SHANNON Airport was a hive of activity today, as passengers took advantage of the easing of Covid-19 restrictions around international travel.
For the first time since March 2020, significant passenger numbers were checking in to flights bound for Europe as the first day of the European Digital Covid-19 certificates took effect.
There was a real sense of excitement as passengers of all ages became very much at ease with the heightened public safety measures.
There were reunions as inbound flights arrived but also a palpable degree of anticipation as others got set to depart on the earliest flight out of the airport today, the 7:10am flight to London-Gatwick.
Among those boarding were Jack and Rita Fitzgibbon from Caherdavin who were travelling to Britain hoping to be in time ahead of the birth of their first great-grandchild.
Rita explained: “We are travelling because we hope to celebrate the birth of our great grandchild. It's our first great grandchild and we're all excited. We haven't seen our grandchildren since the beginning of the coronavirus.
“It's absolutely marvelous to be back in Shannon again. Now with our vaccination, this is the only way that we'll be able to travel to England to see our children.”
The first inbound flight was from Krakow and a reunion was also the order of the day
"I was coming over today to collect my brother and my niece from the airport,” said Sabina Budziak and her daughter Sofia, 7, who live at the South Circular Road. Her brother Zbigniew and his daughter Nicola arrived to mark her 12th birthday.
"It's been a year since I have seen them last. It was very difficult. It's not the same as when you see people in person. Today is a very good day. It kind of brings us hope that life will come back to normal at some stage."
It was also smiles all around for airport staff.
"Today is a great day because you can see the atmosphere around the place, people are at ease here and they're glad to be back, they're glad to get up in the sky again," said Shannon Duty Free sales associate Helen Quinlivan, "It's great to see the excitement. People are really looking forward to going back and seeing their loved ones and they're very at ease."
Shannon Group chief executive Mary Considine: "The reopening of international travel is a very significant step forward not only for Shannon Airport, but for the thousands of jobs and businesses along the Wild Atlantic Way and Mid-West that depend on these services to support their operation. With the introduction of the EU Digital COVID certificate, together with the roll-out of the vaccination programme, which is powering ahead, there is a real sense of optimism in the air. Although there is a long road ahead of us to get airport passenger numbers back to anything like 2019 levels, it is important to acknowledge these milestones on our journey to recover and rebuild our business."
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