 countries by travellers as part of a global "happy or not" survey.


Passenger traffic at Cork Airport grew by 8% during 2016, a year which brought a positive reverse in the airport’s fortunes. More than 2.23 million passengers travelled through Cork Airport in 2016 compared to 2.07 million in 2015.

2016 also saw the addition of nine new routes and three new airlines at the airport. These new routes included; Düsseldorf with Aer Lingus, London City, Nantes and La Rochelle with CityJet, Madrid with Iberia Express, Cardiff with Flybe, Southampton and Leeds Bradford with Aer Lingus Regional.

To help meet demand of our passenger growth, the first ever airbridge was installed representing an investment of €450,000.

Members of our Cork Airport Police and Fire Service became the first ever accredited airport wildlife controllers in the world. The group received their ICAO validation certificates after undergoing a newly developed training course with the Dublin International Aviation Training Academy (DIATA).

Incidents involving drones became a huge challenge on both arriving and departing aircraft from aerodromes across Europe. In response to this, Cork Airport with guidance from the Irish Aviation Authority (IAA) took a leading role with a proactive approach to promoting a ‘No Drone Zone’ awareness campaign.

Over an eighteen-month period, Cork Airport worked tirelessly lobbying to secure a new US transatlantic route given its strategic importance to tourism and investment. It also engaged with US officials and politicians in its efforts and, ultimately, got the vocal support from President Obama.

In November our ongoing efforts to secure our first ever direct transatlantic route were rewarded by winning the prestigious Corporate Campaign of the Year Prize at the inaugural EU Public Affairs Awards 2016 (EuroPAwards) in Brussels.

On December 2 2016, the US Department of Transportation granted a licence to Norwegian Air International to operate the first direct transatlantic flights between Cork and the United States.


Overall passenger numbers at Cork Airport decreased by 3% to 2 million in 2015 but the year marked a change in the fortunes of the airport as it returned to growth in the final quarter of the year after several years of decline.

The airport secured three new airline customers - Flybe, CityJet and Iberia Express - together with nine confirmed new route announcements. New routes in 2015 included FlyBe to Cardiff and CityJet to London City.

In 2015, a new 10-year licence agreement was signed with Weston Aviation at the airport, allowing Cork Airport to provide dedicated Fixed Base Operator (FBO) operations at the airport for the first time.

Cork Airport was recognised by its peers in 2015 as offering a great product being Highly Commended in both the World Routes Marketing Awards and ACI’s Best Airports in the World (under five million passengers).

The airport was also awarded renewal of its Level 2 accreditation Reduction status under ACI Europe’s Carbon Accreditation Programme. This means that the airport continues to reduce its overall emissions and carbon footprint.

Early in the year also saw Cork Airport roll out a new brand, designed to underline the importance of differentiating what makes Cork Airport unique, its network of routes, its award-winning customer services and its position as the gateway to the south of Ireland.


Aer Lingus Regional launches a new four days a week service to Newcastle Airport and is the airline’s eighth regional route from the airport.

Cork Airport launched an exciting new flight radar scanning feature on its mobile App. The airport was the first airport in the world to offer this feature which allows passengers to click on a flight number and track live updates of exactly where the plane is at that moment in time.

Cork Airport was awarded first place in the Public Sector category at the Sustainable Energy Awards 2014.

Cork Airport is nominated for two awards at the inaugural Cork Digital Marketing Awards.

A new FBO service provider, EVS Aviation, opened a bespoke facility adjacent to the main terminal, providing ground handling services for General Aviation.

Cork Airport was awarded the Customer Service Award at the inaugural Aviation Industry Awards, sponsored by the Irish Aviation Authority (IAA).

Anita Gackowska is appointed Head of Aviation Marketing while Kevin Cullinane takes up the new role of Head of Communications for Cork Airport.


Cork Airport, one of the leading supporters of The Gathering 2013, announced it would get fully behind this year’s St. Patrick’s Day Festivities by bathing the Terminal in green light.

Cork Airport is placed first for overall customer satisfaction in a respected global survey of passengers carried out by Airports Council International (ACI).

Cork Airport was nominated in the Sustainable Energy Awards 2013.

Lilibeth Horne, Head of Retail for Cork Airport is nominated for the REI Retail Manager of the Year awards.

Ryanair launches its winter 2013 schedule, with 11 routes in total, including a new winter route to East Midlands with 4 weekly flights from October 2013.

ArkeFly launched a new sun charter service from Cork Airport to a number of Mediterranean destinations this summer.

