Officially opened in 1945, Shannon Airport has grown to become the second largest airport in Ireland. 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 airport employs more than 2,000 people directly with 500 people are employed at the airport in roles such as air traffic control, immigration and communications. During the peak months, 1,000 seasonal staff can be employed to help cope with demand. Annually, more than 3 million passengers fly through Shannon Airport with more than 30,000 flights scheduled annually.
Shannon Airport is unique in Ireland, in so far as that the 06-24 runway can cater for the largest air planes currently in use, notably the A380-800 with a wingspan of 79.9 meters and the An-225 with a wing span of 88.4 meters. In fact, the runway at almost 3,200 meters long is a designated landing site for the Space Shuttle
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.