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Dublin: 17 °C Thursday 2 July, 2020
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From a grass runway to 435m passengers: Dublin Airport has come a long way

Happy birthday to you, happy birthday to you, happy birthday dear Dublin Airport…

DUBLIN AIRPORT REACHES a milestone anniversary today: 75 years.

We’re used to seeing it in a shiny state, but the facility had humble beginnings – grass runway included.

Passenger numbers at Dublin Airport increased by Source: Photocall Ireland

Work at Dublin Airport, which was originally known as Collinstown Airport, began in 1937 after the site was selected as the location for the capital’s new civilian airport. 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.

The airport opened for business on Friday, 19 January, 1940 – with a single flight to Liverpool’s Speke Airport. Shortly after 9am, an Aer Lingus Lockheed 14 aircraft took off from the grass runway close to the original passenger terminal, which was still being built at that time.

LayingGrassRunway1936 Laying grass on the runway, 1936 Source: Dublin Airport Authority

Building at the airport was stalled during World War 2. Its only service was to Liverpool or occasionally to Manchester’s Barton Aerodrome. Aer Lingus had been operating from Baldonnel from 1936 and had moved its operations to the new Dublin Airport in January 1940.

Source: Dublin Airport/YouTube

Dublin Airport’s first scheduled service to London commenced in November 1945, with a two and a half hour direct flight to Croydon Airport and air mail services were added in 1946. Connections to other British cities and continental European destinations were added and in April 1958, Dublin Airport got its first scheduled transatlantic service to New York.

From a grass runway to 435m passengers: Dublin Airport has come a long way
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  • Laying grass on the runway, 1936

  • Construction, circa 1937

  • Farmer saving hay beside the airport, circa 1945

  • Free car parking, circa 1952

  • Airport viewing area, 1960

  • Guided tours, circa 1968

All images courtesy of Dublin Airport Authority

Dublin Airport Timeline:

  • 1936 – Irish Government announces plans for civilian airport at Collinstown
  • 1938 – Work begins on the new terminal building
  • 1940 – Dublin Airport opens with one flight per day to Liverpool
  • 1945 – First Dublin Airport-London service begins to Croydon
  • 1947 – KLM starts Dublin-Manchester-Amsterdam service
  • 1948 – Completion of concrete runways
  • 1949 – Passenger numbers reach 200,000 per year
  • 1958 – First scheduled transatlantic service, as passenger numbers top 500,000 per year
  • 1959 – North Terminal opens
  • 1963 – Welcomes more than 1 million passengers
  • 1972 – Terminal 1 opens
  • 1989 – Passenger numbers reach 5 million
  • 1997 – Welcomes more than 10 million passengers
  • 2008 – Passenger numbers reach a record 23.5 million
  • 2010 – Terminal 2 opens
  • 2014 – Welcomes 21.7 million passengers

Vincent Harrison, Dublin Airport’s Managing Director, said that the facility has welcomed 435 million passengers since it opened “boosting Irish trade, tourism and investment and bringing together generations of families and friends”.

14 new services are set to start running this year.

To mark the anniversary, music from the 1940s and 50s will be played 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.

Gardaí will no longer check passports at Dublin Airport

Photos: Sad scenes at Dublin Airport as Irish emigrants say goodbye

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About the author:

Órla Ryan

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