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The famous foodie who’s flying the tricolour for us in Texas highlights the challenges that face passengers flying to Ireland from Dallas - and, while lauding Shannon for its efficiency and convenience, also recalls the romance of the early days of flight in the west of Ireland
Although I do not book flights for my clients, they ask me which airline I prefer to fly to Ireland with, which route is the most efficient from Texas and last but by no means least, should they fly in to Dublin or Shannon airports?
The first question is an easy one. With Dallas Fort Worth International airport being the hub for American Airlines, they are my preferred carrier. As for efficiency, sadly, we still do not have a direct flight from Texas to Ireland.
We Texans have to fly either to Chicago, New York, Boston, Philadelphia, or Charlotte, North Carolina. This adds half a day to our journey and can be a deterrent for people who would otherwise like to visit Ireland.
I understand that airlines are risk averse and that setting up a new route is not that easy, but consider these figures. The population of New York State is 19.7 million and the population of Texas is 26.9 million and yet we do not have one direct flight from the Lone Star state to the island of Ireland. Not to mention, Dallas Fort Worth, Austin Bergstrom International and George Bush Intercontinental airports provide service to the people of the four contiguous states, namely New Mexico, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Louisiana. That’s another 13.5 million people. Taking our total to 40.4 million people. And yet, we still do not have a direct flight to Ireland. Not even to the gateway of the ‘Wild Atlantic Way’ being marketed so heavily in the United States.
And now to the question, Dublin or Shannon airport? The answer to this question is not as straightforward as it may seem. If it is their first visit to Ireland and they really want to spend a couple of days in Dublin, then of course fly in and out of Dublin.
U.S travellers do not get as many vacation days per annum as Europeans. They tend to fly to Ireland for a week. If you have to spend 2 days out of your 7 on travel alone then the 5 days remaining have to be crafted carefully, hence people do these drive by tours of Ireland, returning back to the United States now in need of a rest or a vacation to Cozumel to relax!
If they are making a return trip to Ireland, and have visited Dublin, then without hesitation I recommend they use Shannon Airport. The efficiency at this airport will save you valuable hours when those vital hours count on your first day in Ireland.
There is a nostalgia and mystique associated with Shannon Airport and indeed the west of Ireland, that lives in the hearts and minds of many, including my own. I remember all too well back to the 1970’s when my aunt, uncle and cousins would return to Ireland from New York for the summer months.
The excitement always began at the airport. Shannon airport. Watching the glamorous cabin crews walking through the halls in immaculate uniforms, perfectly coiffed hair and carrying matching leather luggage. Those halls at Shannon airport have seen many a character come through.
Transatlantic aviation in the Shannon Estuary first began in Foynes. In 1935, Lough Derg and Lough Corrib were among many locations considered as bases for seaplanes. On the 11th July 1939, a Belgian airliner was the first passenger aircraft to land at Rineanna. The crew and eight passengers then drove to Foynes where they boarded Pan American’s ‘Yankee Clipper’ to the United States. It was in October 1945 that the first scheduled flight from the United States landed in Shannon Airport.
The decades that followed are examples of innovation in times of adversity. World War II delayed the development of the new Shannon Airport. Later, to ensure the very best, catering services were established at both Foynes and Shannon.
This year, sees the 75th birthday of the famous ‘Irish Coffee’ created by Chef Joe Sheridan. He felt the weary passengers needed some hot food and drink. Rich cream, strong coffee, sugar cubes and smooth Irish Whiskey are the only ingredients. When one passenger tried it he asked what kind of coffee it was, ‘Brazilian perhaps’? ‘No, Irish Coffee’ was the reply.
Then in the early 1950’s Stan Delaplane, a journalist from the San Francisco Chronicle tasted this beverage. He took this recipe back to the Buena Vista Bar on Fisherman’s Wharf, and this began the phenomena of the success of Irish Coffee throughout the USA.
In 1947, it became the first Customs Free Airport in the World. It began with a simple kiosk. We are now so accustomed to seeing these Duty Free facilities globally, that we sometimes forget it’s humble origins were here at this airport.
In the 1970’s, as technology was making strides, it was this same technology that threatened the airport. As these aircraft were being built to travel from the Americas into Europe without stopovers, would Shannon become obsolete?
Back went the thinking caps and they soon developed a programme to attract technical landings by U.S supplemental and charter airlines. Thus Shannon airport survived a very tough time in the 1970’s.
In the late 1970’s, Aer Rianta, approached the U.S Federal Authorities to establish U.S pre clearance for passengers. A trial basis was set up in 1986 and a permanent facility was opened in 1988. This was the first of its kind in Europe.
In March 2010 Shannon Airport became the first airport in the world outside the USA to have pre clearance for private aircraft. This is why my clients landed their own plane in July 2016 in Shannon Airport. It was incredible efficient and they reported back to me that they were treated like royalty. They will return.
In recent years, traffic figures have been increasing. In 2015, Shannon has continued to see growth and handled 1.71 million passengers. The capacity of this airport is for 4.5 million. It can certainly provide for those of us travelling from the Lone Star State and the four contiguous states.
The Irish community has grown here in Dallas Fort Worth, Austin and Houston with branches of the Irish Network being established in each city. I have agreed to launch the DFW chapter in a year. I know many people from Dublin, but there is an abundance of people from Tralee, Killarney, Cork, Limerick, Waterford, Tipperary and Galway, who like myself would love to be able to fly directly to Shannon airport.
One person cannot do this alone nor can two or three people but if enough voices are heard and we can find those innovators who have taken note of adversity, changing times and needs at Shannon Airport, then I don’t see why we can’t get a flight from Dallas Fort Worth to Shannon.
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