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Shannon Airport joins Dublin and Cork as one of the three principal airports in Ireland. It’s the third-busiest of the trio, and it operates significant transatlantic service while serving as a gateway into Ireland’s south-west region, particularly for those bound for Limerick, Galway and Ennis.
Shannon Airport opened in 1945 as the first transatlantic hub in Ireland. At that time, it was an important refuelling stop for flights from North America. Today, Shannon serves over 1.75 million passengers per year through a terminal that opened in 2000. This modern facility features 40 check-in desks, 14 departure gates and 5 luggage carousels.
Shannon Airport is unique in Ireland, in so far as that the 06-24 runway can cater for the largest aeroplanes currently in use, notably the A380-800 with a wingspan of 79.9 meters and the An-225 with a wingspan of 88.4 meters. In fact, the runway at almost 3,200 meters long is a designated landing site for the Space Shuttle
The US began offering pre-clearance services in the 1980s. The service was expanded to include agricultural and customs inspections in 2008, at which point Shannon became the first airport in the world to offer such a comprehensive service.
The terminal is outfitted with a range of modern facilities, including free wireless Internet access, shopping facilities and a range of bars and restaurants.
The airport is the most westerly airport in Europe, situated on the West coast of Ireland, on the banks of the River Shannon Estuary. This westerly position provides an ideal gateway to and from Europe for trans-Atlantic flights. Situated on more than 2,00 acres, the Airport is less than 25 kilometres from Limerick City, and due to a much-improved road network, extremely well connected with Galway City. The actual city of Shannon is not a tourist destination, as it was purpose-built to serve the airport and its employees.
With this in mind, transportation is an important consideration for those flying into the terminal. Car rental from Shannon Airport is particularly practical, as significant travel almost always follows incoming flights.
Origins of Shannon Airport
In terms of aviation history, Shannon Airport was preceded by a seaplane base at Foynes, before the Irish Government undertook a survey to find suitable bases for trans-Atlantic flights. In 1946 the first scheduled commercial flight between America and Europe landed at Shannon Airport, an American Overseas Airline flight. This was quickly followed by services from Pan M and Trans World America.
The number of international carriers using Shannon Airport rose sharply in the following years. During this time, aircraft needed to refuel before flying onwards, and Shannon Airport was the ideal choice.
In fact, the first ever duty-free shop was opened at Shannon Airport in 1947, offering commercial and catering services to passengers. At this time, the duty-free operation was run by one employee! In 1951 the duty-free shop began to sell alcoholic produce, with passengers able to avail of tax-free prices.
On 31st December 2012, Shannon Airport became independent from the DAA which now manages Cork Airport and Shannon Airport. The airport is in fact now publicly owned. Since the split with the DAA, Shannon Airport has increased passenger numbers for the first time in many years and made a profit.