Friday, 25 November 2011

The tale of two airports: Charleroi Vs Cork ©

Charleroi Airport
The Ryanair CEO Michael O’Leary “Airports are in competition with each other across Europe. Ryanair doesn't really care whether the airport is in Charleroi, Barcelona or Manchester" (IN FOCUS: Changing role for airports 25th November). The Ryanair CEO reiterated this statement with the half year results, stating that 100 existing airports served and 30 new airports where competing for business for new bases and routes.

The Aer Lingus CEO Christoph Muller stated he would back the sale of Cork and Shannon airports, as it would be a 'Moment of Truth' in terms of their business case (Irish Indepedent 1st March 2011).

Therefore the outcome of the Booz and Company review of Irish airports which is expected to be completed in the next few weeks will lay the basis for a new airport policy, which is expected to transform Cork and Shannon airports in an increasingly competitive airport environment. The Transport Minister Leo Varadkar stated his objective is “To break up the monopoly that is there and to free Cork and Shannon as much as possible from the control of Dublin”, (Cork Independent 27TH October 2011).

Cork Airport

Recently in the media local interests in Cork and Shannon have put their cases forward ahead of the review. Interestingly according to data of ACI Europe 2010 77% of EU airports are publicly owned and 14% public-private partnership and 9% are private.

Brussles South Charleroi Airport Traffic

Passengers per year
2001773 431-
20021 271 979increase64,45%
20031 803 587increase41,19%
20042 034 797increase12,81%
20051 873 349decrease8,61%
20062 166 360increase15,64%
20072 458 255increase13,47%
20082 957 026increase20,28%
20093 937 187increase33,14%
20105 195 372increase32%

Source:, BSCA.

        Cork Airport Traffic

YoY %

Source:, DAA Annual Reports.
There are similar characteristics between Brussels South Charleroi and Cork, firstly in 2008 both airports where impacted by the introduction of air travel taxes in 2008 and 2009, secondly both airports have a number of competing airports within their market catchment, thirdly both airports had capex spend in the last 10 years to cater for passenger traffic growth Brussels South Charerloi €100 million and Cork Airport €144 million.

The Brussels South Charleroi has a market catchment of 11.5 million people within 1.5 hour drive of the airport, with competition from Amsterdam, Lille, Liege and Paris CDG, Its charging structure is market driven by competition and yardstick, with incentives based on the private investor principle (Airport Business 2009).  

Cork Airport has a market catchment of 1.2 million people within 1.5 hour drive of the airport, with competition from Kerry, Shannon and Waterford. Its charging structure is regulated by the Commission for Aviation Regulation (Study on Competition between Airports Final Report Volume 2 Country Reports EC-Directorate Transport 2002).
As the information from passenger stats relieve that Charleroi Airport has been growing by over 25% per year. A key driver of  traffic growth has been the change of ownership from a public owned Walloon government to a public/private model in which SAVE the operator of Venice's Marco Polo airport acquired a 27.65% stake in December 2009 for €11.2 million.

A report by NBB stated Charleroi airport contributed €60.8 million in valued added to the Belgian economy in 2006 with 922 direct employees and 1,065 indirect employees with a multiplier effect of 2.16 jobs.  

In 2008 Charleroi Airport opened a new terminal with a capacity of 5 million passengers which market itself as Belgium’s ‘Friendly Airport’, and is continually adding new customer services and is served by Jetair, Jet4you, Ryanair, Wizzair whom are adding new aircraft and routes to the base.

In 2010 Brussles South Charleroi Airport Won the Anna.Aero €Euro ANNIE Prize "Airport Traffic Growth Award 3-5 million Category" reflecting the 33% growth in traffic to almost 4 million passengers in 2009. This year Charleroi achieved 2nd place in the World Airport Skytrax Awards 2011 Best LCC Airport handling over 5 million passengers up to the end of October, and six new routes have been announced by Jetairfly and Ryanair to commence for summer 2012.  

In a highly competitive airport market environment the airport's key marketing message is that passengers necessarily have no time to waste, as the shoebox terminal design allows passengers to cross in 12 minutes flat (David Guering BSCA Business Development Manager Actu CCI 2009)

In conclusion the cost competitiveness gap between Cork and other European airports of average size needs to be closed in order for it compete for growth on an equal basis, faciliated by a sustainable recovery in the domestic economy, although Euro 2012 in June will create an artifical spike in demand in the Ireland-Poland market.

The Cork Chamber and Tourism Ireland have a key role to play to attract new airlines and routes to Cork. The new ownership structure needs to unlock the value of Cork and Shannon Airports for their regions, while enabling them to compete on a European basis as the airline industry conslidates at an rapid rate.

I enclose a link to an interesting article outling SAVE's Brussels South Charleroi Airport Development Strategy go to link :

Irish Aviation Research Institute © 25th November 2011 All Rights Reserved.