Aer Lingus operated specially chartered flights for His Holiness, Pope Francis, on Sunday 26th August 2018:
- EI 1979 Dublin to Knock, departing 08.40
- EI 2018 Knock to Dublin, departing 11.15
- EI 2408 Dublin to Ciampino (Rome), departing 18.45
The papal delegation had travelled to Ireland on the Italian national airline, Alitalia, in line with custom, on an Airbus A320, with Irish registration, EI-DSY.
Aer Lingus operated an A321, the St Aidan. A second A321 aircraft, the St Dervilla, was on standby for the duration of the visit.
The Dublin to Knock, and Knock to Dublin flights were commanded by Captains Eamonn Kearns and Conor O’Dwyer. The Dublin to Ciampino flight was under the command of Captains Steve Kelly and Shane Kearney.
Altogether, 16 cabin crew serviced the three flights, led by Joan O’Neill and Jackie Bailey, both of whom joined the airline in 1979, the year when Aer Lingus carried Pope John Paul II.
Cabin crew served guests the best of Irish food and locally-sourced produce onboard all three flights, including Toons bridge mozzarella, Kish Fish smoked salmon, and Fingal farmed carrots, potatoes and herbs, selected from the Aer Lingus Business Class menu.
Slight modifications have been made to the aircraft: the Papal Coat of Arms has been applied to the exterior of the plane; divider curtains have been installed; and loud-speaker facilities for an onboard press conference held on the return flight to Rome have been added.
The Papal flag and the Irish tricolour were flown from the cockpit for both pushback and landing in Dublin and Knock Airports. The papal flag and the Italian flag were flown on landing in Ciampino Airport. As is customary, papal blessings are made as the delegation enters new airspace; these blessings were issued from the flight deck accordingly during the flight to Ciampino.
The chartered Aer Lingus A321 plane accommodated 126 guests, including Pope Francis and key members of the Vatican, members of the wider Vatican delegation, security staff and journalists.
Aer Lingus carried Pope John Paul II in 1979 during his visit to Ireland.
During the flight to Ciampino, Greg Kaldahl, Chief Strategy and Planning Officer, and Fergus Wilson, Chief Technical Officer, Aer Lingus, presented Pope Francis with the following gifts on behalf of the airline:
- A model of Aer Lingus’s first aircraft, the De Havilland DH84 Dragon EI-ABI
- A replica of the Celtic Crucifix of Athlone that was onboard the Boeing 747 aircraft ‘St Patrick’ that carried His Holiness Saint John Paul II. The cross is one of the earliest Celtic Christian Crosses found in Ireland dating from circa 800 AD
- Donation by Aer Lingus to Capuchin Day Centre for Homeless People, Arran Quay, Dublin