Shannon Airport Group | A History of innovation ;
History of Innovation

World's First Duty Free

And Free Trade Zone

  • Proud of Our Past

For over 80 years,

We have played an integral role in driving economic growth throughout the region.

Shannon Airport opened its doors in 1945 and has continually grown and developed over the years. Since that first day back in the 1940’s, we have worked hard to make air travel easy for people living in the Shannon region, from along the west coast and indeed for those throughout Ireland who prefer a more relaxed airport experience. 

In 1959, Shannon Development, was established to manage the Shannon Free Zone, support enterprise, employment development and tourism for the Shannon region. In 2014, enterprise support and tourism development functions were transferred to the IDA, Enterprise Ireland and Fáilte Ireland. 

In 2014, Shannon Airport, Shannon Heritage, and Shannon Commercial Properties were successfully fused under the Shannon Group banner with one goal in mind. By maximising the potential of the airport, and its surrounding land and properties, while harnessing the power of heritage tourism, we could build something truly unique, to drive our region forward and continue our story for generations to come. 

On the 22nd of July 2022, Shannon Group refreshed its brand identity to The Shannon Airport Group, to reflect its focus on its airport and property activities. As we continue to move forward, we are inspired by our past achievements and the communities that we have built as a Group.

Our Company Timeline

1939: Shannon Airport's first transatlantic flights used a flying boat terminal at Foynes on the south side of the Shannon Estuary.

1945: The country’s first transatlantic airport was established at Shannon to meet the demands of developing aircraft technology with a permanent runway and airport.

1947: Shannon Airport became the world’s first duty-free airport.

1959: The Shannon Free Zone (SFZ) was developed with the founding of the Shannon Free Airport Development Company known as Shannon Development.

1960: Opening of Bunratty Castle

Shannon also became known as the gateway between Europe and the Americas as few aircraft could make the journey without refuelling here.

1963: US President, JFK, flys into Shannon Airport for his tour around Ireland, and begins a traditional visit of subsequent US Presidents to Shannon.

1986: A United States border preclearance facility opened in Shannon Airport, eliminating the need to go through immigration on arrival in the United States.

1987: Shannon Heritage Founded.

1988: Aer Rianta Ireland, ARI was established

2008: Customs and agriculture inspections added for Shannon Airport passengers and cargo.

2009: Shannon Airport became the first airport in Europe to have full United States 

2010: Shannon Airport became the first airport outside the US to offer US Customs and Border Protection to private aircraft, yet another world’s first.

2013: Shannon Airport granted independence from DAA

2014: Shannon Group plc is formed and is part of a corporate structure including Shannon Commercial Enterprises (trading as Shannon Commercial Properties) and Shannon Airport.

2022: Shannon Group plc and Shannon Commercial Properties rebranded together, now trading as The Shannon Airport Group.

History of Shannon Campus West and East Zone – the world’s first free trade zone

History of Shannon Campus West and East Zone – the world’s first free trade zone

Shannon Free Zone, now known as the Shannon Campus West and East Zone, was established in 1959 and was the world’s first free trade zone. At the time, Shannon’s success depended on transatlantic flights stopping to refuel here. But advances in aeronautic technology meant that those days were numbered as commercial aircraft would soon have the range to bypass the airport.

Shannon Airport’s director at that time, Brendan O’Regan, submitted a proposal to the government to establish a distinct manufacturing zone with special tax incentives. This would create much needed jobs and specific Shannon Airport bound air traffic. The site adjacent to the airport was established in 1959, and expanded some years later to include Smithstown and Shannon Town Centre.

Our thriving commercial business park continues to go from strength to strength, providing premium property solutions and services to over 180 Irish and multinational companies and 3,000+ employees.

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