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*Jack and Rita Fitzgibbon from Caherdavin, Limerick, boarding the first flight out of Shannon Airport following today’s lifting of travel restrictions. The couple were on their way to Gatwick, UK, this morning for the expected birth of their new Great Grandchild today in Surrey.

A sense of excitement filled the air at Shannon Airport on Monday with passengers taking to skies as the easing of restrictions and the first day of the European Digital COVID Certificates took effect.

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 Gatwick.

Among those boarding were Jack and Rita Fitzgibbon from Limerick who were travelling out to the UK hoping to be in time ahead of the birth of their first great-grandchild. “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,” Rita explained.

Others getting ready to depart were Olwyn Kelly, Spancilhill, Co. Clare and her partner Oliver Rhode. “My best friend’s wedding was on Friday and we got back for that. We were actually supposed to fly back yesterday but the weather was so nice we just changed our flights and stayed for an extra day so we are paying for it today with the early rise. We live in London and this year has been pretty weird, not being able to come home. It’s just so perfect flying into Shannon because it’s just down the road. I mean, it’s our airport, the one we always hope to fly from. And it’s literally 20 minutes in the car for mom and dad to come and collect us, so it’s just so handy,” the Clare woman said.

Anita Prsaietko and Darek Grncartzyk from Krakow, Poland, who flew into Shannon Airport this morning on the first international flight into the airport since today’s lifting of the travel ban. The couple have flown into Ireland for a holiday.

Shannon Airport staff were also pleased to be returning. “Well, 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,” Shannon Duty Free Sales Associate Helen Quinlivan commented. “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.”

CEO of Shannon Group, Mary Considine said the reopening of international travel was a significant step forward for Shannon Airport and also “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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