YESTERDAY officially marked the darkest day of the year with the winter solstice occurring, but there were bright and joyous scenes at Cork Airport with arrivals coming home for Christmas.
Despite passenger numbers being far lower than pre-pandemic times, the airport was nonetheless looking festive to welcome people travelling home for the Christmas period.
Cork Airport said it expects about 60,000 passengers to travel through the airport this Christmas — a huge increase on the 8,787 passengers who flew in and out of the airport throughout the entire month of December 2020, but a far cry from the 119,000 who travelled through in December 2019.
In the quiet arrivals hall yesterday morning, Kelly Moller, originally from Worcester and now living in Fermoy, was waiting with her daughter Daisy, eager to see Kelly’s mother and Daisy’s grandmother Pam Turner come through the doors.
“It’ll be so nice just to see her,” Kelly told The Echo.
“It’s hard at the moment to get over [to Worcester]. We haven’t managed to get over lately, and she hasn’t managed to get over much either.”
She said she was simply looking forward to “a family Christmas” after not seeing her mother in person since July.
Under the current travel regulations, people arriving into the State must complete a passenger locator form before boarding a flight or ferry to Ireland.
Those who are not fully vaccinated will need to show a negative PCR test which was carried out no more than 72 hours before arriving into Ireland, while those who are fully vaccinated have the option of showing a negative PCR test carried out no more than 72 hours before arriving or showing a negative antigen test carried out no more than 48 hours before arrival.
Only Covid tests that have been professionally administered will be accepted.
Speaking to The Echo after greeting her daughter and granddaughter, Ms Turner said she encountered no difficulties travelling over.
“It’s been fine, very exciting in fact,” she said of the journey. “It’s a great relief to be here this year.”
Also at the airport to collect his daughter Sonia and granddaughter Isla was Seamus Buckley.
“We’re travelling from London home to Cork for Christmas,” Sonia told The Echo.
“Isla’s dad is flying back Christmas Eve. He’s had to work until then.”
Ms Buckley said she is most looking forward to spending time with family over Christmas.
“I’m looking forward to doing a bit of shopping with the family and all that,” she said.
“As funny as it sounds, going to Mass as well — it’s nice to just keep the tradition.”
Ciara Lane, originally from Glasheen but currently living in Birmingham, was greeted by her father Seamus at the airport yesterday.
“I’m over there doing acting,” she said. “I’m just finished up doing a panto, going around to different primary schools in Birmingham.”
She said she was looking forward to having the whole family back together for the first time in two years.
“I was back [in Cork] in October, but before that, it was about two years,” she said.
“My brother is coming back from Vienna, and that’s the first time we’ll all be back in the house for about two years.
“It’ll be so nice.”
Ms Lane said the journey over was fairly seamless.
“It was grand. I guess you just need to know your checklist of bits and bobs that you need, but as long as you have that, it’s all fairly smooth.”
Also spending Christmas in Cork is the Ward family, who arrived in from London yesterday.
Claire Ward, from Model Farm Rd, said she was looking forward to spending time with family.
“I’m looking forward to being back with family, being back with mum and dad,” she said. “We didn’t get to do it last year.”
Also arriving into Cork Airport yesterday morning were Kevin O’Brien and Sinead Martin, with their children Aidan and Darcie.
Mr O’Brien, who hails from Togher, said the family visited Cork most recently in September.
“I had some paternity leave when Darcie was born,” he said.
“This is the first time we’ve been home for Christmas, though, in about three or four years.
“It should be great just to spend a bit of time with cousins and aunts and uncles and grandparents.”
He said he was most looking forward to “taking it easy” over the Christmas period and enjoying some of both his mother’s and brother’s home cooking.