Shannon Airport (Irish: Aerfort na Sionainne) (IATA: SNN, ICAO: EINN) is an international airport located in County Clare in the Republic of Ireland. It is adjacent to the Shannon Estuary and lies halfway between Ennis and Limerick. The airport is the third busiest airport serving the state, and the fifth busiest on the island of Ireland. In 2018, Shannon Airport handled 1,864,762 passengers, a 6.5% annual increase.
Aerfort na Sionainne
|Owner||Government of Ireland|
|Operator||Shannon Group Plc|
|Serves||Mid-West Region, Ireland|
|Location||Shannon, County Clare|
|Elevation AMSL||46 ft / 14 m|
The airport has a history of pioneering in global aviation with the first transatlantic proving flight in 1945, the world's first duty-free airport opening in 1947 and Europe's first United States border preclearance facility opening in 1986. It was a busy refuelling stop for many international carriers in the 1960s, making it a gateway between Europe and the Americas. At 3,199 metres (10,495 ft), Shannon has the longest runway in Ireland (allowing it to be a designated alternative landing site for the Space Shuttle).
In the late 1930s, transatlantic air traffic was dominated by flying boats, and a flying boat terminal was located at Foynes on the south side of the Shannon Estuary. However, it was realised that changing technology would require a permanent runway and airport.
In 1936, the Government of Ireland confirmed that it would develop a 3.1-square-kilometre (1.2 sq mi) site at Rineanna for the country's first transatlantic airport. The land on which the airport was to be built was boggy, and on 8 October 1936 work began to drain the land. In July 1939, a SABENA Savoia-Marchetti S.73 from Brussels via Croydon Airport was the first commercial flight to use the Rineanna airfield. By 1942 a serviceable airport had been established and was named Shannon Airport. By 1945 the existing runways at Shannon were extended to allow transatlantic flights to take off.
When World War II ended, the airport was ready to be used by the many new post-war commercial airlines of Europe and North America. On 16 September 1945 the first transatlantic proving flight, a Pan Am DC-4, landed at Shannon from Gander. On 24 October 1945, the first scheduled commercial flight, an American Overseas Airlines DC-4, Flagship New England, stopped at the airport on the New York City–Gander–Shannon–London route.
The number of international carriers rose sharply in succeeding years as Shannon became well known as the gateway between Europe and the Americas; limited aircraft range necessitated refuelling stops on many journeys. Shannon became the most convenient stopping point before and after a trip across the Atlantic. Additionally, during the Cold War, many transatlantic flights from the Soviet Union stopped here for refuelling, because Shannon was the westernmost non-NATO airport on the European side of the Atlantic.
Ryanair increased services and passenger numbers at the airport through 2008. In 2007, Shannon carried 3.2 million passengers. However, after a disagreement with the Dublin Airport Authority (DAA) in 2008, Ryanair announced that the number of based aircraft would reduce from four to one and 150 jobs would be lost. Services were cut by 75% and 32 Ryanair routes from the airport were reduced to eight.
CityJet launched a twice-daily route to Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport in 2008 when Aer Lingus closed its London Heathrow flights. The company based an Avro RJ85 at Shannon. More services were under consideration, including a route to London City Airport; however CityJet pulled out of Shannon in October 2009 after Aer Lingus reinstated its Heathrow flights.
Independent operation, 2012 to presentEdit
In December 2012, it was announced that Shannon Airport would separate from the Dublin Airport Authority, who still own Dublin and Cork airports. On 31 December 2012 at 11:59 pm, Shannon Airport became a publicly owned commercial airport and is now operated and run by the Shannon Airport Authority plc. Shannon announced a target in 2012 to grow its passenger numbers to 2.5 million annually within five years. However, Shannon has fallen short of its stated targeted figure with just 1.74 million flying through the airport in 2017.
In March 2013, the new company appointed Neil Pakey as its first CEO. Traffic figures for June 2013 report an 8% increase on the previous year, the first time a traffic increase has been recorded in three years. On 21 March 2013, Ryanair announced a new twice-weekly route to Alicante, Spain to begin on 5 June for the summer months. That brought Shannon's total to 33 seasonal scheduled summer routes. In August 2013 Aer Lingus announced a 1x weekly service to Lanzarote, Canary Islands, Spain every Saturday during the winter months using an A320. In October 2013, United Airlines confirmed it will increase capacity by 88% on its Shannon-Chicago route for 2014. In late 2013, Aer Lingus announced 2 new routes to Málaga, Spain (two weekly) and to Bristol, UK (one daily). Ryanair also announced 8 new routes from Shannon to continental Europe. The new routes began from the start of April 2014, and a second Boeing 737-800 was based at Shannon to accommodate the extra 300,000 passengers a year it would bring in. The destinations announced were Berlin Schonefeld, Beauvais, Memmingen, Warsaw Modlin, Kraków, Nice, Faro, and Fuerteventura.
