Sunday, 13 December 2015: Christmas cheer was deafening in the skies over the West of Ireland at the weekend as over 2,200 children and adults got their golden tickets from Shannon Airport to meet Santa 15,000ft above sea level.
In what kicks off a frantic week of festive fun at the airport, the annual two-day Santa Flights programme had children from across the country screaming with delight as Santa jumped on board mid-flight.
Demand for places on the flights was only bettered by letters to Santa, with over 45,000 applications made to the airport within three days of the flights opening for bookings last month. The airport received enough applications in just nine minutes for the 2,200 seats, with the golden tickets then allocated on a lottery basis.
Two charities – Aoibheann’s Pink Tie and Join Our Boys – were also drawn out of the hat for seats on flights on Saturday.
As expected, the flights certainly went down a treat with children and, indeed, their parents. For the Drew-Goucher family from Wicklow Town being drawn out of the lottery was major consolation for a cancelled trip to Paris. “We were due to go to Paris, but we didn’t go because of the attacks. So we were thrilled to get a Santa flight. We’ve really been looking forward to it,” said mum Pauline
The Cunningham family from Gort, Co. Galway had a particularly early rise. “Camden and Caleb were so excited they were all geared up for the flight and ready to go from 6.00 am,” said their father Peter.
One of the youngest passengers for the Santa flights was 3 month old Sophia Rimbo with her mum Natalie from Croom, Co. Limerick.
The cheery crowds began to flock to Shannon from dawn on Saturday for the first flight, which began the Christmas season in earnest as thousands flock through its doors up until Christmas Eve with loved ones returning to their families for the festive period.
The children were greeted on arrival and in the transit lounge by characters from Frozen, as well as Ms Claus, Elves and Minions. They were also entertained by a DJ who cranked up the Christmas cheer even further as the children waited for their flights.
Said Andrew Murphy, Shannon Group Chief Commercial Officer, “It’s the busiest week of the winter season and the weekend itself was among the busiest of the year. All hands were on deck but it’s a weekend that the staff love as it really kicks off the Christmas for us.
“We had around 2,200 children and adults here yesterday and today and when you see smiles on the faces of children like we have, you know that the effort is worth it.
“The Santa Flights are really our ‘thank-you’ to the public for its support over what has been another positive year for the airport. It is also an opportunity to raise some much needed funds for our chosen Shannon Group staff charities -TLC4CF (Tipperary Limerick Clare for Cystic Fibrosis) and Milford Care Centre, Limerick – a portion of the proceeds will go toward this worthwhile charities.”
The flights were only made possible by the support of airport staff, many of whom kindly volunteered to come in on their weekend off to support the charity initiative.