Irish flock abroad: ‘Once we board the plane, we’ll start believing’

Dublin Airport enjoys busiest weekend of year as people head off despite Covid concerns

John Purcell with his wife Éadaoin plus son and daughter Odhrán (9) and Saorlaith (7), from Kilkenny. Photograph: John Ohle

John Purcell with his wife Éadaoin plus son and daughter Odhrán (9) and Saorlaith (7), from Kilkenny. Photograph: John Ohle

 

“I’ll be happier when I’m sitting on the plane with a gin and tonic in hand,” says Angela Skarmoutsos as she stands in the departures area of Terminal One at Dublin Airport on Saturday with children Joshua (15), Eleni (12), and Nikos (7) in tow.

Her husband, Yiannis, is nowhere to be seen. “He’s running back to the car to get Nikos’s iPod because he won’t last eight days without it,” she explains.

The family are among 224,000 people passing through Dublin Airport over the weekend, which the DAA say is the busiest of the year so far after Covid-19 restrictions were lifted in spite of rising case numbers.

They are heading for Nice in the south of France to see Angela’s sister before travelling on to Saint-Tropez on the Côte d’Azur. “This is our August holiday fast forwarded to October,” she says. “The plan is to relax, try not to work, drink lots of wine, and get some sun.”

Angela Skarmoutsos with her children Eleni (12), Nihos (7) and Joshua (15), who were coming from Bangor, Co Down. Photograph: John Ohle
Angela Skarmoutsos with her children Eleni (12), Nihos (7) and Joshua (15), who were coming from Bangor, Co Down. Photograph: John Ohle

Such was the “absolute nightmare getting parking”, they were forced to travel down from Bangor, Co Down, on Friday night and stay in a hotel. But, that aside, the whole family are in high spirits.

“The kids have not been away in just over two years so it’s really exciting. Even just being in an airport is nice.”

At the other end of the terminal, Éadaoin Purcell, her husband John, and children Odhrán (9) and Saorlaith (7) have travelled from Co Kilkenny and are waiting to board a flight to Malaga in Spain. They are among a party of 19.

“My dad was 75 in April and we didn’t get to celebrate it because of Covid, so we’re all going over for a belated celebration,” says Éadaoin, who adds that the family has not been abroad since the onset of the pandemic.

“It’s been all staycations, but we’ve made the most of it,” says John. “We were lucky enough to buy a camper van so we went around Ireland for a couple of weeks. We’ve done as much as we could do, and getting away now is brilliant. We’re rearing to go.

“Once we get through security and are about to board the plane, we’ll start believing. It’s just been put off and put off with the Covid restrictions changing so we haven’t allowed ourselves to get too excited, but it’s more real now that we’re here with the bags.”

There are no nerves regarding Covid-19, and the extra red tape involved in travelling during a pandemic has not been an issue. “I’m actually surprised Spain are letting the Irish in,” says John. “There’s more chance of catching it here – or in Coppers – than there is there.”

Newlyweds Ester Olea, from Valladolid, and Manuel Pombo, from Madrid. Photograph: John Ohle
Newlyweds Ester Olea, from Valladolid, and Manuel Pombo, from Madrid. Photograph: John Ohle

Manuel Pombo from Madrid and Esther Olea from Valladolid are recently married and are about to make their way into the terminal to travel to Spain to see their families for the first time in almost two years. Manuel has been living here 14 years and Esther for 11 years.

Esther says being away from her family has been “difficult”, while Manuel says: “I miss them less.”

Esther continues: “For me, it has been terrible. We thought about going last year but you could not move in Spain between regions so we decided to leave it, but it has been very hard.

“We got married here during the pandemic and we were supposed to go to our families and celebrate the wedding but that never happened.

“We could only have six people at the wedding, so it was a very small affair. We were supposed to get married in June and we had to change the date a couple of times and ended up getting married in September on a Tuesday at 10 in the morning. Nothing fancy.

“It was my father’s birthday recently as well, and my aunt is celebrating 55 years of marriage, so we are going to spend a lot of time eating and drinking. No big parties, just family gatherings.”

Are they worried about Covid? “I am very worried,” says Manuel. “She is not so much. But I have literally almost not left the house in a year and a half. So this whole concept of being around this many people is challenging.

“In Spain, everybody is very huggy and says hello with two kisses. I’m sure it’s safe and everyone is fully vaccinated, but there is a little bit of anxiety here.”

Are you worried about the plane? “I have been trying not to think about it,” he says. “It’s a risk but it is a managed risk and you can’t stop living your life.”

Marie and Paul Neeson, who were headed for Nice. Photograph: John Ohle
Marie and Paul Neeson, who were headed for Nice. Photograph: John Ohle

Over at Terminal Two, Paul Neeson, who is coincidentally Dublin Airport’s retail director, is on his way with his wife Marie to board a plane to Nice. “It’s a business trip but there are worse places in the world to be than Nice and Cannes,” he says.

“It is my first time abroad in 18 months and my job would have involved travelling every month before Covid, so part of this weekend is just the pleasure of getting up in the sky again.”

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