The company that operates Shannon Airport said it was optimistic about its prospects in 2022, following two years of significantly reduced activity.

Almost 380,000 passengers travelled through Shannon Airport last year, according to Shannon Group. That is up 8% on 2020 but still 78% lower than the 2019 figure.

Connectivity between some destinations recovered at a faster pace, however, with its European routes reaching 65% of its 2019 levels last year.

Meanwhile the number of passengers travelling to and from the UK reached 43% of its 2019 figure.

Shannon Group said most of the passengers that came through its doors in 2021 travelled in the second half of the year, as the arrival of the EU Digital Covid Cert allowed for an easing in travel restrictions from July onwards.

Shannon Group CEO Mary Considine said they were optimistic about the year ahead, as the further easing of Covid restrictions created the potential for more air travel this year.

"While it will still take time for the unwinding of Covid restrictions to filter down into the aviation sector, it really is a positive development for industries devastated by the pandemic," she said. "This summer we will operate services to 25 destinations with 107 planned weekly frequencies.

"The return of transatlantic services... combined with our strong European summer flight schedule and the return to full strength of our Heathrow services, are reasons to be optimstic."

Shannon Group also currently manages a number of heritage sites across the country, with this arm of the business also badly impacted by Covid.

It said visitor numbers to its heritage sites - which include Bunratty Castle and Folk Park in Co Clare, and King John's Castle in Limerick - saw visitor numbers fall by more than two-thirds to just over 300,000 in 2020. They recovered somewhat last year, reaching 496,000, but remain well below their pre-pandemic levels.

In June Shannon Group announced that it was to transfer its heritage sites to the relevant local authorities and today it said it had made "significant progress" with this plan.

It said this move would allow it to focus on the recovery of the airport and its aviation-related operations.