Wow: Shannon Wants To Become A Transatlantic Transfer Hub

At the recent AviaDev Europe conference, Simple Flying had the pleasure of chatting with Dan Irvine, Aviation Development Manager for Shannon Airport. He told me how the airport has ambitions to become a transatlantic transit hub for Europe, the Middle East and Asia. Here’s what we discussed.

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Shannon could grow to become a transatlantic transit hub. Photo: Shannon Airport/Twitter

A goal to be a transatlantic hub

Shannon has been undergoing a period of growth. Since 2013, passenger traffic has increased by some 300,000, although it’s still a fair way off the 3.6 million it served prior to the abolition of the Shannon Stopover in light of Open Skies. Transit passengers have grown the most, increasing 50% in just one year.

Being the closest international airport to the US in Europe, Shannon is in a great position to lay the foundations for its future growth. Chatting to Dan Irvine, Aviation Development Manager for Shannon Airport, at the recent AviaDev Europe conference, he told me,

“Our goal really is to try and be a bit more of a transatlantic hub. Obviously we’re a lot smaller than Heathrow or Dublin, but that comes with its advantages too. We have very short connection times; we also have preclearance facilities so we can save passengers time when they arrive into the US.”

Shannon preclearance
Preclearance can save huge amounts of time when arriving in the US. Photo: Shannon Airport

Those preclearance facilities really are a massive bonus. Anyone who has ever passed through immigration at a major US airport without TSA PreCheck or some other form of expedited access will know what I mean. It’s a headache at the best of times, and not what you need after a long haul flight.

Currently, only Shannon and Dublin offer preclearance facilities to flights traveling from Europe to the USA. Sweden has signed an agreement to make it the second European country to offer preclearance, although there is, as yet, no firm date for the start of services. In 2015, the DHS has announced its intent to expand preclearance to more airports, but nothing has been firmed up yet.

As such, it places Shannon in a unique position to offer such services to flights traveling from east to west. While it would be a massive benefit to passengers to avoid the ridiculous queues at immigration, it could also open up new opportunities for airlines further east.

Who would use Shannon as a transfer hub?

The idea has already been proven in practice. BA001 operates a business only flight to the US from London City Airport every day, which stops in Shannon both for refuelling and to allow its passengers quick and easy preclearance to America. This idea saves passengers a huge amount of time, and is open to be extended to other airlines and services. Dan told me,

“We’re talking all the time to airlines about doing transit stops in Shannon. The location is ideal for airlines especially those in the Middle East and Asia, because they’ve got range considerations too. In some cases, they may not be able to make it without a transit stop with the aircraft they have, so we could offer them that ability.”

Shannon Airport family Hi Res
Shannon has not been a compulsory stopover since Open Skies launched in 2008. Photo: Shannon Airport

Pre 2008, Shannon was a compulsory stopover for transatlantic flights. The Air Services agreement between the United States and Ireland meant that a minimum of 50% of transatlantic flights had to either originate or stopover at Shannon. By 2008, this had been abolished as the new Open Skies policy came into effect.

But now, it could make sense for some airlines to consider a revival of the ‘Shannon Stopover’, in order to make those connections that would be otherwise unachievable. With aircraft like the A220 offering new opportunities to connect long and skinny routes in relative comfort, Shannon could make it possible for airlines in Asia and the east of Europe to complete a one-stop hop to the US.

A220 range from Riga
The A220’s range from Riga, for example, makes the US impossible. Photo: GCMap

Although airBaltic has stressed it has no interest in competing on the transatlantic routes, a stopover in Shannon would make it possible. The A220 has the range to reach Shannon from a number of central and eastern European locations, and then to hop to many lucrative US destinations onwards, with passengers already precleared.

What do you think? Is there scope for Shannon to become the transatlantic transit hub of its ambitions? Let us know in the comments.

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Tadhg O'Donovan

No. Shannon is a dead airport. Can’t see it growing at all. In fact numbers using the airport is declining.

