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Shannon Airport ( ) is one of the Republic of Ireland's three primary airports (along with Dublin Airportmarker and Cork Airportmarker). It is the third busiest airport in the Republic of Irelandmarker and the fourth busiest on the island of Irelandmarker, with 3.1 million passengers in 2008. The airport is located by the new town of Shannon, County Claremarker, around from Ennismarker and west north-west of the city of Limerickmarker.


In the late 1930s, transatlantic air traffic was dominated by flying boats and a flying boat terminal was located at Foynesmarker on the south side of the Shannon Estuarymarker. However, it was realised that changing technology would require a runway and airport.

In 1936 the Government of Ireland confirmed that it would develop a 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. 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 land.

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 New York Citymarker. On 24 October, the first scheduled commercial flight, an American Overseas Airlines DC-4, passed through Shannon Airport.

The number of international carriers rose sharply in succeeding years as Shannon became well known as the gateway between Europe and the Americas. Limitation of aircraft range necessitated refuelling stops on many journeys. Shannon became the most convenient and obvious stopping point before and after the trip across the Atlanticmarker.

In 1947 the "Customs Free Airport Act" established Shannon as the world's first duty free airport. Shannon became a model for other Duty Free facilities throughout the world. That same year, the airport was finally completed.

In 1958, the Irish Airline Aer Lingus finally began transatlantic service to the United Statesmarker, using Lockheed Super Constellation for thrice-weekly service to New York City and Boston.

The 1960s proved to be difficult for Shannon Airport. With the introduction of new long range jet aircraft, transit traffic fell sharply as the need for planes crossing the Atlantic to re-fuel at Shannon became unnecessary.

In 1966, Aer Lingus began service between Shannon and Chicago, with a stop in Montréal, Canada. This route was taken out of service in 1979.

In 1969, it was announced that a new government agency, Aer Rianta (Dublin Airport Authority), would be given responsibility for Shannon Airport. Passenger numbers at the airport reached 460,000 that same year. With the increase in passengers and the introduction of the Boeing 747, it was decided that a new enlarged terminal would have to be built. The first commercial operation of a Boeing 747 took place in April 1971 while the new terminal officially opened in May of that year. In 1974, a major increase in fuel prices had a dramatic effect on transit traffic.

The 1980s saw a number of new airlines arrive at Shannon. Aer Rianta and the Sovietmarker airline, Aeroflot, had signed an agreement and by 1980 Aeroflot had established a fuel farm at Shannon. The fuel farm was to hold Soviet fuel and soon Aeroflot planes were stopping off at Shannon to fuel up to continue onto destinations in South, Central, and North America. The number of Aeroflot flights went from 240 aircraft in 1980, to 2000 aircraft by 1991. In 1989, US carrier Delta Air Lines launched flights from Shannon and Dublin to Atlantamarker and New York-JFK. The New York route was dropped after 9/11 but has since re-commenced.

During the 1990s the airport began to struggle. The bilateral agreement with the United States was renegotiated resulting in fewer planes required to stopover in Shannon (See Shannon Stopover below). However, 1996 saw the beginning of Continental Airlines flying between Dublin, Shannon and Newark, New Jerseymarker.

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 passengers numbers of 2.2 million and in the year 2000, a new £40 million terminal extension was opened.

Recent history

The new millennium brought new challenges to Shannon Airport. The September 11 attacks in New York and the downturn in aviation industry that followed, severely threatened the future of the airport. Some airlines reduced their services while others pulled out completely.

In 2004 the "State Airports Act" was passed. This renamed Aer Rianta as the Dublin Airport Authority, and established the Shannon Airport Authority and Cork Airport Authority. The three new authorities have the power to formulate business plans for their respective airports, however they will not take charge of running the airports until a yet-to-be-determined date.

2005 saw American Airlines return to Shannon with non-stop daily flights to/from Bostonmarker. This was later discontinued in favour of direct service between Shannon and Chicagomarker. Both routes were operated with Boeing 757 aircraft but American Airlines eventually pulled out of Shannon in October 2007.

In August 2007, Aer Lingus announced that it was ending its 4 daily flights from Shannon to London Heathrow Airportmarker. The airline now uses these Heathrow slots to serve its new hub at Belfast International Airportmarker. CityJet announced soon after that it would launch twice-daily flights to Paris-Charles de Gaulle Airportmarker in Parismarker in an attempt to fill the gap left by Aer Lingus.

For 2007, Shannon Airport had record passenger numbers of 3.6 million. International traffic was up 6%, while short haul flights were up 10%.

