Shannon Airport got new task-masters on Friday 6th April as Ireland’s most special twins, Hassan and Hussein Benhaffaf, took on the role of Operation Managers.
The Cork twins, who were conjoined at birth but survived thanks to a miraculous operation to separate them, have spent the last eight years of their lives in and out of surgery. The courageous twins, who have already had 45 operations and are facing a lifetime of surgery, landed at Shannon and boldly took to their temporary task as operations managers.
The initiative was all part of a weekend of treats in the region put together for the twins by Share A Dream founder Shay Kinsella after he met the boys and their mother, Angie.
The visit to and tour of Shannon Airport was one of the high-points of their time in the area. It followed a visit to ‘Dreamland Limerick’ – the first fully accessible, inclusive fun centre in Ireland, before checking into the 5-star Savoy Hotel for an overnight stay.
The twins got the VIP treatment as they got to go behind the scenes to see how Shannon Airport works. This included a visit to the fire station where they met with fire and police staff and got to become honorary firemen. Next stop was an overview of the airport’s security screening and operations facilities before being given a quick instruction on life of a pilot. For this element they enjoyed a tour of an Aer Lingus aircraft and a special visit to the cockpit where they met Aer Lingus Captain Gerry Guthrie.
The VIP treatment continued when the twins and their family visited the airport’s Presidential Suite where they signed the visitors book and wrote their names alongside famous dignitaries who have visited the airport over the years.
Niall Maloney, Airport Operations Director, said: “We have had VIPs coming through Shannon for decades, among them some of the most famous people in the world, but I am not sure we have met any as special as these two boys.
“Airports are magical places for youngsters but the boys are magical in their own right and we were absolutely delighted to have them. This was about a treat for them but it was a treat for us also. They are an inspiration and Shannon Airport is now officially a big fan of theirs. We will be keeping up-to-date with their progress and wishing them well every inch of the way. As our chosen staff charity for 2018 we were delighted to support the Share a Dream Foundation in making the boys’ wishes come true.”
The boys’ mother, Angie, said: “We have had a brilliant two days and today at Shannon capped it all. The airport staff couldn’t have been more helpful. It’s a busy day for the airport but they were so generous with their time and the boys loved every minute of it. Shannon Heritage has given us family passes to their visitor attractions at Bunratty Castle and Folk Park and King John’s Castle and we are really looking forward to availing of these.”
Shay Kinsella, Share A Dream Founder, said: “This has been a great two days for the boys and they deserve it. Shannon Airport came up trumps for them. We just put the ask into the airport and Niall Maloney and all of the airport staff could not have been more welcoming. It is easy to know why Shannon Airport has such a strong community reputation: they really get behind you, as we have seen today with the boys. They smiled from ear to ear and they have made true friends in the boys and their family, for sure.”