CORK Airport is in talks to secure a transatlantic service from 2015 after it confirmed a recovery in passenger numbers to 2.3m for 2013.
The revelation came as Aer Lingus Regional (ALR) is to boost capacity from Cork Airport by 25pc with the aim of achieving 300,000 passengers next year.
The airport also confirmed that Ryanair has enjoyed a 30pc hike in passenger numbers over the past year.
The expansion is part of a national drive to achieve two million passengers by 2018 following a welcome 10pc growth in passenger numbers this year.
Two brand new ALR aircraft will be based in Cork to operate the routes with peak operations to the UK achieving 174 flights weekly.
The announcement came after Cork was effectively omitted by Ryanair and Aer Lingus from their major 2014 route expansion programme which targetted Dublin and Shannon.
But ALR confirmed that the decision to expand Cork operations and target 20pc passenger growth in 2014 was a direct result of the Government’s decision to abolish the controversial travel tax.
“The airline is determined to grow both our passenger numbers and route network. The addition of a new service to Newcastle and increasing of our capacity on three key routes from Cork provides real choice to the travelling public, and will serve to bring further visitors to the region.,” ALR/Aer Arann chief commercial officer Simon Fagan said.
He added that there had been positive growth on major routes to the UK and ALR was anticipating further demand over the coming 12 months.
ALR/Aer Arann now operates from Cork to Bristol, Newcastle, Glasgow, Manchester, Birmingham, Edinburgh and Jersey.
The airline also confirmed that it plans to double its operations on the Cork-Rennes (France) route from June.
Cork Airport director, Niall MacCarthy, said the ALR announcement was a major strategic boost.
“This is an excellent development for Cork Airport. ALR will grow from 50 to 63 departures a week next summer from Cork Airport providing 50,000 extra seats in and out of the region,” he said.
Cork is Ireland’s second largest airport and expects to confirm 2.3m passengers for 2013.
However, Cork Chamber of Commerce repeated its demand for the Cork-Dublin air link to be restored.
The route, one of the oldest aviation services in Ireland, was axed just over three years ago at the height of the recession having been operated by first Aer Lingus and then Ryanair.
CCC chief executive Conor Healy said the route is vital if Cork, which lacks any transatlantic links, is to exploit the potential of Dublin Airport as a global aviation hub.
“The Dublin Airport Authority (DAA) has stated it was their number one priority to get a Dublin-Cork link back. We are working to prove that the demand for such a service is there,” he said.
Cork Airport said it has no plans at the moment to relaunch the Dublin route.