In October 2008, as part of a multi-million euro cost-cutting plan, Aer Lingus announced it was to close its Shannon cabin crew base with a loss of 280 jobs. The airline would be redeploying an aircraft based at Shannon to Dublin in Summer 2009, leaving only one Aer Lingus Airbus A330 based at Shannon. The company have since signed an agreement with the trade union, IMPACT, representing the cabin crew.

In November 2008, Delta Air Lines confirmed it would no longer be operating the non-stop Shannon-Atlantamarker service in summer 2009. The Atlanta service operated on a summer-only, daily basis since the Shannon stopover was removed. The flights from Shannon to Atlanta now operate in conjunction with their existing Shannon-New York-JFKmarker flights under the same flight number (Shannon-New York-Atlanta).

In December 2008, Aer Lingus announced the restoration of the Shannon-London Heathrow route after its controversial decision to transfer the Heathrow slots to their new Belfast International Airport hub. The airline uses some of the Heathrow slots from Dublinmarker to operate double daily flights which began in March 2009. London service from Dublin is now instead split between Heathrow and the new Aer Lingus Gatwickmarker hub, which opened in April 2009. Acting CEO for Aer Lingus Colm Barrington stated recently that the airline was in talks with British Airways to secure another slot at London Heathrow Airportmarker for a thrice-daily service between the two airports.

In February 2009 CityJet confirmed it would increase capacity on the Shannon-Paris route by basing one of their Avro RJ85 aircraft at the airport.

Also in February 2009 Ryanair announced it would be reducing its Shannon base due to the €10 travel tax. From the end of March the number of planes based at Shannon was reduced from six to four. Five routes were cut in total: Turin, London-Luton, Katowice, Gdansk and Frankfurt. This brings the total number of routes served from Shannon with Ryanair to 25 from 30.

In June 2009 Delta Air Lines announced it will suspend the Shannon-New York (JFK) route in October 2009. The airline blamed the global financial crisis, rising oil prices as well as a drop in demand in the air travel industry for the route closure. However, Delta intends to re-open the route in the summer of 2010. Delta announced that they will resume the service May 8, 2010.

The day after this announcement, Aer Lingus released its Winter Schedule 09/10 with a reduction of its longhaul services by 25%. All of its routes from Shannon were affected with Chicagomarker being dropped and Bostonmarker getting a reduction in frequency. The airline also planned to cut the Shannon-New York (JFK) route but, after Delta's announcement said the route would "remain under close review". On shorthaul, Aer Lingus announced that capacity would be increased on the Shannon-London Heathrowmarker route from October with intentions to base an Airbus A320 at Shannon.

In September 2009 CityJet announced that they would be ending their Shannon-Paris CDG route by re-deploying 1 Avro RJ85 to one of their other airports, they blamed the turn-down in passenger numbers since April 2009 with the airline also announcing that the airline yet had to make a profit on the route since it launched in February 2008.

On 9 October 2009, Aer Lingus announced that it would be axing its USmarker Shannon base.Aer Lingus is axing 102 Cabin Crew Jobs from a total of 136 at Shannon.The Airline will also be axing its Shannon Airport - New Yorkmarker John F Kennedy Airportmarker from early 2010 and launch a 3-Day a week service to JFK from Shannon via Dublin Airportmarker.Aer Lingus said, It is not just Shannon.It is about Aer Lingus in total.Cabin crew staff where in tears.

On 21 October 2009, Ryanair announced a 75% Reduction in its Shannon Airport base, the airline blamed the Irish Governments €10 Airport Departure tax and Shannon Airport's high airport charges visit the Wikipedia link Ryanair

On 28 October 2009, US Airways announced that it will not be flying between Philadelphia and Shannon for the 2010 Summer season.

Shannon stopover

The first Air Services Agreement with the United States in 1945 only permitted flights to Shannon, and only permitted Irish airlines to serve Bostonmarker, Chicagomarker 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 US-Ireland bilateral agreement was changed to allow Irish airlines to serve Los Angelesmarker, and additional US airlines to serve Dublin via Shannon. An amendment in 1993 allowed airlines to provide direct transatlantic services to Dublin, but still 50% of transatlantic flights had to 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 eliminated restrictions on cargo services. For passenger service, it reduced the stopover requirement and increased the number of US destinations Irish airlines could serve by three. 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 USA announced that an agreement had been reached on an open skies aviation policy. The agreement came into effect from March 30 2008. This effectively led to the complete abolition of the Shannon Stopover, although this would have happened under the 2005 agreement anyway.

