THE magic of Christmas was all around the skies over the weekend when thousands of children got flights to see Santa courtesy of Aer Lingus Regional and Ryanair.
In Dublin scores of children from Crumlin Hospital got to meet Santa during a special visit.
Some of the children also got to visit the cockpit before their journey to Santa's grotto.
Meanwhile, Ryanair's 'Shannon to Shannon' free Ryanair Santa flights saw the skies above the mid-west airport turned into a winter wonderland.
For some of the children aboard Santa Flight 3, one of six flights that left Shannon yesterday, it wasn't just the excitement of meeting Father Christmas that had them on the edge of their seats.
"It was my first time on an aeroplane so it was really exciting. I was a bit nervous before we left but I loved it and would definitely fly again," said 10-year-old Oisin O'Donnell, from Crusheen, Co Clare. Identical twin brothers Rowan and Cameron Gahan (3), from Grange, Co Limerick, made sure to let Santa know they were on his 'nice list' when they got up close with the big man, telling him: "We're the best."
The twins, whose Australian-born father Jim is well used to flying long haul, also made sure to let Santa Claus know they would be looking for dinosaurs in their Christmas stockings. "Three is a lovely age to be experiencing a trip like this and it's a real treat before Christmas," said their mum, Jane Gahan.
Ten-month-old Hannah McInerney, from Dromline, Newmarket-on-Fergus, Co Clare, was the youngest passenger on board Santa Flight 3. But despite her small size, she almost stole the show dressed in her adorable, miniature Santa suit. "It's her first Christmas and the fact that her first-ever flight is a Santa Flight is really special," said her mother Caitriona.
Children were welcomed aboard the flight by a team of Santa's elves before the man of the moment arrived. "It was difficult landing the sleigh on top of the plane but we did it and all the boys and girls are so good I can feel all the love for Christmas," said Santa.
For the first time ever Shannon Airport and Ryanair teamed up to put on 24 free flights for 4,500 lucky children and adults, the rest of whom will fly next weekend.
Shannon Airport CEO Neil Pakey said: "It's been an amazing weekend. To see the smiles of all of these children and the fun they were having made all this effort so worth it."