Cork Airport

Runway Closure From September 12 - November 22, 2021

Mar 31, 2021



BACKGROUND

Cork Airport had 2.6 million passengers in 2019 which was a rise of 8% on the previous year. This made us the Republic of Ireland’s second largest airport and the fastest growing airport on the island that year. We served 57 scheduled routes across 9 airlines, together with a number of charter routes but now in 2021 we are currently down to 2 airlines serving 2 routes on a skeleton basis.

Given the low volumes predicted for this year (c200,000 passengers) versus the much higher volumes predicted at Cork Airport next year (over 1.5million passengers) we are progressing two operationally significant and major capital investment projects to get them completed with the minimum disruption. The €12 million upgrade of the hold baggage screening security system is nearing completion and will be commissioned in June. The largest construction project to be undertaken since the building of the new terminal and ancillary buildings in 2005 will be the reconstruction of our main runway which will be completed over a 10-week period from September 12 - November 22. We will be open this Summer, for whatever flights are operating and we will then complete the runway project over a short 10-week off-peak period allowing us to reopen for what we plan will be a busy Christmas and a bumper 2022.

We have also launched two different traffic incentive schemes with our Airlines to rebuild our route network. These incentivise passenger traffic and base reinstatement respectively. Both schemes can be availed of in parallel and the net effect is to significantly reduce airport charges at Cork Airport below their previous level (which have not increased once in 15 years) and will also result in our charges being below the level to be charged in Dublin Airport over the same period. We are confident that with very significant capital investment and new traffic incentive schemes that Cork Airport will recover strongly as Europe’s airports emerge from the devastating impacts of this pandemic. 

Cork Airport’s only jet capable runway has been in operation since 1961. It was originally 1,883m long and was extended by a further 300m in 1989. Since its construction, the runway’s only overlay was in 1999. This was completed on the original runway element only. Therefore, the pavement on the original runway is now 21 years old and the extension is 31 years old.

A runway that is in constant use 24/7/364, degrades over time. Cork Airport typically has more than 22,000 commercial landings annually and also facilitates thousands of smaller aircraft each year. Over time, a busy runway will develop deep structural cracks and the runway deteriorates significantly with Foreign Object Debris (FoD) becoming an ongoing potential hazard.

Cork Airport’s runway has been kept safely operational through a programme of daily FoD checks and a programme of remedial repair works which has been carried out annually for several years.

This area is subject to heavy regulation from our national and European regulators, the IAA and EASA, and we are undertaking these works in good faith to remediate and upgrade the infrastructure and we are committed to addressing all safety concerns as part of the works planned.

The reality is the runway at Cork Airport is now life expired and now needs significant investment to extend its life for another 15 years.

SCOPE

The scope of work to be undertaken is much more extensive than a standard runway overlay as it encompasses a substantial rebuilding of the existing Cork Airport airside infrastructure which is completely life expired.

The project entails:

  • Structural Overlay (150mm) including pavement repairs.
  • Upgrade of AGL (Airfield Ground Lighting) to LEDs – Runway Edge & Centreline Lighting, TDZ Lighting and inset AGLs - spacing of taxiway centreline fittings.
  • Replacement of secondary cabling and transformers.
  • Construction of a new AGL electrical pit and duct system, as the existing system is at capacity.
  • Upgrade of primary electrical circuits in place since 1980s, which are currently end of life.
  • Delethalisation in vicinity of runways.
  • New electrical substation - capacity, resilience and support issues with the current substation and its equipment. The existing substation dates from 1961. This second phase will follow in Q1 2022 but will have no impact on the runway, or airside operations.

APPROACH

With passenger numbers currently down 99% it makes prudent business sense to fast-track major capital investment projects now, while the airport is extremely quiet.

In terms of the runway reconstruction, this project needs to be done and was originally scheduled starting Q4 2022 and out to Q2 2023 over 9 months. Irrespective of the pandemic, this project would have been proceeding with night-time works over these 9 months in 2022/2023 with significant adverse passenger and airline impact in a 2.6-2.8m passenger environment.

However, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have a unique opportunity where we can close the runway for a much shorter 10-week period this Autumn, in a shoulder period after the Summer and get the job done as quickly and efficiently as possible. This will save considerable time and money, is much safer in construction and aeronautical terms and impacts a fraction of the annualised 200,000 passengers we predict in 2021 rather than the 1.5m we predict for 2022 or, for that matter, the 2.6-2.8m passengers we would have in a normal year.

We have engaged extensively with our airline customers and stakeholders and the vast majority agree with our approach, acknowledging, as we do, that no option comes with zero impact to operations. We are conscious that the alternative approach would reduce base operational capacity/efficiency by 20-40% in what should be a recovery year of 2022. We have carefully examined the options and we are opting for the best solution possible. It has the lowest airline and passenger impact, it is safer from an aviation and construction perspective, it is more secure from an aviation security perspective, it is substantially cheaper to construct, and it avoids lots of diversions arising from nightly closers and facilitates CAT 2 availability whilst open.

The added advantage of getting it done now in 2021 is that the months of June, July and August are unaffected and we will be strategically positioned to re-open aggressively in December to ensure that our airline customers can face into 2022 ready to regrow their business, get people back to work at our airports and in the skies and Cork Airport can return to being the fastest growing airport in the country.

There is no easy way to do this work, but we are confident that we have made the right decision in the best interests of our business, the wider aviation community and the Irish economy.

Thank you for your consistent support for Cork Airport which is close to all our hearts.