Henning

Why would you stop at Shannon when most of the new single aisle LR aircrafts can make an Atlantic crossing from most of Europe. The Middle East carriers have long range wide body’s that can easily do the crossing.

Bob

Pre-clearance of USA immigration. For business travelers this could/would be a huge benefit (time=money)

Peter

The A321 XLR can’t go all the way from Athens to Denver, for example.
Shannon could be an ideal hub airport for an intra-European LCC — such as Wizzair or Easyjet — to connect to/from a low-cost transatlantic carrier — such as Norwegian or JetBlue. Because the transatlantic flights leave from the westernmost point of the EU, they have a greater reach into the US. And westbound connecting passengers get their pre-clearance done in Shannon, so that the transatlantic service doesn’t have to make use of international terminals in the US.
I see nothing but benefits 🙂

Phil

Half a century too late Shannon! Would have worked in the days of the original 747 not in today’s aviation word where single aisle aircraft can cross the Atlantic from Central Europe in a breeze!

Peter

It sounds like an interesting proposal.
US pre-clearance is a wonderful facility, but it is over-stretched at Dublin, where one can often end up in long queues. Shannon would be much quieter in that regard.

Although not mentioned in the article, Shannon is regularly used by the US armed forces as a stopover point between the US and Middle East.

It would be nice if Shannon were discovered as a destination in itself: it’s a gateway to the Wild Atlantic Way, which is one of the most scenic drives on the planet, but the airport is currently very under-utilized.

Luke Mellor

What happened to Stockholm and Abu Dhabi’s US pre-clearance? Both were approved to much fanfare about three years ago and then sank without trace. I wondered whether Trump’s antipathy against all things Swedish might have influenced a decision somewhere?

Tim

Aer Lingus has worked very hard to make Dublin airport a hub for the last number of years and to a lessor extent Shannon . Dublin is now so successful that it has reached capacity in terms of passenger numbers and aircraft movements. Maybe it is time for some joined up thinking, and bring more transfer passengers into Shannon. The fact that there are 11 flights to Amsterdam from Dublin each day and not even one from Shannon would suggest that as a nation we should use our assets more wisely. Investing hundreds of millions in a new runway in… Read more »

Peter

Excellent points.
I regularly fly to Dublin for business, and I chat to people around me while waiting at the gate, or beside me on the plane. Most of the Irish people on those flights are not ending in Dublin…they’re traveling by bus or car to other parts of Ireland.

Peter

If Dan Irvine at Shannon is reading these comments: I hope you’re taking a proactive approach to this, and not just waiting for airlines to knock on your door. Have you pro-actively approached airlines like Wizzair, Easyjet & Eurowings and presented them with a business case? Just because Ryanair regards Shannon as a backwater doesn’t mean that other airlines can’t make a success of it. There’s VAST interest in Europe for visiting Ireland, but tourists are NOT going to come to drink Guinness and search for leprechauns: they’re interested in stunning scenery, hiking, surfing, golfing, deserted beaches and neolithic remains,… Read more »

Martin T

Talk is cheap, having witnessed the expansion and growth of other Airports around the world. Shannon is a failed entity, its half attempt to upgrade its industrial zone is not even close enough to attract future multinationals to set up here. The structure and services available are too little and too safe. Only now they think of Asia . Well think again, these asain carriers customers whatever, demand a first class service with first class aminities. On an industrial scale it has to invest billions of euro, this to purchase more land Shannon has to expand to touch the borders… Read more »

Larry

Yes, please pursue this. Shannon, is a recurring destination for my family. It is a great, smaller and very nice airport. And all the staff there are very courteous and helpful. We need it as a year round destination rather than going to other airports first. Could bring more employment opportunities to locals too.

Stefan

Yes I strongly believe Shannon can and hope it will become a transatlantic hub. That would strongly increase passenger numbers.