The Aer Lingus Shannon-London Heathrow service returns today for the first time since March 2020 - however, it will be reduced from three services a day pre-pandemic to just one, and the company has made no long-term commitment to continuing the service beyond the end of November.

It will operate seven days a week departing at 5pm each evening, arriving into Shannon from London at 4.10pm each day except Saturday, when it will arrive at 3.45pm.

Aer Lingus has said that due to the closure of the runway at Cork Airport, the daily Aer Lingus service from Shannon commences today and it is intended to operate for the duration of the period of closure at Cork.

The aircraft and crew operating the service will be based in Dublin.

Cork Airport closes today for 10 weeks as part of a €40m investment programme which will see the reconstruction of its main runway, along with upgrading the airports approach, airfield and ground lighting runway edge and centreline lighting.

It is scheduled to reopen for business on 22 November.

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Airport management say the project will be the fastest large-scale construction project undertaken in the State in recent years - 12 months from funding approval to the completion of the main works.

Colas, based in Maynooth, were awarded the main runway contract following an EU tender process.

The airport has just completed an upgrade of its Hold Baggage Security screening system, while the construction of a new electrical sub-station for the airport will get underway in early 2022.

Cork Airport closes today for 10 weeks as part of a €40m investment

Aer Lingus has given no commitment to their Shannon-London service after 22 November, and says it is intended to operate while Cork is closed.

Shannon Airport was devastated by the Covid-19 pandemic, losing almost 80% of its business and the loss of 1.37 million passengers.

The three times daily Shannon-Heathrow service was ones of its busiest, with high load factors for its early morning, lunchtime, and teatime departures, particularly for business travellers due to Heathrow's hub status and onward international connections to Europe, the Middle East and Asia.

Shannon CEO Mary Considine said it was great to see the service back in what has been and continues to be an extremely difficult period for the aviation sector, and they will be working closely with Aer Lingus to build on the service and to resume long-haul services.

She said the best way to ensure the Heathrow service and other routes remain for the long-term is for people to support them, adding there had been encouraging uptake for the range of 18 Ryanair services to destinations in the UK and Europe at the airport since travel restrictions were lifted.

Speaking on RTÉ's News at One, Ms Considine said it will be a long journey to return to pre-pandemic levels of air travel at Shannon Airport, but these are encouraging signs.

"We're looking at ourselves, in our own forecast that it will be 2024 or 2025 before we get back to anything like the 2019 levels of traffic".

She said she does not expect transatlantic flights to return to Shannon until next Spring.

Shannon personnel are also lobbying to get transatlantic services back to the Mid-West airport.

However, there has been no commitment from Aer Lingus about the resumption of its Shannon-New York or Boston services, or from other US carriers such as United Airlines and American Airlines, which have had services to Shannon in the past.

The return of the service has been welcomed by business and industry in the Shannon and Mid-West region, who rely heavily on its business connections to Europe. However, the Shannon Chamber said they will be lobbying for more frequent services and an early morning departure time, which is more business friendly.

Additional reporting by Jennie O'Sullivan