Ireland West Knock Airport may be small compared to other Irish airports such as Dublin, Shannon, or Cork. Still, with an impressive network of destinations combined with an efficient and welcoming terminal, the airport has much to offer to air passengers.

If you enjoy flying into small regional airports where the aircraft taking you there seems to be larger than the terminal building itself, this airport is worth keeping in mind.

A brief history of Knock Airport

Ireland West Airport (IATA: NOC, ICAO EIKN) is officially known as Ireland West Knock Airport (Irish - Aerfort Iarthar Éireann Chnoc Mhuire) and more commonly known as Knock Airport, is located 5.6 km (3.5 miles) southwest of Charlestown in County Mayo, Connaught, in the Republic of Ireland.

The village of Knock, which gives its name to the airport, is located 20 km (12.4 miles) to the south. With 722,000 passengers passing through the terminal in 2022, the airport is the fourth busiest in Ireland after Dublin, Cork, and Shannon.

Outside the Ireland West Airport Terminal Building.
Photo: Ireland West Airport

For many years, there had been a desire to build an airport in the area, located just a few miles from Knock Shrine, a prominent Catholic religious site visited by thousands of pilgrims yearly.

Although a site was identified where the future airport could be built, many considered it inappropriate for an airfield to be constructed in such a location. On the top of a hill in boggy terrain, the site was thought by many to be too unstable and too prone to fog to attract regular commercial passenger flights. Many significant noise and disturbance concerns were also raised.

However, following a determined public campaign led by a resolute local priest, Monsignor James Horan, the airport's construction was eventually given the green light. The remarkable and inspirational story behind the priest's campaign for the airport's construction can be watched in the documentary below.

After much persuasion, the Irish Government backed the airport construction program to the tune of £9.8 million (US$12.7 million), with Horan himself generating the balance (£3 million/$3.9 million) through a worldwide publicity campaign. The airport was constructed within the five years that Horan promised his backers, much to the dismay of his skeptics.

The airport opened on October 25th, 1985, although the terminal's official opening took place on May 30th, 1986, for the commencement of commercial operations.

A monument at Ireland West Airport.
Photo: Luke Peters / Simple Flying

Sadly, Horan died shortly after the airport's opening, with his funeral being held at the then-named Connaught Regional Airport. In commemorating his leading role in building the airport, Horan has since been observed by a bronze statue erected at the airport's entrance.

Arriving at Ireland West Airport

Having flown in from London Stansted Aiport on a wet and breezy afternoon onboard a Ryanair Boeing 737-800 (EI-EKS), we backtracked runway 26 and taxied to the small parking area. The apron can accommodate three aircraft simultaneously, and once parked up, we were joined by another Ryanair 737-800 arriving from Liverpool Airport.

A Ryanair 737-800 parked at Ireland West Airport.
Photo: Luke Peters / Simple Flying

There are no airbridges adjoining the small terminal to the aircraft, so a short walk (albeit in driving rain) saw us enter the tiny immigration hall, where two border officials checked passports. This process was smooth, and without delay, we proceeded to one of just two baggage carousels on which the baggage from our flight was already circulating.

The baggage carousel at Ireland West Airport.
Photo: Luke Peters / Simple Flying

In no time, we had our bags and exited through an unmanned customs area into the arrivals hall at the far end of the terminal building. There are a couple of car rental desks available, a taxi area outside the terminal exit, along with a bus service that all provide onward transport options.

The whole arrivals experience took less than 35 minutes, from the aircraft wheels touching the ground to collecting our checked bags to driving away in our rental car. This is just the kind of hassle-free experience you want from a short-haul international flight and one you can only experience at small regional airports such as Ireland West Knock Airport.

Heading back to London - The departure process

Arriving back at the airport after a long weekend visiting the attractions and beaches along the northwest coast of Ireland (known as the 'Wild Atlantic Way'), we dropped our car off and took a minute's walk from the car part to the terminal. Thankfully, the weather was somewhat more agreeable than the day of our arrival.

Just outside Ireland West Airport.
Photo: Luke Peters / Simple Flying

The terminal's departure hall is spacious, airy, and noticeably lacking in queues. A prominent mural of Monsignor Horan overlooks the check-in concourse, which features around a dozen check-in desks, although only one was in use when we passed through.

Inside Ireland West Airport.
Photo: Luke Peters / Simple Flying

Again with no delay or queuing, we dropped our bag at the single Ryanair check-in desk that was open and proceeded to security.

Inside Ireland West Airport.
Photo: Luke Peters / Simple Flying

An important note for all aviation enthusiasts passing through the airport is that there is an aviation gallery on the first floor airside adjacent to the Sláinte Restaurant, which is accessible to all. This facility offers outstanding views across the airport's apron and runway, a live flight tracker, a video wall showing the history of the airport, a photo gallery, and interactive screens.

Before having our passports and electronic boarding cards checked, we passed a small window, behind which an airport employee relieved us of 10 Euro per adult passenger for the 'Airport Development Fee.' As you wait to pay this fee, a wall display explains where the money goes, including the runway resurfacing and other terminal improvements.

Seemingly ubiquitous in many airports worldwide these days, once you go through security, you arrive at the center of the departure lounge retail 'offering.' Having carefully negotiated our way around bottles of Irish Whiskey and other Irish gifts and memorabilia, you have the option of either a cafeteria for light dining options or a bar (which also serves hot drinks).

A photo of the departures board at Ireland West Airport.
Photo: Luke Peters / Simple Flying

Ready to board, passengers congregate in a general area where seating is provided, although barely enough for the two flights departing that afternoon. As there are only three gates, all passengers mingle together before being called for their flights. Note there are minimal aircraft viewing opportunities from the departure lounge.

There is also a tiny VIP lounge available airside in the departure lounge, which is reserved for Aer Lingus business class passengers, members of the Lounge Pass, and Priority Pass programs, though it can also be booked online by other travelers.


Once our flight was called, we waited for our passports to be checked and boarding passes to be scanned. Following a short wait, we walked out of the doors to take the short walk back to the aircraft to fly us back to London Stansted. Despite Ryanair having over 500 737s in its fleet at the time of writing, the same aircraft that brought us to Knock was tasked with flying us home!

A Ryanair 737-800 parked at Ireland West Airport.
Photo: Luke Peters / Simple Flying

Once boarding was complete and the doors were all closed, the engines were started, and our plane taxied forwards and turned to take the taxiway back to the holding point for runway 26 (no pushback here). With no other traffic in the vicinity, we soon were airborne and passing over the County Mayo countryside heading for London, just an hour and ten minutes away.

The view outside of an airplane of the runway at Ireland West Airport.
Photo: Luke Peters / Simple Flying


Overall, my experience at Ireland West Knock Airport was highly favorable. The airport was clean and welcoming and provided all the facilities you could wish for at a small regional airport. The aviation gallery was a bonus you rarely get at airports nowadays.

A map featuring Ireland West Airport.
Photo: Luke Peters / Simple Flying

With scheduled services serving 16 destinations across Europe this summer operated by Ryanair and Aer Lingus, plus quick and easy access to the beautifully scenic region of northwest Ireland, the airport has a great deal to offer both arriving and departing passengers and other visitors alike.

Sources: Ireland West Knock Airport, YouTube,