FOR the past few weeks, we’ve all got used to seeing news reports and social media posts depicting the seemingly never-ending queues in Dublin Airport.
Passengers have vowed never to fly from there again while tourists have said their impression of Ireland was sullied.
There have been individual stories of missed flights, honeymoons ruined and children in tears as their holiday dreams evaporated before their eyes.
Of course, it's not always this way. I fly out of the country about six times a year on average, almost always from Dublin Airport.
Pre-Covid and on our first post-pandemic holiday last year, everything always went according to plan – the experience was no different to that of any other airport I have ever flown in or out of.
My issue with Dublin Airport in the past has merely been one of personal inconvenience. The thing that always bugged me was the journey to the airport from home.
Living in Clare, we have Shannon Airport on our doorstep (a mere 15-minute drive away). However, there was always a distinct lack of destinations to choose from, meaning that in almost every instance, I was left with no choice but to make the three-hour trip to Dublin Airport car park.
Allowing for the shuttle bus and the recommended two-hour security clearance time, this added five to six hours travelling time before we had even taken off.
So when Ryanair announced that they had started a new route from Shannon to Girona in Spain earlier in the year, I decided (very fortuitously it now seems) that we should head that direction for our summer holidays this summer.
As the news reports filter through of people stressed out to the max in anticipation of the chaos at Dublin Airport, I have grown in satisfaction with my decision to fly from Shannon.
So it was here that our holiday began after experiencing one of the most stress-free journeys I can remember.
Our flight was due to take off at 8.40am. After leaving home at 6.15am, the car was parked by 6.30am and we were inside the terminal building five minutes later.
All was calm and quiet in the departure lounge – things were looking good, but we weren't there yet. The proof of the pudding would only be realised when we reached the passport and security queues.
Heading up the escalator with a mild feeling of trepidation, we reached the first queuing area to discover that we were the only people there. Greeted by a cheerful and enthusiastic staff member, our boarding cards were checked and we headed for the next stage – the dreaded airport security queue.
This time, there were people ahead of us, only about five or six, but no-one behind us. I took a photo of the empty line but was told to delete it by airport staff.
Suitably chastened, I went to take out my liquids only to be told that, thanks to the new-fangled scanning machines, bags can now go through without all the fiddly palaver of removing liquids and placing in disposable plastic bags.
Bags on the conveyor belt, it was into the 3D scanning machine for a quick body scan and that was it, we were through – 15 minutes from car park to duty-free shop. It really was quite something.
At this point, we had an hour to wait for a browse around the shops, a queue-free coffee from Zest Cafe and then our flight was called. We ambled down to the designated gate and again, within five or 10 minutes, we began boarding.
As it was with the rest of the experience, this was stress-free. The staff member at the gate greeted us all as if we were old friends.
“How are ya, lads – have a great holiday,” he said as he scanned our passports before we skipped down the stairs and out onto the tarmac.
The flight was full, but boarding was brisk and because there was no queue of airplanes waiting to depart, we soon took off. The whole experience was completely stress-free, without a moment of hassle.
I know Shannon Airport is a fraction of the size of Dublin, so it is obviously going to be quieter and without lengthy queues.
I don't want to claim that west is best (ahem) when it comes to flying with ease, but airline bosses would do well to increase the destination choices from Shannon and encourage more people to use this wonderful facility.