Belfast International Airport
|Belfast International Airport
|IATA: BFS – ICAO: EGAA|
|Owner||ADC & HAS.|
|Operator||Belfast International Airport Ltd.|
|Serves||Belfast, United Kingdom|
|Location||Aldergrove, County Antrim,
|Elevation AMSL||268 ft / 82 m|
Belfast International Airport (IATA: BFS, ICAO: EGAA) is a major airport located 11.5 NM (21.3 km; 13.2 mi) northwest of Belfast in Northern Ireland. It was formerly known and is still referred to as Aldergrove Airport, after the nearby village of Aldergrove, which lies immediately to the west of the airport. The airfield was previously shared with the Royal Air Force base RAF Aldergrove, which closed in 2008; the base is now known as Joint Helicopter Command Flying Station, Aldergrove, and both runways are now owned by the airport.
Around 4 million passengers travelled through the airport in 2013, a 6.7% decrease on 2012. This is due to Aer Lingus withdrawing from the airport in late 2012, the passenger numbers are likely to improve due to new routes in 2014. Belfast International is the busiest airport in Northern Ireland and the second busiest airport on the island of Ireland in terms of passenger numbers after Dublin Airport, and is followed by Belfast-City, Cork and Shannon.
The airport is owned by ADC & HAS, the same company which owns Stockholm Skavsta, Orlando Sanford International Airport, Daniel Oduber Quirós International Airport, Mariscal Sucre International Airport & Juan Santamaría International Airport.
Belfast International has a CAA Public Use Aerodrome Licence (Number P798) that allows flights for the public transport of passengers or for flying instruction. The airport's rather distant location compared to Belfast-City means that the airport operates 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
The airport lies within the parish of Killead, between the small villages of Killead (to the east) and Aldergrove (to the west). The site for the airport was established in 1917 when it was selected to be a Royal Flying Corps training establishment during the First World War. The airport remained open at the end of the war for RAF activity.
Civil traffic began in 1922 when flights were conducted flying newspapers from Chester, and a regular civil air service started in 1933. The flight was to Glasgow and was operated by Midland and Scottish Air Ferries. This was subsequently augmented by flights to the Isle of Man, Liverpool and Croydon, then London’s airport.
During the Second World War, Aldergrove remained an RAF station particularly for the Coastal Command. So that the airport could accommodate larger, long-range aircraft, a major works programme was undertaken to replace the four existing runways with two new long paved runways, thereby forming the basis of the layout that still exists at the airport today.
One of the outcomes of the wartime airfield construction programme was the building of Nutts Corner Airport, just 3 mi (4.8 km) from Aldergrove. On 1 December 1946, the new site replaced Belfast Harbour Airport (now George Best Belfast City Airport) as Northern Ireland’s civil airport, as the site at Sydenham was considered unsuitable.
By the 1950s civil air traffic had outstripped the facilities at Nutts Corner and, in addition, aircraft were being regularly diverted to Aldergrove because of adverse weather conditions. In July 1959 the decision was made to move civil flights to Aldergrove to take advantage of the large airfield and this took place in October 1963.
A new terminal and apron were built with the necessary passenger facilities and the complex was opened by Queen Elizabeth, The Queen Mother on 28 October 1963. In 1966 the first regular jet service to London-Gatwick started and in 1968 Aer Lingus and BOAC introduced scheduled services to New York City via Shannon and Glasgow-Prestwick respectively.
In 1971 Northern Ireland Airports Limited was formed to operate and develop the airport and its facilities. A major programme of airfield upgrades was undertaken resulting in improvements to runways, taxiways and the parking apron.
A new International Pier was built together with lounge facilities and car parks, while an additional apron was provided to separate the smaller general aviation aircraft from large commercial jets. In the meantime, British Airways launched the first Belfast to Heathrow shuttle service, and the first Boeing 747 operated from the airport on a charter service to Toronto via Shannon. The first scheduled service to a European city was started by NLM Cityhopper (now KLM Cityhopper) flying to Amsterdam.
