Shannon Airport

Aerfort na Sionainne
Airport typePublic
OwnerGovernment of Ireland
OperatorShannon Airport Authority plc
ServesMid-West Region, Ireland
LocationShannon, County Clare
Focus city for
Elevation AMSL46 ft / 14 m
Coordinates52°42′07″N 008°55′29″W / 52.70194°N 8.92472°W / 52.70194; -8.92472 Edit this at Wikidata
SNN is located in Ireland
Location in Ireland
Direction Length Surface
m ft
06/24 3,199 10,495 Asphalt
Statistics (2022)
Passenger change '21-‘22Increase300%
Aircraft movements18,086
Movements change '21-‘22Increase98%
Shannon Airport in relation to Ennis and Limerick

Shannon Airport (Irish: Aerfort na Sionainne)[4][5] (IATA: SNN, ICAO: EINN) is an international airport located in County Clare in the Republic of Ireland. It is adjacent to the Shannon Estuary and lies halfway between Ennis and Limerick. With over 1.5 million passengers in 2022,[6] the airport is the third busiest airport in the Republic of Ireland, and the fifth busiest on the island.

The airport was built in the late 1930s, with the first commercial flight taking place in 1939. Shannon was the departure point for the first transatlantic proving flight in 1945 and became the world's first duty-free airport in 1947. By the 1960s, it was a busy refuelling stop for many transatlantic carriers.[7] Europe's first United States border preclearance facility opened in 1986. At 3.2 kilometres (2 mi), Shannon has the longest runway in Ireland, which allowed it to be a designated alternative landing site for the Space Shuttle.[8]



In the late 1930s, transatlantic air traffic was dominated by flying boats, and a flying boat terminal was located at Foynes on the south side of the Shannon Estuary. However, it was realised that changing technology would require a permanent runway and airport.

In 1936, the Government of Ireland confirmed that it would develop a 3.1-square-kilometre (1.2 sq mi) site at Rineanna for the country's first transatlantic airport. The land on which the airport was to be built was boggy and on 8 October 1936 work began to drain it. In July 1939, a SABENA Savoia-Marchetti S.73 from Brussels via Croydon Airport was the first commercial flight to use the Rineanna airfield.[9]

By 1942, a serviceable airport had been established and was named Shannon Airport. BOAC began scheduled service to Bristol on 21 February 1942 to provide a land plane connection between England and the flying boat terminal at Foynes. Aer Lingus began scheduled service to Dublin in August 1942.[10]

Transatlantic service

By the end of World War II in 1945, the existing runways at Shannon were extended to allow transatlantic flights to take off. The first Air Services Agreement between Ireland and the United States in 1945 permitted U.S. airlines to serve only Shannon, and permitted Irish airlines to serve only Boston, Chicago and New York.[citation needed]

On 16 September 1945, the first transatlantic proving flight, a Pan Am DC-4, landed at Shannon from Gander.[11] On 24 October 1945, the first scheduled transatlantic commercial flight using a land plane, an American Overseas Airlines DC-4, Flagship New England, stopped at the airport on the New York CityGander–Shannon–London route.[12] Trans World Airlines began service between New York and Paris via Gander and Shannon on 5 February 1946,[13] and began a Shannon-Dublin tag flight in 1971 after the US Civil Aeronautics Board threatened to ban Aer Lingus from landing in New York. Aerlinte Eireann began service from Dublin to New York via Shannon on 28 April 1958.[14]

In 1947, the "Customs Free Airport Act" established Shannon as the world's first duty-free airport, a move promoted by Brendan O'Regan.[15] Shannon became a model for other duty-free facilities worldwide.[15]

In 1969, it was announced that a new government agency, Aer Rianta (now the Dublin Airport Authority), would be given responsibility for Shannon Airport. Passenger numbers at the airport reached 460,000 that year. With the increase in passengers and the introduction of the Boeing 747, it was decided that a new enlarged terminal was needed. The first commercial operation of a 747 took place in April 1971, while the new terminal officially opened in May that year.