On 4 July 2014, the "Bank of Ireland Runway Night Run" featured 1,200 people running along Shannon's runway to raise money for charity.
In late 2014, Aer Lingus Regional operator Stobart Air said that they would close down their Shannon base in early 2015. They returned in June 2015 operating 6 flights weekly Birmingham service followed by 6 flights weekly Edinburgh service. In late 2015, they announced a new CEO for Shannon, Matthew Thomas. Ryanair announced that it will be ending its Paris and Memmingen routes in late 2016, and it also reduced its Manchester and London Stansted routes. Ryanair is aiming for 720,000 passengers in Summer 2017 even though that they were close to 800,000 in Summer 2016. In October 2016, SAS announced a new route to Stockholm from 1 August 2017 to 7 October 2017. Shortly after that, Lufthansa announced a weekly service to Frankfurt running from April to October in 2017. In September 2017 Ryanair announced a new Route to Reus. It will run through summer 2018 operating 2x weekly (Tuesdays and Saturdays) replacing the route to Berlin. The same day, Air Canada announced a new 4x weekly service to Toronto with the Boeing 737 MAX. In February 2018, Ryanair announced it would resume flights to Bristol and Liverpool from May 2018. In late 2018, Ryanair announced a new 2x weekly service to Ibiza, and the resumption of flights to East Midlands, both beginning in April 2019. The East Midlands, Bristol and Ibiza flights are all being ceased at the end of the 2019 summer season due to fears of Brexit and the 737 MAX groundings. Due to the 737 MAX groundings, Air Canada and Norwegian Airlines suspended their routes to Shannon. This reduced the number of passenger by 120,000. On 23 October 2019, Lauda announced that they will launch a twice weekly flight to Shannon from their base in Vienna operating every Wednesday and Saturday. On 6 November 2019, Aer Lingus announced that they were launching 2 new routes from Shannon; the 4 times weekly flight to Paris Charles de Gaule and a 3 times weekly flight to Barcelona. Both flights are operating seasonally. The airport handled 1,864,762 passengers in 2018. This number is the highest passenger numbers since gaining independence from the DAA.
Transatlantic services to the USEdit
In 1969, it was announced that a new government agency, Aer Rianta (now the Dublin Airport Authority), would be given responsibility for Shannon Airport. Passenger numbers at the airport reached 460,000 that year. With the increase in passengers and the introduction of the Boeing 747, it was decided that a new enlarged terminal was needed. The first commercial operation of a 747 took place in April 1971, while the new terminal officially opened in May that year. In 1974, a major increase in fuel prices had a dramatic effect on transit traffic.
During the 1990s, the airport began to struggle. The bilateral agreement with the United States was renegotiated, resulting in fewer planes being required to stop over in Shannon (see Shannon Stopover below). However, 1996 saw the beginning of Continental Airlines flying between Dublin, Shannon and Newark, New Jersey.
With the demise of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s, Aeroflot began to suffer, which was a big loss to the airport. Aeroflot had brought 250,000 passengers a year through Shannon.
Shannon began to rebound in the late 1990s with the success of the Irish economy, the improving situation in Northern Ireland and an influx of American tourists. By the end of the decade Shannon had passenger numbers of 2.2 million and in the year 2000, a new £40 million terminal extension was opened.
Shannon continued to expand during the Celtic Tiger years with many services operated to the U.S. and Canada.
The first Air Services Agreement with the United States in 1945 only permitted flights to Shannon and only permitted Irish airlines to serve Boston, Chicago and New York. In 1971, the US Civil Aeronautics Board announced that unless US planes were allowed to operate into Dublin Airport they proposed to ban Aer Lingus from landing in New York. Eventually an agreement was reached which allowed one US carrier, TWA, to service Dublin Airport through Shannon.
In 1990, the U.S.-Irish bilateral agreement was changed to allow Irish airlines to serve Los Angeles and additional U.S. airlines to serve Dublin via Shannon. An amendment in 1993 allowed airlines to provide direct transatlantic services to Dublin, but 50% of transatlantic flights had to either originate or stop over in Shannon.
In 2005, an agreement was reached regarding a transitional period. Beginning in November 2006 and ending in April 2008, the agreement gradually eliminated restrictions on cargo services. For passenger service, it reduced the stopover requirement and allowed Irish airlines to serve three additional U.S. destinations. Furthermore, it was agreed that at the end of this period, no restrictions would be placed on scheduled services between any airport in the one country to any airport in the other.