In 1983 the airport, renamed Belfast International, was regularly accommodating the largest civil aircraft in service, and with the installation of new technology was capable of all weather operations. In 1985 passenger numbers reached 1.5 million and BMI went into competition with British Airways on the Heathrow service. Further developments to the terminal occurred throughout the late 1980s and early 1990s. A new Executive Aviation Terminal was opened in 1987 and the new cargo centre opened in 1991.
The airport was privatised in 1994. TBI became the new owners of the airport on 13 August 1996, by which time annual passenger numbers had reached 2.5 million.
1998 to 2006
In 1998 EasyJet started operations from the airport with flights to London Luton. Since then the airline has established a large base at Belfast International and a further eleven domestic routes and fifteen direct European scheduled routes have been added to the network, making the airline the largest user of the airport.
In 2005 Continental Airlines launched the first ever direct scheduled service to Newark, and direct scheduled services were later introduced to Vancouver with Zoom Airlines but have now ceased following the carrier's demise in August 2008.
2007 to 2012
In December 2007 Aer Lingus opened a base at Belfast International, its third hub (and first outside the Republic of Ireland). By March 2008 three Airbus A320 aircraft were based at the airport serving nine Aer Lingus routes from Belfast, restoring the link between Belfast International and London Heathrow Airport which was abandoned by British Airways. However, this link ceased in 2012 when Aer Lingus transferred operations to George Best airport.
Between 2006 - 2008, both easyJet and Aer Lingus established a number of new routes for Belfast including Berlin, Budapest, Prague, Rome, Munich and Venice, all of which were eventually scrapped. The Prague and Rome routes all have since restarted. During 2008 Wizz Air operated the routes to Warsaw and Katowice, they we stopped soon after.
Flyglobespan previously operated summer seasonal services to Orlando Sanford International Airport and John C. Munro Hamilton International Airport. These routes ceased following the carrier's demise in December 2009.
Despite these additional flights, passengers at Belfast International did not rise beyond 6 million in 2008 as some had predicted but in fact fell by 10,000 passengers to 5.2 million.
Work has been completed within the airport to move the 'Central Search' area from its previous location, this is part of a bigger plan to increase the area for the main departure Lounge. In addition, as of June 2010 the airport's new drop off zone has been completed and implemented at the front of the complex. The airport has one jetway located on the international pier that allows speedy boarding. It is used on the Newark Service as well as other charter and high density services to mainland Europe and some transcontinental services. The single terminal is large and accommodates most aircraft. The terminal serves all destinations.
In January 2011, Bmibaby moved to George Best Belfast City Airport in order to keep its operation under one roof with sister company BMI. A few months later, easyJet announced that its London-Luton route would return to Belfast International and a route to Manchester would commence on 31 October 2011.
In July 2011 easyJet announced its fourth London destination to London Southend. In late 2011 and early 2012 the airport invested money into the infrastructure of the airport. This has included surface repairs on the apron, essential repair work under runway 07/25, reconfiguration of the exit hall for international arrivals and converting the domestic arrivals hall to an airside area, which is now complete. Resurfacing of the aircraft stands has begun. In early 2012 Easyjet announced a new route to Birmingham starting in late October 2012. In July 2012 Aer Lingus confirmed it will move its operation to Belfast City Airport, commencing on 28 October 2012 at the start of its winter schedule.
2013 to date
On 8 April 2013, the leisure airline Jet2.com announced that all flights would be suspended from the airport until further notice. It is believed to be due to an 'unsafe runway'. On Tuesday 9 April 2013 Jet2.com and Belfast International Airport came to an agreement to start operations again from Wednesday 10 April 2013 but Jet2.com will use the runway 17/35 at the airfield for all operations until the runway works on 25/07 is complete. Jet2.com used George Best Belfast City Airport for domestic flights and City of Derry Airport for international flights during the short period of suspension.