Aeroflot service

Aeroflot began service to Shannon in September 1975 as a stop between the Soviet Union and other Communist bloc countries, such as Cuba and Angola. Aeroflot kept its own fuel storage at Shannon and allowed the airport to sell the Soviet fuel to other airlines.[16]

The United States demanded that Ireland suspend Aeroflot's Shannon operations following the shooting down of Korean Air Lines Flight 007 in 1983, and Ireland temporarily banned Aeroflot later that year.[17] Nonetheless, the Aeroflot operation returned and developed into a hub by the mid-1990s, with flights to New York, Chicago, Washington, Miami, and Havana, largely using Ilyushin Il-62 aircraft.[18]

The cooperation between Aeroflot and Aer Rianta at Shannon also led to a joint venture between the two companies to open duty-free shops at Sheremetyevo Airport in 1987.[19]

On 30 September 1994, Shannon was the site of the "circling over Shannon" diplomatic incident involving Russian President Boris Yeltsin.

The "Shannon stopover"

Shannon introduced United States border preinspection in 1986, allowing departing passengers to the US to complete US immigration procedures at Shannon. This operation was administered by the US Justice Department, specifically the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS). The first port director was Denis Riordan, who led the operation from 1988 to 1998. These services were extended to cover private aircraft in 2010, making Shannon the first airport in Europe to offer US border preclearance for private aircraft.[7]

In 1990, the U.S.-Irish bilateral agreement was changed to allow Irish airlines to serve Los Angeles and additional U.S. airlines to serve Dublin via Shannon. An amendment in 1993 allowed airlines to provide direct transatlantic services to Dublin, but 50% of transatlantic flights had to either originate or stop over in Shannon.[citation needed] During the 1990s, the airport began to struggle. However, 1996 saw the beginning of Continental Airlines flying between Dublin, Shannon and Newark, New Jersey. Shannon began to rebound in the late 1990s with the success of the Irish economy, the improving situation in Northern Ireland and an influx of American tourists.[citation needed]

In 2005, an agreement was reached regarding a transitional period. Beginning in November 2006 and ending in April 2008, the agreement gradually eliminated restrictions on cargo services. For passenger service, it reduced the stopover requirement and allowed Irish airlines to serve three additional U.S. destinations.[citation needed]

In 2007, the European Union and the U.S. announced that an agreement had been reached on an open skies aviation policy (EU–US Open Skies Agreement). The agreement came into effect from 30 March 2008, leading to the abolition of the Shannon Stopover, although this would have happened under the 2005 agreement anyway.

British Airways operated business class-only flights between London City Airport and John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York between 2009 and 2020. Of these, the westbound flights stopped for fuel in Shannon to allow them to take off from the short runway of the London City Airport, which is located in the London Docklands area. This stop also allowed passengers to clear US Customs and Immigration in Shannon rather than at JFK. Introduced in 2009, two flights per day, one of which carried the flight number BA1, were operated using A318 aircraft capable of operating steep approaches.[20][21] The flights were halved in 2017, and in 2020, amid their suspension due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it was announced that the flights would not be resumed.[22]


Ryanair increased services and passenger numbers at the airport until 2008. In 2007, Shannon carried 3.2 million passengers.[citation needed] However, after a disagreement with the Dublin Airport Authority (DAA) in 2008, Ryanair announced that the number of based aircraft would be reduced from four to one and 150 jobs would be lost.[citation needed]

CityJet launched a twice-daily route to Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport in 2008 when Aer Lingus closed its London Heathrow flights. The company based an Avro RJ85 at Shannon. More services were under consideration, including a route to London City Airport; however CityJet pulled out of Shannon in October 2009 after Aer Lingus reinstated its Heathrow flights.[citation needed]

Independent operation, 2012 to present

Map of the airport
Control tower at Shannon Airport

In December 2012, it was announced that Shannon Airport would separate from the Dublin Airport Authority, who still own Dublin and Cork airports. On 31 December 2012 at 11:59 pm, Shannon Airport became a publicly owned commercial airport and is now operated and run by the Shannon Airport Authority plc. Shannon announced a target in 2012 to grow its passenger numbers to 2.5 million annually within five years. However, Shannon has fallen short of its stated targeted figure with just 1.74 million flying through the airport in 2017.[23]