Cork Airport announced a €2.4 million investment to upgrade its baggage security screening system to latest EU standards.


Niall MacCarthy is appointed Airport Director at Cork Airport.

Ryanair launches a new direct from Cork to East Midlands.


On February 10, 2011, a aircraft flying from Belfast to Cork with 10 passengers and two crew on board, crashed on its third attempt to land at Cork Airport. Six people, including both pilots, died.

On October 16, 2011, Cork Airport celebrated its 50th Anniversary. A photographic exhibition is launched in the main terminal featuring many of the key milestones in the airport’s eventful history since it was officially opened in 1961.

Cork Airport successfully secured eight new routes for Summer 2011 to Fuerteventura; Gran Canaria; Milan Bergamo; Tenerife with Ryanair; Jersey; Palma Mallorca; Rennes with Aer Lingus.

Wizz Air commenced a new direct service from Cork to Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania, on April 16.


Cork Airport served 2.43 million passengers in the year, a decrease of 12.4% on that achieved in 2009.

Aer Lingus launched a new twice daily service to London Gatwick. launched a twice weekly domestic route from Cork to Galway.

In September 2010 a new twice daily service between Belfast and Cork was launched by

Lilibeth Horne, Head of Retail at The Loop retail outlet at Cork was nominated as ‘March Person of the Month’ in the Cork Business Person of the Year Awards.

A new franchise agreement between Aer Lingus and Aer Arann saw the reinstatement of the Cork to

Glasgow service from Sunday, March 28, 2010.


2.77 million passengers travelled through Cork Airport, down 15% on the historic record high of 3.25 million in 2008.

Wizz Air increases its route network at Cork to five destinations with the addition of Wroclaw in Poland.

New routes introduced during the year included East Midlands (bmi baby), Lisbon (Aer Lingus) and Rennes (Aer Lingus).


Passenger numbers through Cork Airport grew by 80,000 to reach a new record 3.25 million, a 2.5% increase over 2007.

Wizz Air, a Central and Eastern European low cost airline, introduced new services from Cork to Warsaw and Poznan in Poland.

Cork Airport Authority Chairman, Joe Gantly, announced his resignation effective from the end of July by which time he had completed five years’ service with the board. 

Gerry Walsh replaces Joe Gantly as the new chairman of Cork Airport Authority.


A new record  of 3.2 million passengers is achieved at Cork Airport.

Two airlines – Air Southwest and SkyEurope - were secured to operate additional flights to Newquay and Bratislava (Vienna) respectively.


Cork Airport's new terminal building opened its doors on August 1, 2006 for arriving passengers and from August 15, 2006 for all passengers. For the first time in the airport's history, Cork Airport had over three million passengers pass through its doors in 2006, making it the Republic of Ireland's third busiest airport. 

Aer Lingus and Aer Arann were the largest operators at Cork Airport by number of aircraft movements, while Aer Lingus and Ryanair were the largest operators in terms of number of passengers. 

Several new European routes were launched including four new Polish cities thanks to the arrival of Wizz Air and Centralwings to Cork.


Joe O'Connor retires as Airport General Manager and Cork Airport Authority appoints Pat Keohane as Chief Executive


The Minister for Transport, Séamus Brennan TD announced the full membership of the Board-designate for the new Cork Airport Authority. Cork Airport Authority plc was incorporated on September 16, 2004.


An Taoiseach Bertie Ahern TD turns the first sod for the €140 million investment in a brand new terminal, multi-storey car park, new air traffic control building and a new cargo village, on June 26. 

Cork Airport reaches two million passengers in November.


Cork Airport was named as the Best Irish Airport by the Minister for Public Enterprise, Mrs. Mary O'Rourke TD, at the annual Airline of the Year Awards. The Airline of the Year Awards are presented based on the results of a survey by Chambers Ireland's Air Transport Users Council carried out among the top 1,000 companies in Ireland


Cork Airport Great Southern Hotel opened for business March 20 - official opening on 31st May 31 by Mary O'Rourke, TD, Minister for Public Enterprise. 

Extension of northern ramp and taxiway began.

Cork Airport celebrates its 40th Anniversary.


Catering franchise split in summer of 2000 - Kylemore obtained bar and airport franchise and Alpha the flight catering. Cork Airport opened a new look Travel Value Shop in November.


Covering of asphalt overlay and other necessary work completed on main runway 17/35 in May. 

Duty Free sales within the EU ended June 30. 

Passenger traffic reached over 1.5 million at end of year.


