Christmas festivities got off to a flying start over the weekend for over 2000 lucky children and their parents who scooped the Shannon Airport lottery to meet Santa 15,000 ft above sea-level off the West coast of Ireland.
Spirits soared and the cheers were deafening as Santa jetted in, out and around Shannon for his sixth successful Shannon flights pre-Christmas extravaganza.
The annual Santa Flights have become very much an annual fixture and one of Ireland’s best-loved, unique and sought-after tickets for the big season. The two-day affair sent children away delighted and Santa, his troupe of elves, not to mind Shannon Airport’s volunteers, exhausted but uplifted by the experience.
The excitement was palpable from the minute the very special passengers entered the terminal building with teams of Santa’s helpers manning the airport check-in desks. The children were entertained by dancing elves and festive fun and games in the transit lounge to while away the minutes and manage the excitement in the hour or so before they boarded their flights.
Then onboard, with many of the children getting on their first flight, there were screams of delight when Santa landed mid-flight on the roof of the aircraft.
Demand for places on the flights was only bettered by letters to Santa, with applications for tickets multiples of the 2,000 available. The much sought-after tickets allocated through a lottery system. A €1 per seat lottery application fee was applied for entry with a flat €1.50 booking fee and all profits from the day are going to Shannon Group’s designated charities for 2018, the Share a Dream Foundation and the Clare Crusaders.
As expected, the flights were a magical experience for the children and their parents, including young Kai and Callan Urkuhart and their mother Theresa from Ennis. “It was fantastic. It was our first time and the airport and the staff put on an amazing experience for the children. They had a blast. They had great fun beforehand, got onto a flight and got to meet Santa. We didn’t tell the kids until yesterday so it was a huge surprise for them.”
Said Clare View, Limerick woman Eimear Mulcahy, “I came here with my sister and we had my two daughters, a friend of theirs and two nieces from Cork. What a great way to start the Christmas season. It was great fun. We loved every minute of it, from the moment we walked into the airport.
“Everyone was so great to make such a fuss of the kids. The kids had great fun beforehand, got onto a flight, saw Santa and then got to see the fire-truck at the end, which finished it off perfectly. It's great to think that it’s all in aid of charity too. It’s great credit to Shannon Airport.”
As for Santa himself, the big man said he wouldn’t dream of missing his annual trip to Shannon to meet all the boys and girls. “I love coming to Shannon and meeting all the lovely Irish children before Christmas. I heard they were especially good this year and we had such a lovely time together.
“I’ll be back in a few weeks with presents for them all, and I can’t wait to go home and tell Mrs Claus about what a wonderful time I had.”
Shannon Airport Managing Director Andrew Murphy said that it’s been another special weekend that reminds about the magic of Christmas. “Our Santa Flights have become a real highlight of the Christmas season. It was a busy two days but full of fun. From our perspective it’s just great to be able to spread a bit of Christmas cheer and put smiles on so many children’s faces.
“It’s a big logistical task, from ensuring that the children and their families have plenty of fun and are kept entertained while they await their flight, to all flights are running smoothly and that Santa arrives safe and sound back in Lapland. But it’s definitely worth it when you see all the joy it brings.”
Said Matthew Thomas, Shannon Group CEO, “The Santa Flights are hugely important to us. They bring great joy and excitement to our younger customers and we hope that memories of this weekend will stay with them forever. None of it would be possible without our staff. They go over and above the call of duty each year to make sure it all runs smoothly and all those children and their parents/guardians get the day they do.”