The new year-round Aer Lingus service to Shannon Airport was launched by airport chairman Rose Hynes at a special gathering in the Renee Weiler Concert Hall on Monday evening in New York.
“The theme for this evening is to let people know that the west is awake, in the sense that Shannon Airport which was in decline for five years is now in growth mode,” Hynes told the Irish Voice.
Services between New York and the gateway airport to the west of Ireland have significantly strengthened with the new year-round, six-days-a-week Aer Lingus JFK service to and from Shannon Airport.
Shannon Airport has not had this service since 2009. Hynes added, “We are the only trans-Atlantic airport in the ‘real’ Ireland with a catchment area all the way from Co. Donegal to Co. Cork.
“Just over a year ago the Irish government decided to separate Shannon Airport from the other state airports. Our message is simple – if you want to go to Ireland then you need to go through Shannon.”
The six-times-a-week service launched by Aer Lingus is part of a major enhancement of its trans-Atlantic services this year. The Irish airline also initiated daily Boston service to and from Shannon last month. In total, Aer Lingus will increase its trans-Atlantic capacity to Shannon this year by 31,000 seats, with 13 weekly flights between Shannon and the U.S. as opposed to seven in 2013.
Guests on Monday night included influential members of the Irish American community and business associates of the Shannon Free Zone.
Guests were told that passenger numbers to Shannon were now in growth mode following a five-year decline.
“This is going to be a significant year of growth in Shannon because we are totally focused on what works for Shannon and what works for Shannon alone,” Hynes said.
As finger food was served and guests mingled, an older generation of Irish Americans who remember a vastly different era of air transport chatted about the amazing advancements in air travel between Ireland and the U.S.
Carmel Mangan left Ireland in 1966 from her native Co. Clare to travel to the U.S, where she has remained working as a nurse. “When I left Ireland in 1966, the whole family came to the airport because back then it was seen as there was no way back as it took all available funds to send me to America in the first place,” Mangan, who is now a regular visitor to Ireland, told the Irish Voice.
Joining her at the launch was her brother Martin Bourke and his wife who had traveled over on the new Aer Lingus service last weekend.
“It’s wonderful the way we have moved on since 1966. When we left Carmel at the airport it seemed like the end but now she’s home so often, I really don’t know how she doesn’t suffer from jet lag with all her going,” Bourke said.
The message was clear from the Shannon delegation that the west of Ireland is most definitely awake and ready to fight back. It was noted that the Shannon Airport staff is committed to giving passengers the best possible welcome to Ireland possible.
“We see ourselves as a friendly, no-hassle airport with easy access. It’s the easiest way in and out of Ireland and that’s what we want to stress here,” Hynes told the guests.
“It’s more revolutionary than evolution we are thinking. We have to make things happen.”
The new Aer Lingus Shannon service will also provide significant support to the new Tourism Ireland initiative known as the Wild Atlantic Way, Ireland’s long distance touring route showcasing the magnificent Atlantic Irish coastline. The airport has joined forces with Shannon Heritage to make sure those who pass through Shannon have the best experience possible.
Tourism Ireland Executive Vice President Alison Metcalfe added, “2013 was the strongest year ever for visitors to Ireland from North America, surpassing the previous best year of 2007. Getting to the Shannon region has never been easier.”
As guests sat down to an evening of music from Affiniti, a classically trained group of musicians, Hynes concluded with a quote from George Bernard Shaw to showcase the message from Shannon and the new year-round service. “Those who say it cannot be done should not interrupt those who are doing it,” she said.