IRELAND West Airport and Knock Shrine have announced details of their first Diocesan pilgrimage flight from New York to the west of Ireland.
In what the airport hopes will become a regular service, the Aer Lingus flight will depart New York on Saturday August 8 and return on August 16 with pilgrims taking in a historic visit to the shrine and participation in the national public novena in honour of Our Lady of Knock.
Ireland West Airport Knock chairman Joe Kennedy said today the move will mark the return of transatlantic flights to the West of Ireland after an absence of eight years.
"We hope this is an important stepping stone in securing regular transatlantic services for the region into the future and we look forward to welcoming our US visitors to the West of Ireland in 2015," he said.
The airport caters for about 700,000 passengers annually and it is worth about €130m to the local economy with plans to expand that over time.
The arriving pilgrims will also participate in the annual nine day novena which attracts thousands to Knock every August.
The Aer Lingus flight will bring members from the Archdiocese of New York to Knock including the Archbishop Timothy Michael Cardinal Dolan.
"It will be an honour for me to travel to the West of Ireland and open Ireland's national public novena....," said the Archbishop.
In 2007, Scottish low-cost carrier Flyglobespan operated twice-weekly services from Knock to JFK and Boston (the flights originated in Glasgow, stopping off at Knock enroute). But those services were halted after a season run and the airline collapsed in 2009.
IT'S hard to fathom now that someone would build an airport whose primary aim would be to lure pilgrims to a religious shrine. In fact, the notion of an international airport at Knock was understandably dismissed by most in the disaster zone that was Ireland's economy in the early '80s, as a completely hare-brained idea.