On 17 and 18 June 2013 the leaders of the G8 countries met at the Lough Erne resort and a number of special aircraft movements and heightened security were in evidence at the airport. In July 2013, It was confirmed that abertis would sell Belfast International Airport, Stockholm Skavsta & Orlando Sanford International Airport to ADC & HAS which is based in America.
On 9 September 2013 easyJet celebrated its 15th anniversary at Belfast International Airport by staging a water arch salute for arriving aircraft & announcing two new routes to Jersey Airport on the Channel Islands and Bordeaux Airport in France with them going on sale from the 23 October 2013.
On 8 July 2014, easyJet announced that they will begin a twice weekly year round service to Rekjavík in Iceland.
On 25 July 2014, Jet2 announced that it will be creating 86 new jobs at Belfast International Airport with the announcement of four new routes from the airport. Rome and Prague will operate out of the airport twice weekly whilst Gran Canaria and Zante will operate one flight per week, meaning that an extra aircraft will be needed for Summer 2015.
On 26 August 2014, Wizz Air announced another route to Katowice. This route will operate twice weekly from March 2015.
On 6 November 2014, easyJet announced a new route to Split in Croatia. On 20 November 2014, easyJet announced that it is planning to launch new routes in the future to Greece and the Canary Islands. Also it stated in its interview with the Belfast Telegraph that it will base four Airbus A319 aircraft and one Airbus A320 aircraft at the airport in 2015. They also stated that they have no intention to move to Belfast City Airport, easyJet has also confirmed that they are looking at starting flights to Copenhagen & a German destination.
On 7 January 2015, Belfast International Airport Managing Director confirmed that there will be up to 10 news routes announced in 2015. These are to include a direct service from Belfast International Airport to Istanbul Atatürk with Turkish Airlines. Belfast International's largest operator, easyJet, is expected to announce several new European routes in 2015, and a new Canadian link is expected to be announced as well. There will also be various improvements to the Terminal Building.
Aer Lingus Lawsuit
On 10 November 2014, Belfast International Airport announced that it was suing Aer lingus for alleged breach of contract following its move to George Best Belfast City Airport. At the time the Dublin-based carrier was mid-way through a 10-year deal to fly from Aldergrove.  The court case will begin in April 2015, Belfast International Airport is expected to sue the airline for £20 million.
Airlines and destinations
Belfast International Airport is one of the most important regional airfreight centres in the UK, handling 48,000 tonnes (47,000 long tons; 53,000 short tons) of air cargo in 2008. BIA plays host to a long-established nightly Royal Mail operation. Fedex Feeder announced its base on 8 November 2011, basing one ATR. The major cargo operators are:
|Atlantic Airlines||East Midlands|
|DHL Aviation||East Midlands|
|Jet2.com||East Midlands, London-Stansted|
operated by Avion Express for Loganair
|Star Air (Maersk Air)||London-Stansted, East Midlands, Edinburgh|
operated by Swiftair
|Birmingham, Paris-Charles de Gaulle|
|TNT Airways||East Midlands, Liege|
In 2007, the airport hit a record of 5.3 million passengers which is the highest in the airport's history. The figure remained static in 2008 but the figure declined sharply in 2009 to 4.5 million and again in 2010 to 4 million. Figures for 2011 indicated a small rise to 4.1 million, while a larger increase then occurred to 4.5 million in 2012, returning the total to 2009 levels. 2013 figures indicated a decrease to 4 million, which is roughly a return to the 2010 figures. The airport is the busiest in Northern Ireland and the second busiest airport on the island of Ireland, after Dublin Airport. Belfast International was the 13th busiest airport in the UK by passenger traffic in 2013, with a decrease of 6.7%.
