A river in Ireland. It is the longest river in the British Isles.

It flows in to the Atlantic Ocean after passing through the city of Limerick.

A long and majestic river it is the inspiration for many poems and songs.

Shannon (or An tSionna in Gaelic) is a town in County Clare on the far west coast of Ireland. It was built shortly after World War Two as a planned town to serve a nearby international airport and industrial estate. The town planning was inspired by a utopian vision of a future ruled by cars and apartment blocks, rather than people-friendly indigenous designs that were more suitable for West Ireland's wild estuary weather and boggy soils. Most people who first settled in Shannon for work ended up living down the road in Ennis or Limerick, perhaps finding that a town subdivided by a motorway doesn't foster good craic.

The international airport was built in 1942 and was capable in 1945 to take trans-Atlantic flights. BOAC, TWA, Pan Am and American Overseas Airways began later that year flying non-stop from Shannon to New York. Shannon became the gateway to Europe as other airlines started flying across the Atlantic, including Aeroflot, Alitalia, Sabena, Northwest Airlines, Pan Am, TWA, American Airlines, Air France, Swissair, Lufthansa and KLM. The large volume of passengers stopping over in Shannon also led to it opening the world's first duty free shop in an airport.

Several airlines stopped using Shannon in the 1960s once jet aircraft were introduced capable of non-stop from North America to the European continent. The oil shocks and 9/11 have also caused airlines to drop Shannon over time.

However the airport still receives traffic for a number of reasons:

Firstly, landing rights are cheap and is popular for many low budget airlines, including Ryanair and other airlines from Poland (Centralwings), Germany (Hapag Lloyd Express), Belarus (Belavia) and Britain (Flybe, Thompsonfly) use Shannon as a hub or a stopover. It is also extensively used by cargo airlines, including Cargolux, DHL, UPS and TNT.

Secondly, unlike Dublin, Shannon is a suitably discrete place for use by foreign military aircraft. Both US and Soviet military aircraft stopped over in Ireland en route between Europe and North America (Cuba in the case of the Soviet air force). As long as aircraft are unarmed and aircrew are out of uniform the Irish government are quite happy to turn a blind eye and ignore a constitutional edict of Irish neutrality. Some judicial procedings have taken place seeking a ruling on the legitimacy of the military use of Shannon airport.

And thirdly, as a victory of politics over economics the locals have successfully lobbied the Irish government to keep restrictions that force international airlines to serve Shannon if they wish to serve Dublin. This means that wide-bodied aircraft departing Dublin are required to stopover barely 300 kilometres away in this town of 8,500 people before flying onwards to North America. This requirement has been enforced in stone in Ireland's bilateral Air Service Agreements with both Canada and the United States that date back to the 1940s. The European Union and the US government have been fighting this rule in the courts, which is not popular with Irish travellers and businesses either.

Despite these uneconomical restrictions, Shannon is served by Continental Airlines, Delta Air Lines, American Airlines and US Airways to the United States, and by Air Canada and Air Transat to Canada.

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