In 2007, the European Union and the U.S. announced that an agreement had been reached on an open skies aviation policy (EU–US Open Skies Agreement). The agreement came into effect from 30 March 2008, leading to the complete abolition of the Shannon Stopover, although this would have happened under the 2005 agreement anyway.
British Airways flights to New York CityEdit
Until 2020, the westbound flights of the British Airways business class-only flights between London City Airport and John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York stopped for fuel in Shannon to allow them to take off from the short runway of the London City Airport, which is located in the London Docklands area. This stop also allowed passengers to clear US Customs and Immigration in Shannon rather than at JFK. Introduced in 2009, two flights per day, one of which carried the flight number BA1, were operated using A318 aircraft capable of operating steep aproaches. The flights were halved in 2017, and in 2020, amid their suspension due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it was anounced that the flights would not be resumed.
In 1947, the "Customs Free Airport Act" established Shannon as the world's first duty-free airport, a move promoted by Brendan O'Regan; although "duty-free" shopping is not applicable any more for flights within the European Union, EU-bound passengers can still buy goods, but have to pay the normal taxes. Shannon became a model for other duty-free facilities worldwide. For most goods, passengers can buy the same goods regardless of their destination: the only difference will be made in charging VAT at check-out. An exception to this are tobacco products, as all tobacco products sold in Ireland need to have an excise stamp, while this does not apply for "real" duty-free tobacco. As the prices for tobacco in Ireland are among the highest in the world, there is little or no demand for tobacco at Irish airports for EU flights.
Usage for military stopoversEdit
Shannon Airport has a history of foreign military use. A large part of its business in recent years has been military stopovers, currently almost all American; however, the airport was also frequently used by the Soviet military until the 1990s, since Ireland, having a traditional policy of military neutrality, was not a member of NATO. There were some restrictions, such as being carrying no arms, ammunition, or explosives, and that the flights in question did not form part of military exercises or operations. Shannon saw military transports throughout the Cold War and during the first Gulf War.
In the aftermath of 11 September attacks, the Irish government offered the use of Shannon to the US government. When the United States invaded Iraq in 2003, the government still allowed United States Armed Forces to use the airport. This caused much controversy and was the subject of protests and a challenge brought to the High Court.
As of November 2008, approximately 1.2 million troops have passed through Shannon since the beginning of the Iraq War. In 2012–2013, the military flight contracts are held by Omni Air International.
Rendition flight allegationsEdit
On 6 December 2005, the BBC programme Newsnight alleged that Shannon was used on at least 33 occasions by United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) flights, thought to be part of a US policy called extraordinary rendition. The New York Times reported the number to be 33, though referring to "Ireland" rather than Shannon, while Amnesty International has alleged the number of flights to be 50. Casement Aerodrome has seen similar claims. The United States and Ireland have denied these allegations.
The current airport terminal was opened on 27 March 2000 by then Minister of Transport Mary O'Rourke. This facility has 40 check-in desks, 5 baggage carousels and 14 boarding gates (including 6 airbridges). There are nearly 20 aircraft parking stands. The car parks can hold 4,200 cars.‹See TfM›[failed verification]
Much of the older landside section of the airport has been renovated with new 'Shannon Airport' branding. An airside area renovation and passenger separation project was completed in Summer 2010.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection pre-clearanceEdit
In 1986, a United States border preclearance facility was opened at Shannon, eliminating the need to go through immigration on arrival in the United States. In November 2008, it was announced that customs and agriculture inspections would be added, making Shannon the first airport in Europe to offer this service, and to enable passengers to arrive in New York on a "domestic" basis. To have these facilities put in place, a two-storey, 7,000 m2 (75,000 sq ft) extension to the main terminal building was constructed. The facility opened the morning of 5 August 2009.
As of September 2016, Shannon Airport also is the first and only airport in Europe to offer U.S. border preclearance to private aircraft.
