FAMILIES were reunited, tears were shed and hugs swapped as emigrants returning for Christmas arrived at Shannon this week.
On Monday afternoon, the Heathrow-Shannon flight was packed with people arriving home from various corners of the world, with dozens waiting in the terminal to greet them.
Michelle Davitt of Galway was at Shannon to collect her brother, who manages a restaurant in Washington. “He hasn’t been home for Christmas in 12 years, so it’s a long time. He has been home during summers and stuff, but not for Christmas,” she said.
She was the only member of her family who knew he was coming, as his arrival was being kept as a seasonal surprise.
Deirdre O’Rourke was waiting for her brother, Sean. “He’s coming from England and it’s the first time in 21 years he’s been home for Christmas. We’re really looking forward to it and we’re going to make a show of him.”
When he stepped through the arrivals door, she squealed with excitement and made for her brother, making a show of him exactly as promised.
Patricia Lewis is based in London and was bringing her twins for a three-week visit to her family home in Barefield. “It’s their first Christmas in Ireland. They’re twins and they’re 17 months old. We’ve cried a lot on the journey here, so it’s nice to have smiles now,” she said, as her two children were perking up after being greeted with some enthusiasm by her family.
Romy Harney was arriving from New Zealand, along with her husband and their two daughters. “We’re there for the last two years. It was just the work situation but we like it. Frank is from there originally. We’re very lucky where we are, but we miss home.”
Her daughter, Emma, is 14 years old and used to go to Dangan National School. She said she is enjoying her new life on the other side of the world, although she misses people in Clare. “It’s great but we miss everyone. The weather is great (in New Zealand) and the people are really nice.”
Primary school teacher, Dympna Walsh was coming home to Clare from Auckland. She said she is quite happy there. “Everything is going well, there’s a good community there and good weather.”
Regarding her future, she said she may come home at some point. “I’m lucky in that I didn’t go because of work, I just went to travel and when I’m fed up of it, I’ll come home.”
Margaret McGrath from Cooraclare was the last person left at arrivals, hoping to meet a loved one. She was waiting for her niece, Mary Clare O’Donnell, but as all the other passengers had gone, it looked as if she had missed a flight.
“I’m just hoping she made her connection. She’s coming in from Philadelphia via Heathrow.”
Fortunately, things worked out well, as Mary Clare finally emerged from the arrivals area, minus a bag that had been lost in transit.
It is estimated there will be 15% more passengers making their way home through Shannon Airport this year, compared to last Christmas. Between last weekend and the end of the first week of January, some 51,000 people will have used the airport to get to and from their chosen festive destination.
Last Christmas saw passenger numbers for the Christmas season grow for the first time in six years and this year they are up by almost 45% on 2012.
Shannon Airport CEO, Neil Pakey predicted that it will be Shannon’s busiest Christmas since 2009. “We’ve had a really busy start to the Christmas period. We expect passenger numbers to be up by 15% on last year’s figures,” he said.
“It’s a great time to be at an airport, as whether passengers are outbound or inbound, there’s typically a homecoming happening and that creates a magical mood.”