A Galway woman today became the 20 millionth passenger to travel through Dublin Airport this year.
Aine Casey got the biggest Christmas welcome home ever in the arrivals hall, despite not telling a soul she was coming.
The 29-year-old had planned to surprise her family with her visit back from the Middle East, but instead it was sprung on her as she was greeted with a round of applause, flowers, champagne and a brass band.
She also scooped €3,000 in travel vouchers and a taxi to her home town of Rosscahill.
“It is absolutely fabulous,” said Aine, who flew on an Aer Lingus flight from Dubai.
“I was tired getting off the plane, but the champagne has definitely given me a second wind.”
Aine moved to Muscat, Oman, two months ago with her boyfriend, Dubliner Aaron Henderson a marine doctor who studies sharks.
She made the trip home on the seventh anniversary of the death of her late mother Peg, and planned to surprise her dad Jim, three sisters and four brother who will all be in Galway for Christmas.
“I hadn’t told anyone I was coming home, so I hope someone is in when I get there,” continued Aine, a computer technician, who is still looking for work in Mascat.
“I wasn’t expected home at all for Christmas so my dad will be thrilled. I still haven’t come back down to earth myself.”
“The prize is fantastic and I’ll enjoy having a nice relaxing holiday in the sun with it.”
Aine was feeling so lucky today she even did the lottery on the way home.
Since it opened in 1940, Dublin Airport has grown substantially.
In 1946 is welcomed 162,000 passengers, in 1956 that grew to 460,000 people, by 1966 it boasted 1.5m visitors, which almost doubled by 1986. However, over the last 10 years the figure has increased from 9m people in 1996 to an estimated 21.4m expected this year.
“This is a historic milestone for us at Dublin Airport,” said Vincent Wall, of Dublin Airport Authority.
“To put this in context it means that the equivalent of more than five times the entire population of Ireland travelled through Dublin Airport this year alone.
“We have broken a number of records at the airport this year; in welcoming over 50 new routes and services, three million additional passengers, and 122 airlines servicing over 160 destinations.”
Aine travels back to Muscat, via Dubai, on January 12 where she will be reunited with Aaron.