Wednesday 17 July 2019

Dublin Airport: Memories take flight as Ireland's gateway celebrates 75 years

Gallery: #DUB75

The Old Terminal Building, designed by Desmond FitzGerald, remained the airport's key facility until the early 1970s.
The Old Terminal Building, designed by Desmond FitzGerald, remained the airport's key facility until the early 1970s.
Liz Jackson and Russell Gleeson presenting flowers to Pope John Paul II at Dublin Airport upon his arrival in Ireland in 1979.
Dublin Airport's Terminal 2. The first scheduled services from the new terminal (T2) began on November 23, 2010.
Early check-in desks at Dublin Airport's Old Terminal Building. The original facility could cater for up to 100,000 passengers a year. Today's airport can handle 30 million. Source: Dublin Airport.
Ryanair CEO Michael O'Leary
Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor at Dublin Airport in April, 1965. The caption of the day ran: '"On a farm, I could not hear of anything being killed" did not stop her wearing fur.' Photo by SSPL/Getty Images
Rose Hogan gives her son David a hug before he returns to Australia. As well as its optimistic arrivals, Dublin Airport has witnessed the departure of many emigrants in its 75 years.
Dublin Airport's Old Terminal Building today. Work on the original facility began in the late 1930s. Source: Dublin Airport.
Dublin Airport lit up for the city's millennium celebrations in 1988. Source: Dublin Airport/Pinterest.
Packie Bonner at Dublin Airport after the Irish soccer team's triumphant return home from Italia '90. Jack's Army reached the World Cup quarter finals, coming back to a hero's welcome in Dublin.
The skybridge at Dublin Airport. Passengers walking to and from gates along this route can see the Old Terminal Building. Photo: Dublin Airport.
Ryanair boss Michael O'Leary carries a wreath saying Irish Tourism RIP at the opening of Terminal 2 in Dublin Airport. Credit: Fintan Clarke
Liz Jackson and Russell Gleeson presenting flowers to Pope John Paul II at Dublin Airport upon his arrival in Ireland in 1979.
Snow at Dublin Airport in 2010. Photo: Kyran O'Brien
US President Bill Clinton is greeted by Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern (R) after arriving at Dublin Airport in 2000. It was President Clinton's third and final official visit to Ireland. PA Photo: Maxwell
Aer Lingus pilot Davina Pratt poses with the Ryder Cup after arriving at Dublin Airport on September 18, 2006. Photo: Andrew Redington/Getty Images
An original ticket for Aer Lingus's (then Aer Línte) early transatlantic flights. Flights departed Dublin and flew via Newfoundland to JFK Airport in New York. They first departed in 1958.
President Obama arrives in Dublin Airport with his Wife Michelle ahead of their historic visit to Ireland in 2011. Photo: Kyran O'Brien
An old postcard of Dublin Airport. Source: Dublin Airport/Pinterest
January 16th, 1961: Irish troops at Dublin Airport, returning home from fighting in the Congo. Photo by Keystone/Getty Images
Gearoid, left, age 9, and Sean Murphy, age 8, from Greystones, Co. Wicklow, pictured with Katie Taylor in 2014.
Captain Daithi O Se minds the Roses' shoes at Dublin Airport at the launch of the Rose of Tralee Festival
Troops returning following a six month tour of duty in South Lebanon serving with the United Nations Interim Force In Lebanon to Dublin airport
Pól Ó Conghaile

Pól Ó Conghaile

From Pope John Paul to T2 and Ryanair to the Beatles, we look at the most memorable moments in Dublin Airport's 75-year history.

Dublin Airport opened for business on Friday, January 19, 1940.

There was no Terminal 2 back then. Heck, there wasn't even a Terminal 1 (as we know it today, at least). A single flight took off that morning, on a grass runway, destined for Liverpool’s Speke Airport.

As the propeller-driven Aer Lingus Lockheed 14 took to the skies, Éamon de Valera was Taoiseach and World War II was in full swing.

That meant that, for five years, the airport itself was "effectively mothballed" - with services limited to Liverpool and occasional flights to Manchester’s Barton Aerodrome.

The first scheduled services to London eventually commenced in November 1945, with connections to other British cities and continental European destinations following before Dublin Airport got its first scheduled transatlantic service to New York, in April 1958.

