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The history of Europe’s most westerly airport spans 75 years and is a major part of daily life in the Shannon region. From humble beginnings Shannon Airport has grown from three simple grass runways in 1930s Ireland to become one of Europe’s most unique transatlantic airports, a leader in airline innovation, and a key driver of business in Ireland’s mid-west.


1935 - The Irish Government took a decision to initiate a survey "to find suitable bases for the operation of seaplanes and landplanes on a transatlantic service".

A survey party set out for the West of Ireland and following a satisfactory report, the Government approved the choice of Rineanna in Co. Clare and directed that work should begin immediately. 

1935-36 – construction continued

1939 - The first aircraft landed at Rineanna, and was the Irish Air Corps Avro Anson A43. Two months later the first passenger aircraft landed at Rineanna and this was a Belgian airliner (a tri-motor Savoia Marchetti S-73 of Sabena).  


1945 - The first scheduled flight from the United States landed in Shannon Airport and was the “Flagship London” an American Overseas Airlines (AOA) DC4. Shannon also began receiving scheduled aircraft from Trans World Airways (TWA) and Pan American Airways (Pan AM). 

1947 - Shannon Airport became the first Customs Free Airport in the World and established Shannon as an International Industrial and Distribution Centre and stimulated further traffic growth. And the world’s first duty-free shop opened at Shannon Airport, and began as a simple kiosk measuring just a few square metres, selling souvenirs and gifts.  The Duty Free shop became an immediate success and has been copied worldwide. 


1951 - The first Airport Duty Free Liquor Shop was opened.


1961 - A new runway was commissioned which would have a length of 10,000 feet.  

1966 - The main runway was extended to 10,500 feet (3,200 metres) which is its present length.

1969 - The Irish Airport Authority, Aer Rianta, assumed control of the airport as an agent of Ireland’s Minister for Transport.  


1971 – New terminal opens and is comprised of two buildings, one housing a comprehensive range of aircraft facilities, and a 900 foot long narrow pier building with airbridges extending out onto the apron.

1978 - Formal agreement was signed in Moscow between Aer Rianta and the U.S.S.R.’s Ministry of Civil aviation to store Soviet Aviation Fuel at Shannon for use on the Soviet airline’s transatlantic services.


1988 - Following various negotiations which culminated in an inter-governmental agreement between Ireland and the United States, the U.S. Immigration Pre-Inspection facility was set up on a trial basis in 1986 and a permanent facility was constructed and opened in 1988.


In the late 1990s the design and construction of a new extension to the Terminal Building at Shannon Airport commenced.  


2000 - The new Shannon Airport Terminal was opened with capacity for 4.5 million passengers.   The Terminal Building extension won the Irish Architects Awards for the Best Commercial Building in 2002.

2003 - The Government announced its decision to establish Shannon, Cork and Dublin airports as fully independent and autonomous authorities under state ownership and this was legislated for in the State Airports Act 2004.  

2009 - Shannon Airport became the first airport in Europe to have full United States Preclearance Services following the construction of a new US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) preclearance facility for commercial operations.


2010 - Shannon became the first airport in the world outside of the United States to have pre-clearance for Private aircraft.  

2012 - New services announced for Philadelphia (US Airways) and Chicago (United Airlines), a return of Aer Lingus to JFK and Boston routes, and Delta to JFK, giving Shannon direct services to five US airports for Summer 2013.

In December 2012, it was announced that Shannon Airport would separate from the Dublin Airport Authority, who still own Dublin and Cork airports.

2013 - Independence from the DAA

The first passengers through the newly autonomous airport arrived on the Aer Lingus EI-110 flight from JFK at 5:08 am on 1 January 2013 (New Year's Day).  Shannon Airport also welcomed the early launch of the Aer Lingus summer schedule to the US as a vote of confidence in transatlantic services at Shannon.

2014 - Less than 15 months after the airport was made independent nine new routes commenced with Shannon enjoying its biggest week in almost a decade in terms of new route start-ups.

2015 - The airport continued to see growth and handled 1.71 million passengers.