In March 2013, the new company appointed Neil Pakey as its first CEO. Traffic figures for June 2013 report an 8% increase on the previous year, the first time a traffic increase has been recorded in three years. On 21 March 2013, Ryanair announced a new twice-weekly route to Alicante, Spain, to begin on 5 June for the summer months. That brought Shannon's total to 33 seasonal scheduled summer routes. In August 2013, Aer Lingus announced a 1x weekly service to Lanzarote, Canary Islands, Spain, every Saturday during the winter months, using an A320. In October 2013, United Airlines confirmed it will increase capacity by 88% on its Shannon-Chicago route for 2014.[citation needed] In late 2013, Aer Lingus announced 2 new routes to Málaga, Spain, (two weekly) and to Bristol, UK, (one daily). Ryanair also announced 8 new routes from Shannon to continental Europe. The new routes began from the start of April 2014, and a second Boeing 737-800 was based at Shannon to accommodate the extra 300,000 passengers a year it would bring in. The destinations announced were Berlin Schonefeld, Beauvais, Memmingen, Warsaw Modlin, Kraków, Nice, Faro, and Fuerteventura.

On 4 July 2014, the "Bank of Ireland Runway Night Run" featured 1,200 people running along Shannon's runway to raise money for charity.[24]

In late 2014, Aer Lingus Regional operator Stobart Air said that they would close their Shannon base in early 2015. They returned in June 2015 operating six flights weekly Birmingham service followed by six flights weekly Edinburgh service. In late 2015, they announced a new CEO for Shannon, Matthew Thomas. Ryanair announced that it will be ending its Paris and Memmingen routes in late 2016, and it also reduced its Manchester and London Stansted routes. Ryanair is aiming for 720,000 passengers in Summer 2017 even though they were close to 800,000 in Summer 2016. In October 2016, SAS announced a new route to Stockholm from 1 August 2017 to 7 October 2017. Shortly after that, Lufthansa announced a weekly service to Frankfurt, running from April to October in 2017. In September 2017, Ryanair announced a new Route to Reus. It will run through summer 2018 operating 2x weekly (Tuesdays and Saturdays), replacing the route to Berlin. The same day, Air Canada announced a new 4x weekly service to Toronto with the Boeing 737 MAX. In February 2018, Ryanair announced it would resume flights to Bristol and Liverpool from May 2018. In late 2018, Ryanair announced a new twice weekly service to Ibiza, and the resumption of flights to East Midlands, both beginning in April 2019. The East Midlands, Bristol and Ibiza flights are all being ceased at the end of the 2019 summer season due to fears of Brexit and the 737 MAX groundings.[citation needed] Due to the 737 MAX groundings, Air Canada and Norwegian Airlines suspended their routes to Shannon. This reduced the number of passenger by 120,000.[25] On 23 October 2019, Lauda announced that they will launch a twice weekly flight to Shannon from their base in Vienna, operating every Wednesday and Saturday.[26] The airport handled 1,864,762 passengers in 2018. This number is the highest passenger numbers since gaining independence from the DAA.[27][28]

Usage for military stopovers

Shannon Airport has a history of foreign military use. A large part of its business in recent years has been military stopovers, currently almost all American; however, the airport was also frequently used by the Soviet military until the 1990s, since Ireland, having a traditional policy of military neutrality, was not a member of NATO. There were some restrictions, such as carrying no arms, ammunition, or explosives, and that the flights in question did not form part of military exercises or operations. Shannon saw military transports throughout the Cold War and during the first Gulf War.

