PASSENGER numbers at Shannon Airport exceeded one million for the first nine months of the year, indicating the strength of its recovery since the easing of Covid-19 restrictions.
Up to the end of September of this year 1,050,916 passengers had come through Shannon Airport. This represents 82.4% of the amount it carried in the first nine months of 2019, the last full year before Covid-19 shut down aviation across the world.
The percentage would have been even higher had Covid not still been a factor in the early part of 2022.
Shannon saw less than half the number of passengers in January 2022 that it did in January 2019, which was a relatively worse performance than in any of the eight months since.
In addition, February was the second worst month by comparison with 2019.
Shannon Airport Group CEO Mary Considine said it has been a positive year and that routes to Europe and the US have performed very well, with the outlook being bright, with new services to come.
“It’s a strong recovery especially when you consider that Quarter 1 was still impacted by the Omnicron variant and restrictions,” said Ms Considine.
“Once the markets opened up in March there was a very strong rebound across all our main markets, if you look at the transatlantic there has been a very strong performance by Aer Lingus on their daily New York and Boston services.
“United have had a very strong performance on their Newark-New Jersey service and on the back of that you see them adding additional capacity for next year with the Chicago service starting next May. We will then have four US gateway hubs served and that’s really good news.
“Ryanair have had a very strong performance across their 22 routes this summer and they’re planning to add additional capacity next year, with a third aircraft based at Shannon and two new routes, bringing it up to 24.
“There’s a new Vueling service to Paris Orly also, so we’re in a much better place than we would have forecast at the beginning of the year.”
At one time it was predicted that a full recovery wouldn’t come until 2026, but it now looks like it will be much earlier.
“We’d be hoping that next year with additional capacity that we should be close on 2019 levels, there or thereabouts, or we may even exceed them, but it’s too early to make that call.”
While larger airports had advantages when the pandemic restrictions eased, she feels the ease of travel at Shannon has proved important.
“Globally connectivity went back to the major hubs first, but we have performed very strongly this year. I think it’s on the back of the offering in Shannon, we’ve had passengers using Shannon for the first time this year and they’ve realised how easy it is to get through the airport.
“There’s a really good road network serving Shannon, it’s very easy to get to the airport, you can park directly outside the terminal and getting through the terminal is much quicker.
“The investment we’ve made in the security equipment has halved the time required for people. They can easily get through here in 15-20 minutes and that includes CBP if they’re going onto the US.”
Shannon now has a combined US/EU security checking system, which has further reduced waiting times, while it has been recognised as an Age Friendly Airport by the World Health Organisation.
Ms Considine said the commitment shown to making the experience of passengers easier and more comfortable has paid off.
“The team here have been totally focused on making it easier for the passengers. All in all I think people have found using Shannon this year an enjoyable experience and we’ve certainly seen very strong load factors.
“We would hope that would in turn encourage our airline partners to put more capacity in. It has been a challenging time for the aviation sector but we have come back strongly.”
Owen Ryan has been a journalist with the Clare Champion since 2007, having previously worked for a number of other regional titles in Limerick, Galway and Cork.