About 580 million passengers have been welcomed at Dublin Airport since the first commercial flight, an Aer Lingus Lockheed 14 aircraft, departed for Liverpool’s Speke Airport at 9am on Friday, January 19, 1940.
The flght was the only one handled at the airport on that historic day, unlike today, when Dublin Airport routinely handles hundreds of daily flights and over 233,000 aircraft movements and 31 million passengers yearly.
“From one flight twice-weekly to one destination in 1940 to 700 flights daily, with direct services to more than 190 destinations in 42 countries, Dublin Airport is a thriving hub of economic activity, a significant employer and contributor to the exchequer,” enthused airport managing director, Vincent Harrison.
“While the scale of Dublin Airport has changed dramatically over the past 80 years, the core of what the airport does has remained exactly the same throughout that period.
“Dublin Airport connects Ireland to the world, and we bring people together; for business, for pleasure, at times of sadness, and at times of joy.”
Dublin Airport, of course, also plays a vital role in growing inbound tourism, in boosting Irish trade and exports and in facilitating foreign direct investment in the Irish economy.
Harrison was also quick to point out the important role the airport staff have played in the gateway’s success over the years.
He noted: “Dublin Airport is a hive of activity 364 days per year, and it simply couldn’t operate without the dedication of tens of thousands of employees from daa, airlines, ground handlers, air traffic control, state agencies, retail concessionaires and other firms.
“As Dublin Airport celebrates its eightieth birthday, I’d like to thank both current staff and their retired colleagues.”
Dublin Airport was originally known as Collinstown Airport, as it was located in the townland of Collinstown, north of Dublin city centre.
Collinstown had been used as a British Royal Flying Corps and RAF base between 1917 and 1922 but had fallen into disrepair before being selected as the site for the new Dublin Airport in late 1936.
Work began on the airport site in 1937, as more land was acquired, and site clearance commenced for the new grass runways. Construction of the new terminal building started in the summer of 1938.
The architect of the terminal was Desmond FitzGerald, an elder brother of former Taoiseach, Dr Garret FitzGerald, who led a team of young architects. The curved building and its tiered structure, which echoed the lines of a great ocean liner, won many architectural awards for its design.
By 1947, flights departing from Dublin ventured as far as Europe with Dutch airline KLM beginning the first continental service to Dublin.
New concrete runways were completed in 1948, and in 1950, after ten years in operation, the airport had been used by a total of 920,000 passengers.
Air travel was the preserve of the wealthy during this period and many Dubliners would have travelled to the airport simply as a treat to see the aircraft. The terminal building also boasted one of Dublin’s best restaurants, the Collar of Gold, which was hugely popular and not only for those travelling.
As Dublin Airport’s route network grew and its passenger numbers expanded it, it became clear that the original terminal building had far exceeded its capacity.
The North Terminal opened in 1959 and was used to process arriving passengers, while the old terminal remained for in place for departing passengers.
By 1963, Dublin Airport had grown to one million passengers per year and additional facilities were again required.
New boarding gate areas were added in the 1960s and work on a new terminal building began in 1969. The new terminal building, now known as Terminal 1, opened in 1972 and was originally designed to cater for six million passengers per year.
In November 1985, the Government approved the construction of a new runway at Dublin Airport, together with new taxiways, and a new air traffic control building. The new runway 10/28 officially opened for flights on June 21, 1989. That year, more than five million passengers used Dublin Airport.
Passenger numbers increased to 5.8 million in 1992 and following 17 consecutive years of growth, reached 23.5 million in 2008.
Facilities, however, had not kept pace with the passenger growth and between 2007 and 2010 Dublin Airport embarked on a major investment programme to transform the airport by significantly increasing capacity and dramatically improving the passenger experience.
This programme delivered Terminal 2, two new boarding gate areas (the 100 gates and the 400 gates), a new road network, and a host of other major improvements. The new award-winning new terminal was opened in November 2010.
The economic downturn saw passenger numbers decline to 18.4 million in 2010, before eight consecutive years of growth boosted them to 31.5 million by 2018.