Military stopover issue

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, as a neutral country, was not a member of NATOmarker. There were some restrictions, such as being unarmed, carrying no arms, ammunition or explosives, and that the flights in question do not form part of military exercises or operation. Shannon saw military transports throughout the Cold War and during the first Gulf War.

In the aftermath of the September 11 attacks, the Irish government offered the use of Shannon to the US government. When the United States expanded the War On Terror from Afghanistanmarker to Iraqmarker in 2003, the government still allowed its use by the United States armed forces. This caused much controversy and was the subject of protests and a challenge brought to the High Court. In January 2003, a women took an axe to the nose cone and fuel lines of a US Navy jet; however a trial ended in her acquittal. In February 2003, a group known as the Pitstop Ploughshares damaged a United States Navy C-40 Clipper aircraft at the airport. They were tried three different times and ultimately ended up also being acquitted.

As of November 2008, approximately 1.2 million troops have passed through Shannon since the beginning of the Iraq War. This has generated significant revenue for the airport and has offset the loss of flights from the end of the Shannon stopover and the general downturn in the global aviation industry.

Rendition flight allegations

On 6 December 2005, the BBC programme Newsnight alleged that Shannon was used on at least 33 occasions by United States Central Intelligence Agency 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. The United States has denied these allegations.


The current airport terminal was opened on the 27 March 2000 by the then Minister of Transport Mary O'Rourke. This facility has 40 check-in desks, 5 baggage carousels and 10 boarding gates (including 6 airbridges). There are nearly 40 aircraft parking stands. The car-parks can hold over 5,000 cars.

Much of the older landside section of the airport has been renovated with new 'Shannon Airport' branding. The boarding area is currently being renovated and is set to be completed at the same time as the new U.S. Customs and Border Protection post.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection Pre-clearance

The United States immigration booths at Shannon prior to the opening of the new Customs and Border Protection facilities
In 1986 a United States border preclearance facility was opened at Shannon, eliminating the need to go through immigration on arrival in the United Statesmarker. 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. This is expected to be a big incentive to attract airlines and corporate jets to Shannon. Shannon Airport spent 21 million on the facilities. To have these facilities put in place a two storey, 7,000 square metre extension to the main terminal building has been constructed. The facility opened the morning of August 5 2009. The passengers on Continental Airlines flight CO25 from Shannon to Newark were first to use the facilities which give Shannon a unique status.

British Airways now offers a business class only flight from London City Airportmarker to New York Citymarker with a stopover in Shannon. This will allow them to take off from the short runway of City airport which is located in the London Docklandsmarker area, stop for fuel in Shannon while passengers go through pre-clearance and arrive without the need to go through immigration or customs.

New cargo facility

A new cargo facility is to be built on the current cargo site. The SAA (Shannon Airport Authority) have signed an agreement with the Lynxs Group to provide a 200,000 square feet state-of-the-art facility at the airport.

The planned cargo port would be built at a cost of $15m and would include aircraft parking, an immediate taxiway and access to public roads. Also included are the normal cargo facilities such as chilled and freezer storage.

Lynxs anticipates a ground-breaking event by mid 2010 with the final stages of construction to be completed by early 2011.

Ground transportation


Shannon Airport is the end destination of the N19 national route, which connects to the N18/M18 Limerick–Ennis–Galway route. 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.


Regular bus services connect the airport to Limerick, Ennis and Galway.

Passenger statistics

Figures in Millions
year passengers
2003 2.5
2004 2.5
2005 3.3
2006 3.5
2007 3.6
2008 3.1

Airlines and destinations




Other airlines

Incidents and accidents

  • Due to the location of Shannon, it receives a large number of emergency stopovers.
  • 16 July 1943, a 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, named Charlie Alpha was a domestic flight from Rineanna to Dublin. It crashed shortly after takeoff with only minor injuries reported.
  • 5 September 1954, KLM Flight 633 from Amsterdam to New York, which was using Shannon as a refueling stop, crashed just after take-off into a mudbank just next to the airport. 28 people on board died.
  • 14 August 1958, KLM Flight 607-E from Amsterdam to New York crashed into the Atlantic Ocean, after a refueling stop at Shannon.


  1. Shannon’s transatlantic passenger numbers fall 23%
  2. History of Shannon Airport
  3. Growth - Shannon recovers passenger throughput, AIRPORTS
  4. Shannon Airport reports record passenger numbers
  5. Aer Lingus wants to axe 1,500 jobs
  6. Aer Lingus to resume Shannon to Heathrow route
  13. High Court of Ireland Decisions
  14. Almost 200,000 troops use Shannon
  15. Car Parking
  16. Airport Facts
  17. New agreement for US-bound air passengers

External links

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