Airlines and destinationsEdit
The following airlines operate regular scheduled and charter flights to and from Shannon:
|Aer Lingus|| Boston, London–Heathrow, New York–JFK|
Seasonal: Barcelona, Faro, Lanzarote, Málaga, Paris–Charles de Gaulle
|Aer Lingus Regional||Birmingham, Edinburgh (resumes 26 March 2021)|
|Air Canada||Seasonal: Toronto–Pearson (suspended)|
|Air Europa||Seasonal charter: Palma de Mallorca|
|American Airlines||Seasonal: Philadelphia|
|Delta Air Lines||Seasonal: New York–JFK|
|Ryanair|| Alicante, Fuerteventura, Kaunas, Kraków, Lanzarote, London–Gatwick, London–Stansted, Málaga, Manchester, Tenerife–South, Warsaw–Modlin, Wrocław|
Seasonal: Faro, Palma de Mallorca, Reus, Vienna
|TUI Airways||Seasonal charter: Lanzarote, Reus|
The following cargo carriers are operating from Shannon Airport:
|DHL Aviation||East Midlands|
|FedEx Feeder||Paris–Charles de Gaulle|
|Turkish Cargo||Atlanta, Chicago–O'Hare, Istanbul–Atatürk, New York–JFK|
|UPS Airlines||Cologne/Bonn, Dublin|
|Updated: 11 November 2019.|
|% Change |
|Source: Central Statistics Office|
Shannon Airport is the end destination of the N19 national route, which connects to the N18/M18 Limerick–Ennis–Galway route. It is also the western end of European road E20. A dual carriageway section of the N19 was finished in 2004, bypassing the town of Shannon, and a new interchange and dual carriageway north to Ennis were completed in 2007 on the N18 (M18). It is approximately 25 kilometres (16 mi) west of Limerick and around 85 kilometres (53 mi) south of Galway. Dublin is approximately 223 kilometres (139 mi) away and Cork is around 125 kilometres (78 mi) away.
Bus Éireann services from/to the airport:
- Route 51: Galway – Cork
- Route X51: Galway – Limerick
- Route 343: Limerick – Shannon – Ennis
Car hire is available in the arrivals hall of the terminal building, with five car rental firms operating at the airport. Private-hire coaches and buses are available from many operators such as Eirebus; these need to be pre-booked and can transport passengers to any destination throughout Ireland.
Shannon Airport offers both short-term and long-term parking within the airport with over 5,000 spaces available. All car parks operate 24 hours and are regularly patrolled by Airport Police.
For many years a rail link to the airport (as a spur from the nearby Limerick–Ennis line) has been proposed, but nothing has materialised. The nearest major stations (Ennis railway station and Limerick railway station) require bus or taxi to connect with. Sixmilebridge is the nearest station to the airport. *Official site Irish Rail -train timetables, bookings and operations
Accidents and incidentsEdit
Due to the location of Shannon, it receives a large number of emergency stopovers.
- 16 July 1943 – British Overseas Airways Corporation de Havilland DH91 Fortuna crash-landed short of the Runway 14 threshold. There were no injuries.
- 18 June 1946 – an Aer Lingus Douglas DC-3, Charlie Alpha, on a domestic flight from Rineanna to Dublin crashed shortly after takeoff with only minor injuries reported.
- 28 December 1946 – TWA Lockheed Constellation Flight 6963 crashed attempting to land at the airport.
- 15 April 1948 – Pan Am Flight 1-10, a Lockheed Constellation crashed attempting to land at the airport.
- 5 September 1954 – Lockheed Super Constellation KLM Flight 633 from Amsterdam to New York City, using Shannon as a refuelling stop, crashed just after takeoff into a mudbank adjacent to the airport. 28 people on board died.
- 15 July 1956 – a Swissair Convair CV-440-11 crashed on approach to the airport due to pilot error. The aircraft was on its delivery flight from San Diego, California to Zürich via New York, Gander and Shannon. The crash killed all four crew on board.
- 14 August 1958 – Lockheed Super Constellation KLM Flight 607-E from Amsterdam to New York crashed into the Atlantic Ocean after a refuelling stop at Shannon, killing all 99 passengers and crew on board.
- 26 February 1960 – an Alitalia Douglas DC-7C I-DUVO crashed after the port wingtip struck the wall of a cemetery after taking off from the airport. The aircraft had made an unscheduled refuelling stop en route from Rome to New York. The aircraft had not gained sufficient height to clear the hilltop where the cemetery is located. The aircraft then crashed in the field where it exploded and disintegrated, scattering wreckage over a wide area. 34 people out of 52 passengers and crew on board died as a result of the accident. One cabin crew member, a steward who was seated at the rear of the aircraft survived the accident.
- 10 September 1961 – a President Airlines Douglas DC-6 crashed into the river Shannon after taking off from the airport on a flight to Gander. The disaster killed all 83 passengers and crew, one of the worst air disasters in Ireland's history.
- 30 September 1977 – an Interconair Bristol 175 Britannia 253 crashed to the left of runway 24 after severe vibration on the approach. The left wing broke off and caught fire but none of the six crew were injured in the crash.
- 20 June 1979 – American Airlines Flight 293 landed in Shannon after being hijacked.
As Shannon Airport has been built adjacent to the Shannon Estuary, it is likely to have problems with rising sea levels and high waters in the Shannon. The government is working on plans to protect both the airport and the town.
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Media related to Shannon Airport at Wikimedia Commons