In the aftermath of the September 11 attacks, the Irish government offered the use of Shannon to the US government. When the United States invaded Iraq in 2003, the government still allowed United States Armed Forces to use the airport. This caused controversy and was the subject of protests and a challenge brought to the High Court.[29] As of November 2008, approximately 1.2 million troops had passed through Shannon since the beginning of the Iraq War.[30] In 2012–2013, the military flight contracts are held by Omni Air International.[31]

On 6 December 2005, the BBC programme Newsnight alleged that Shannon was used on at least 33 occasions by United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) flights, thought to be part of a US policy called extraordinary rendition. The New York Times reported the number to be 33, though referring to "Ireland" rather than Shannon, while Amnesty International has alleged the number of flights to be 50. Casement Aerodrome has seen similar reports. The United States and Ireland have denied these allegations.[32] German Khaled El-Masri, who was mistakenly tortured by the CIA after being abducted by the Macedonian police, was taken to an Afghan black site by a plane which had stopped at Shannon Airport on its way to North Macedonia to pick him up. In response, Amnesty International Ireland reported that "the Irish Government knew that the CIA used Shannon Airport as part of their renditions operations" and called for an independent investigation into the use of Shannon Airport for extraordinary renditions operation by the USA.[33][34]

After a call by the Irish Human Rights Commission that the Irish government inspect aircraft supposed to be a part of the US extraordinary rendition program, the Minister for Foreign Affairs Dermot Ahern rejected these proposals. In a leaked diplomatic cable written by US Ambassador to Ireland Thomas C. Foley, Foley reported that Ahern thought it "might not be a bad idea to allow the random inspection of a few planes to proceed, which would provide cover if a rendition flight ever surfaced. He seemed quite convinced that at least three flights involving renditions had refueled at Shannon Airport before or after conducting renditions elsewhere".[35][36]


U.S. preclearance facility at Shannon Airport


The current airport terminal was opened on 27 March 2000 by then Minister of Transport Mary O'Rourke. This facility has 40 check-in desks, five baggage carousels and 14 boarding gates (including six airbridges). There are nearly 20 aircraft parking stands. The car parks can hold 4,200 cars.[37][failed verification]

Much of the older landside section of the airport has been renovated with new 'Shannon Airport' branding. An airside area renovation and passenger separation project was completed in Summer 2010.[38]

When Eirjet existed, its head office was located on the grounds of Shannon Airport.[39]

U.S. Customs and Border Protection pre-clearance

In 1986, a United States border preclearance facility was opened at Shannon, eliminating the need to go through immigration on arrival in the United States.[40] In November 2008, it was announced that customs and agriculture inspections would be added, making Shannon the first airport in Europe to offer[further explanation needed] this service and to enable passengers to arrive in New York on a "domestic" basis. To have these facilities put in place, a two-storey, 7,000 m2 (75,000 sq ft) extension to the main terminal building was constructed. The facility opened the morning of 5 August 2009.[40]

As of September 2016, Shannon Airport also is the first and only airport in Europe to offer U.S. border preclearance to private aircraft.[41]


In 2021, Shannon Airport deployed CT scanners at passenger security checkpoints, enabling it to lift the restrictions on liquids which had been in place since 2006.[42]

Airlines and destinations


The following airlines operate regular scheduled and charter flights to and from Shannon:[43][44]

Aer Lingus Boston, London–Heathrow, Paris–Charles de Gaulle,[45] New York–JFK
Delta Air Lines Seasonal: New York–JFK (resumes 23 May 2024)[46]
Ryanair Alicante, Birmingham, Budapest, Edinburgh, Faro, Fuerteventura, Kaunas, Kraków, Lanzarote, Liverpool,[47] London–Gatwick, London–Stansted, Málaga, Manchester, Tenerife–South, Wrocław
Seasonal: Béziers,[48] Corfu, Girona, Gran Canaria, Malta,[49] Marseille,[49] Naples,[50] Palma de Mallorca, Porto,[51] Reus, Turin, Warsaw–Modlin[49]
TUI Airways Seasonal charter: Lanzarote, Reus
United Airlines Seasonal: Chicago–O'Hare, Newark


The following cargo carriers are operating from Shannon Airport:[52][needs update]