In March, Barry Roche Airport General Manager retired and was replaced by Joe O'Connor.

Two new freight buildings completed in May. 

Further extensions to both main and freight ramps. 

Construction of Airport Business Park began in October.


The Air Navigation and Transport (Amendment) Bill 1997, provided for the transfer of Cork, Dublin and Shannon airports, currently vested in the Minister, to Aer Rianta plc. The Act rendered the company liable for corporation tax on profits from its operations.


Bond Helicopters (Ireland) Ltd awarded long-term contract by Marathon Petroleum to provide a helicopter service to their two Kinsale platforms from Cork Airport.


New Freight Terminal and Freight Ramp opened by Hugh Coveney TD, Minister of State in November.


Phase IV of the development Plan officially opened by Brian Cowen TD, Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications on October 26.


Servisair began operations in Cork in March.


Bewleys took over airport catering in January. 

Two light aircraft from Iona Flying School collided over Bandon on February 26  - one crashed and both occupants were killed. 

King Karl Gustav of Sweden inspected guard of honour at airport on April 9.

Phase III of Terminal Expansion and Development Plan completed and was officially opened by Máire Geoghan Quinn TD, Minister for Tourism and Transport.


An Taoiseach Charles Haughey TD officially opened Phase II on February 24 and also inaugurated a new Access Control Security System. 

British Airways dropped all routes from UK to Cork, Dublin and Shannon.


Phase II of Terminal Expansion and Development Plan completed.
Main ramp extension.


Dan Air ended its operation of the Cork - Gatwick route in March.

Main runway extension of 1000 feet opened July 5 by John Wilson TD, Minister for Tourism and Transport. 

Iona Airways commenced pilot training school at the airport in May. 

European College of Aeronautics opened a similar establishment in September.


Phase 1 of Terminal Expansion and Development Plan completed.

Both Dublin and Cork Airports ceased to be forecast offices for Met Eireann - Shannon Airport became the Central Aviation Forecasting Office for the three State Airports.


Final phase of security fence around the airport completed.

Accommodation in the Control Tower restructured.

Ryanair began operations at Cork on June 8.

Work began on extension of main runway in the autumn - in conjunction with this High Intensity
Approach Lights and Centre Line Lighting were installed.


Airport celebrated its 25th Anniversary with an ‘open day’. 

Two highly sophisticated Instrument Landing Systems (ILS), one serving each end of the main runway were installed.


Installation of close circuit television cameras on Control Tower enabling the entire airport area to be surveyed.

Due to phenomenal increase in passenger traffic, Aer Rianta carried out a survey of terminal with the view to carrying out a major expansion and development programme.

Air India disaster June 23 - Cork Airport operations centre of search and rescue.

Cork Air Spectacular cancelled in mid-August due to low cloud.


Aer Lingus took over commuter service to Dublin.

Gerry Holohan retired as Airport Manager and was replaced by Barry Roche.

Airport penthouse upgraded and its accommodation converted to offices.


Main car park enlarged.

Mortuary provided.

July 6 - Cork Airport operations centre for secret rescue of seaman carried out from US Nuclear submarine.


Avair commenced commuter service between Cork and Dublin on January 13.

Facilities for disabled installed at airport.

High Mast flood lighting of the apron completed.


Inaugural Dan Air Cork - London Gatwick service April 13. 
West German Chancellor Willi Brandt arrived at airport June 2.


Main apron extended. 

Erection of first phase of security fence.

Renovations carried out to Cargo Terminal and a new in-flight Catering Kitchen built.

President of German Federal Republic Karl Karstens and his wife left Cork Airport for Germany on May 1 following a three day official visit to Ireland.

National strike of Aer Lingus mechanics took place May 30 - strike ended July 4.

Albert Reynolds TD, Minister for Transport on official visit on June 5.


Whiddy Island Disaster on January 7 - Cork Airport is a refuelling centre for Air Corps, Royal Navy and Irish helicopters involved in the search and rescue.

Tax Free Shop opened in February.

President Julius Nyerere of Tanzania at airport on September 19 while on a state visit to Ireland.


Completed extensions and facilities opened by the Taoiseach Jack Lynch TD.

Members of Dutch Royal family arrived at airport on July 1 en-route to Sneem, Co. Kerry.


New Duty Free opened December 18.

Dan Air inaugural flight Cardiff/Bristol/ Cork on April 6.


British Airways commenced scheduled services on the Cork/London route formerly operated by Cambrian Airways.