Dublin Airport, John Hinde.jpg
John Hinde postcard of the Old Terminal and Pier A at Dublin Airport. Source: Dublin Airport/Pinterest

Dublin Airport, featured on a John Hinde postcard.

Work at Dublin Airport, originally known as Collinstown Airport, began in 1937.

Collinstown had been a base for the British Royal Air Force before the creation of the Irish Free State in 1922, but the old military airfield had fallen into disrepair by the late 1930s.

A new terminal designed by Desmond FitzGerald (brother of Garrett) won several architectural awards for its tiered design, viewing decks and balconies reminiscent of an ocean liner - the building’s form curved deliberately to present a long facade towards taxiing aircraft and a shorter concave to arriving passengers, seeming to embrace them as they arrived at the door.

It was capable of accommodating some 100,000 passengers a year, crowned by the opulent Johnny Opperman's restaurant, and remained the airport's key facility until the early 1970s.

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Dublin Airport's Old Terminal Building today. Work on the original facility began in the late 1930s. Source: Dublin Airport.

The Old Terminal Building, still in use at Dublin today.

The romance, novelty and exclusivity of flying in the 1950s and 60s is almost impossible to imagine today. This was a time of handwritten tickets, going-away suits and security-free zones; a golden age of air travel immortalised on Dublin Airport’s Pinterest site (

At the time, Dublin Airport was a destination in its own right, as people travelled out to Collinstown to see the planes and dine at Opperman's. It even ran guided tours.

When Dublin’s first transatlantic flight took off in 1958, Eamon de Valera quoted Charles Lindbergh: “In any development of transatlantic travel, Ireland holds the key.”

In 1963, passenger numbers exceeded one million for the first time, with an increasing number of celebrities passing through its doors. That year, the Beatles arrived to pandemonium.

On September 29th, 1979, the airport came to a standstill for another class of celebrity: Pope John Paul II. Famously, the pope stooped to kiss the airport's runway.

Over its 75 years, the airport has welcomed seven US presidents, celebs ranging from Jimmy Stewart to JFK, and been the scene for numerous sporting homecomings - from Jack's Army in 1990 to Ireland's Grand Slam winning rugby team in 2009.

In that period, Dublin Airport has mushroomed into a sprawling complex capable of processing 30 million passengers a year. A North Terminal was added in the late 1950s, with Terminal 2 coming online in 2010 ("a €600m investment in Ireland's future, as it was described by DAA Chairman David Dilger).

Last year, the airport bounced back from recession to report 21.7 million passengers - up 8pc over 2013.Transatlantic traffic increased by 14pc, as more than 2.1 million people travelled on flights between Dublin and North America in a single year - a record number for the airport.

Dublin Airport is now flying high in the 21st century, with award winning social media accounts, and 100,000 followers on Twitter alone. It continues to grow faster than the European average.

The international gateway of today offers customers direct services to Britain, North America, Continental Europe, the Middle East and Africa. Indeed, 14 new services have already been announced for 2015, including direct flights to Iceland, LA and Ethiopia.

Dublin Airport T2.jpg
Dublin Airport

Terminal 2 at Dublin Airport. The facility opened in 2010.

In the 75 years since its first flight, Dublin Airport has carried 435 million passengers. Remarkably, it is the entry point to Ireland for 70pc of the people that visit.

Despite the spaghetti of terminals, runways, access roads and office buildings, however, passengers walking the skybridge between Terminal 1 and Pier D can still steal a glimpse at the past.

Look to your left as you walk towards your flight on this route - you can still see the toothpaste-white façade and surgically curvy architecture of the Old Terminal Building in all it's glory.

Surprisingly, FitzGerald's gem remains a working building, housing DAA offices, the Met Office’s airport presence and some passenger boarding gates – so it’s effectively still in use as a terminal.

"Dublin Airport was established to connect Ireland with the world and 75 years on it is still fulfilling that goal," says Airport managing director Vincent Harrison.

To mark its 75th birthday, Dublin Airport will have musical entertainment from the 1940s and 1950s in both terminals today. An exhibition charting the airport’s 75 years has also been installed in Terminal 1 and will be open to the public throughout the year. Follow #DUB2015 for updates.

Read more:

Dublin Airport flying high after record year for transatlantic traffic

Dublin Airport welcomes 950,000 extra seats for winter

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