DHL Aviation Dublin, East Midlands, Leipzig/Halle
FedEx Feeder Paris–Charles de Gaulle
Turkish Cargo Atlanta, Chicago–O'Hare, Istanbul, New York–JFK[53]
UPS Airlines Dublin


Passenger numbers

Graphs are unavailable due to technical issues. There is more info on Phabricator and on
Annual passenger traffic at SNN airport. See Wikidata query.
Year Total
% change
2005 3,302,046 Increase032.1
2006 3,639,046 Increase010.2
2007 3,620,623 Decrease00.5
2008 3,169,529 Decrease012.5
2009 2,794,563 Decrease011.8
2010 1,755,885 Decrease037.2
2011 1,625,453 Decrease07.4
2012 1,394,781 Decrease014.2
2013 1,440,034 Increase03.2
2014 1,639,315 Increase013.8
2015 1,714,872 Increase04.6
2016 1,749,367[2] Increase02.0
2017 1,751,500 Increase00.1
2018 1,864,762 Increase06.5
2019 1,710,000[55] Decrease08.0
2020 360,000[56] Decrease078.9
2021 379,935 Increase05.5
2022 1,518,170 Increase 3000
2023 1,958,000 Increase 290

See also: List of the busiest airports in the Republic of Ireland

Busiest routes

15 busiest international routes at Shannon Airport (2019)
Rank Airport Passengers
% change
1 London–Heathrow 268,225 Decrease02.3
2 London–Stansted 201,597 Decrease00.7
3 New York–JFK 134,022 Increase013.3
4 London–Gatwick 116,734 Increase00.9
5 Manchester 85,521 Increase00.9
6 Boston 81,187 Decrease012.8
7 Newark 68,655 Increase01.5
8 Málaga 67,999 Increase016.0
9 Faro 56,336 Decrease01.0
10 Lanzarote 45,186 Decrease02.7
11 Alicante 43,431 Increase027.4
12 Philadelphia 42,094 Decrease04.1
13 Kraków 38,178 Increase00.6
14 Wrocław 37,926 Decrease01.7
15 Birmingham 37,639 Decrease01.7
Source: Central Statistics Office[57]

Ground transportation


N18 near Shannon Airport exit

Shannon Airport is the end destination of the N19 national route, which connects to the N18/M18 Limerick–Ennis–Galway route. It is also the western end of European road E20. A dual carriageway section of the N19 was finished in 2004, bypassing the town of Shannon, and a new interchange and dual carriageway north to Ennis were completed in 2007 on the N18 (M18). It is approximately 25 kilometres (16 mi) west of Limerick and around 85 kilometres (53 mi) south of Galway. Dublin is approximately 223 kilometres (139 mi) away and Cork is around 125 kilometres (78 mi) away.


Bus Éireann services from/to the airport:

Car hire

Car hire is available in the arrivals hall of the terminal building, with five car rental firms operating at the airport.[60] Private-hire coaches and buses such as Eirebus are available from many operators;[61] these need to be pre-booked and can transport passengers to any destination in Ireland.

Car parking

Shannon Airport offers both short-term and long-term parking within the airport with over 5,000 spaces available. All car parks operate 24 hours and are regularly patrolled by Airport Police.

Rail link

For many years, a rail link to the airport (as a spur from the nearby Limerick–Ennis line) has been proposed,[62] but nothing has materialised.[63] Connecting with the nearest major stations (Ennis railway station and Limerick railway station) requires bus or taxi. Sixmilebridge is the nearest station to the airport.[64]

Accidents and incidents

This section needs additional citations for verification. Please help improve this article by adding citations to reliable sources in this section. Unsourced material may be challenged and removed.Find sources: "Shannon Airport" – news · newspapers · books · scholar · JSTOR (December 2021) (Learn how and when to remove this template message)

Due to the location of Shannon, the airport receives a large number of emergency stopovers.

Environmental issues

As Shannon Airport has been built adjacent to the Shannon Estuary, it is likely to have problems with rising sea levels and high waters in the Shannon. The government is working on plans to protect both the airport and the town.[68]


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Media related to Shannon Airport at Wikimedia Commons