Aer Rianta undertook a passenger terminal study aimed at improving the terminal facilities. The findings resulted in the provision, over the next couple of years, of new departure and arrival halls, new check-in area and office complex, new information desk and duty office and new VIP Lounge.

Brymon Airways began operations from Plymouth to Cork.


Gale force winds gusting up to 112 mph did considerable damage at airport - doors of Irish Helicopters Ltd. hangar were blown in  and Joyce Aviation hanger wrecked and several planes destroyed.


VASI Lights installed on main runway 17/35.

Airport Manager Paddy O'Grady transferred to Dublin in September, he was replaced by Gerry Holohan as Manager. 

Cork Airport rescue centre for the recovery of the Pisces III Mini-Submarine at the end of August.


First major development under Aer Rianta management - Fire Station extended, airport water supply extended, new reservoir and piping installed. 

September 8 - Duty Free shop commenced operations.


Bank of Ireland replaced Ulster Bank at the airport.


Irish Helicopters begin operations from Cork Airport.

Transfer of State staff to Aer Rianta begins.

Three Aer Lingus Boeing 707s from Boston, New York and Chicago land at Cork Airport on August 27 due to adverse weather conditions at Dublin and Shannon.


Charles de Gaulle landed at airport en route to Heron Cove Hotel near Parknasilla.


Outbreak of Foot & Mouth in UK - big effect on passenger figures in the first half of the year. Cork Airport management functions vested in Aer Rianta from Department of Transport & Power on April 1. 

Aer Lingus Viscount St. Phelim EI-AOM crashed near Tuskar Rock on Sunday, March 24 - all on board killed. 

Charlie Chaplin and wife Oonagh travel through the airport in April. 

First scheduled all-night opening on June 1.

President Lubke of German Federal Republic and his wife land on June 5. 

British Eagle ceased operating on Cork - Liverpool route in November – and files for bankruptcy. 


Cork Airport was considered by the Government as a composite project, including land acquisition, construction of runways, apron, roads, airport buildings, provision of navigational aids, etc. The estimated cost of the project as a whole, as approved by the Government, was £1 million. The final cost was £1,174,000.


President De Valera at airport on July 24 en route to Cape Clear to open Irish College.

Remains of Sister Eamon Sullivan who was expelled by the Cultural Revolutionary Guards in Peking, arrives at Cork Airport.


Cork - Manchester service inaugurated by Aer Lingus on May 31.

Arrivals hall in terminal building widened, Control Tower double glazed and VASI (Visual Slope Indicator) lights installed on Runway 25.

World War I aircraft at airport in June for the making of film The Blue Max.

Douglas Bader, famous World War II RAF fighter pilot, at airport on September 16 and made honorary life member of Munster Aero Club.


Harringtons took over airport catering from Great Southern Hotels. 

Flying club house officially opened on March 29. 

First jet to land at Cork Airport, a BOAC Comet G-APDI operated for Aer Lingus, on July 31.

British Eagle takes over Cork - Liverpool route from Starways.

Guinness Festival Clock on display at airport June/July. 

Fatal crash of private plane, a five-seater Piper Comanche on August 7 - three members of the Gaulle family from Youghal and the pilot were killed.


Aer Lingus began operating an air car ferry on Cork - Bristol route using ATL-98 Carvairs (converted DC-4s).


Great Southern Hotels appointed caterers at Cork Airport in Spring 1962. 

A Super Constellation ditched in the Atlantic September 23 - Cork Airport involved in search and rescue operations.


Proving flights by Aer Lingus and Cambrian Airways carried out on October 12. Airport officially opened on October 16.


Tenders invited for construction of airport - estimated cost £1 million

Early History


Government agrees in principle that Cork Airport should be built at Ballygarvan.


Farmers Cross airfield officially opened Sunday, May 9.


Due to rapid developments in aviation, Government requests further survey of potential airport sites. Ahanesk and Ballygarvan are now the two main site contenders.


Government approved proposal to establish a land airport for Cork - World War II breaks out in September and all airport plans are abandoned.


Branch of the Irish Aero Club formed in Cork in April.1936 - Foynes selected as seaplane base; site at Ahanesk, Midleton chosen as site for Cork Airport following survey.


Richard F. O'Connor, Cork County Surveyor makes his ideas for an airport known - aerodrome site at Belvelly and seaplane base in Cork Harbour; Cobham's Air Circus at Ballincollig July 5/6.


Beginning of decade saw transatlantic seaplane service become a reality.


First move to get an air base for Cork - Cork Harbour Commissioners invited Col. Charles Russell, former Irish Army Corps to address them.