Languishing in a seemingly endless line at an airport is an agonizing process.
Ublin Airport experienced nightmares at certain times this summer of missed flights, lost luggage and unrelenting, soul-wrenching queues filled with whimpering children and fuchsia-faced adults stretching their nerves.
But airport experiences are relative. I will never complain about Dublin again after experiencing Manchester last weekend. And after a smooth experience at Ireland West Airport two weeks ago I know that all of our future family holidays will be in Knock.
On July 29th we left our home at 7.30am and arrived at the airport at 7.45am. My husband dropped us off at the front door and parked the car. By the time it took him to park and join us in the main terminal, we were already at the top of the Ryanair queue to check our bags into Mallorca. I had to leave family behind. We flew straight through in less than five minutes. It was amazing.
By 8.10am we were through security and sat down with two coffees and a cooked breakfast for our four year old. And in the meantime, we had stopped to chat with our son’s beloved Montessori teacher, who was on the same plane with her extended family.
There is a common area in the Departures Hall at Ireland West Airport and three separate flights departed before 9.30am this morning, our last. It was busy but there was still enough space for everyone to sit and wait or shop at the duty free which is small but nice. It was a sunny day and the atmosphere was relaxed and upbeat. When the flights were called, passengers queued and were boarding their plane within minutes.
It really was that easy.
In contrast, this month I spent more than an hour in the security queue on a flight from Dublin Airport on a Saturday morning at 5am. DAA says it’s made significant improvements to security settings and passenger wait times over the summer, and I know waiting in line that long isn’t the end of the world. But it’s undeniably stressful.
Ireland West Marketing and Communications Director Donal Healy explains that the average wait time through security is now between four and six minutes. “Wait times vary depending on how busy we are – they can range from two to four minutes, which was the fastest time ever recorded, to 10 to 12 minutes, which would be on the higher end of the scale, and only if we had multiple flights at the same time. The average time is in the range of four to six minutes. Luckily we haven’t had any issues with security delays at all this year.”
The recovery from the summer trips “was a lot stronger than we all anticipated,” he says. In July, Ireland West handled 86,000 passengers, just 2,000 fewer than the same month in 2019. New Ryanair services to Manchester, Birmingham and Edinburgh have “far exceeded” forecasts, adds Healy, and Co Mayo Airport is experiencing record capacity – “in excess of 95 percent” – on sunny flights to Barcelona, Milan, Palma and Alicante.
The downside is that there is less choice of destinations and usually only one weekly return flight. In addition, the return flights from Faro, Palma, Malaga and Alicante are very early – no later than 7:20 a.m. We got up at 4:30am for our 7am flight home from Palma and I found the fatigue hard to shake off for the rest of the weekend.
With that in mind, I made a conscious choice to stay at a hotel, the Zafiro Palace Palmanova, which is 30 minutes from the airport, for the simple reason that I couldn’t bear the thought of sitting in a taxi for an hour in the middle of the night.
The hotel was great, spotless indeed, although it cost more than we would normally pay. But given how the pandemic has clipped our wings, we’ve decided to step out this year. While I found the early return excruciating, we were back home at our home by 9.30am which is phenomenal.
The logistics of getting to and from Ireland West are fairly straightforward. Either you take a ride or you drive. There is a connecting bus service to Sligo, Donegal, Mayo and Galway, with additional connecting services serving Leitrim, Roscommon and the Midlands counties. However, they only run every few hours and don’t seem to be popular with passengers. I’ve never seen anyone waiting for the bus in Ireland West.
On the other hand parking is much cheaper compared to Dublin. The cost of parking in West Ireland for a full week when booked online is €44. Flying from Dublin this month I paid €48 to park in the short stay car park in Terminal 2 between 5am Saturday and 5pm Sunday. Booking online and using long term parking in Dublin is obviously cheaper, but nowhere near what it would have cost me for the same period in Ireland West: €8.
Another thing I think people should consider when deciding where to fly from is the distance they have to travel. In Dublin I flew to Manchester with Aer Lingus and it is quite a walk from the plane to the car park. Ireland West is about 300m. This can be important for an elderly person, someone with mobility issues or even a parent flying alone with children.
Of course, in many ways it is unfair to compare the efficiency of a regional airport like Ireland West or Shannon with a major international hub like Dublin. For a variety of reasons, it’s much easier and cheaper to fly from Ireland West when you live nearby – and beyond. But there are far fewer destinations and flight frequencies.
Another joke? There are currently no flights to the Canary Islands – a popular winter choice for Irish holidaymakers – from Ireland West. Weekly services to Lanzarote and Tenerife have been suspended during the pandemic, but there is high hope at least one will return.
That would be perfection.
Did you know?
Shannon Airport has a 3D X-ray screening system, which means travelers don’t have to remove liquids and electronics from their bags, reducing the time they spend in security. New air bridges were also installed in a €10 million airport upgrade.
Ireland’s “other” airports
Ireland West ran its biggest ever summer flight schedule this year. Route and parking information at irelandwestairport.com.
Cork Airport is Ireland’s second busiest airport. This year it offers 42 routes and expects 2.1 million passengers. corkairport.com
Recent arrivals at Shannon Airport have included 30 private jets for the JP McManus Pro-Am. shannonairport.ie
In addition to Dublin and the UK, Kerry Airport has flights to Faro and Alicante. kerryairport.ie
https://www.independent.ie/life/travel/the-joy-of-irelands-other-airports-short-lines-cheaper-parking-and-a-stress-free-start-to-our-family-holiday-41933924.html The joy of Ireland’s ‘other’ airports – short queues, cheaper parking and a stress-free start to our family holidays