|Updated: 20 January 2015|
Busiest international routes to and from Belfast International Airport (2013)
| % Change
2012 / 13
|1||Spain - Palma||138 361||131 272||5|
|2||Spain - Alicante||107 550||137 908||22|
|3||Netherlands - Amsterdam||104 575||116 410||10|
|4||Spain - Malaga||101 672||154 982||34|
|5||Portugal - Faro||99 862||154 848||36|
|6||United States - Newark||85 146||83 607||2|
|7||France - Paris Charles de Gaulle||79 907||81 560||2|
|8||Spain - Tenerife||71 631||74 201||3|
|9||Spain - Barcelona||48 341||75 471||36|
|10||Poland - Krakow||46 406||44 838||3|
|11||Spain - Lanzarote||45 014||75 033||40|
|12||Switzerland - Geneva||30 940||30 101||3|
|13||Turkey - Dalaman||30 314||34 819||13|
|14||Malta - Malta||28 708||28 141||2|
|15||Spain - Reus||27 098||23 025||18|
|16||Spain - Las Palmas||22 699||30 833||26|
|17||Spain - Murcia||22 373||27 731||19|
|18||Spain - Ibiza||21 992||26 774||18|
|19||France - Nice||19 986||22 639||12|
|20||Spain - Mahon||17 444||13 759||27|
| % Change
|1||Liverpool||413 924||447 571||8|
|2||London Gatwick||385 696||353 248||9|
|3||London Stansted||297 076||311 454||5|
|4||Glasgow International||250 844||266 987||6|
|5||Edinburgh||244 726||237 242||3|
|6||London Luton||235 528||230 104||2|
|7||Bristol||226 217||217 182||4|
|8||Newcastle||192 513||193 123||1|
|9||Manchester||189 969||149 334||27|
|10||Birmingham||158 591||24 892||537|
Travellers by car from Belfast reach the airport via the M2 motorway. The airport operates four car parks, three on-site car parks and one off-site car park. The on-site short stay and main car parks are situated within easy walking distance of the terminal building, and an on demand courtesy bus operates to and from the on-site long stay car park. The off-site short or long stay car park called 'Park and Fly' is located just before the main entrance to the airport and is also serviced by a courtesy bus.
Translink operates a 24 hour number 300 express bus service to the airport from their Europa Buscentre, in the centre of Belfast. The airport can be reached from Derry and the northwest by the Airporter.
The nearest railway station is the Antrim railway station which is 10 km (6.2 mi) from the airport in Antrim, and is serviced by a bus link called the Antrim Airlink (109 A). There are connections to Belfast, Lisburn and Derry/Londonderry. Trains to and from Dublin are via Belfast Central railway station, which has its own Airbus stop. A new station serving the airport could one day be constructed on the mothballed Lisburn-Antrim railway line as set out in the airport master plan. This line remains in serviceable condition and passes close to the airport terminal. It has also been listed in a public review of the future of Northern Ireland railways which would see the airport being served by train by the year 2020.
Accidents and incidents
- On 24 March 1996, Vickers Viscount G-OPFE of British World Airways was damaged beyond economic repair when it made a wheels-up landing.
- On 23 December 1997, a Maersk Air Boeing 737 aircraft operated by British Airways and with 63 passengers and 6 crew on board was forced to return to the airport after a major failure in the starboard engine. The pilot declared an emergency and the aircraft returned to the airport safely on one engine. It was later found that an engine seal had failed, causing catastrophic engine failure and slight damage to the engine cowling and under-wing surface. The subsequent investigation uncovered design and manufacturing defects with the seals and led to the incorporation of new design seals in all future engines.
- On 31 October 2010, a bomb was found inside a Toyota Carina parked in the long-stay car park and Army bomb disposal experts dismantled it. It is believed that the car and bomb had been in the car park since 2009. It was only discovered when workers were getting ready to tow the vehicle out of the car park. Many passengers had to spend the night in hotels or arrange alternative transport as they were unable to get to their cars.
- Airport sale agreed - Belfast International Airport. Belfastairport.com. Retrieved on 2013-07-23.
- "Belfast/Aldergrove - EGAA". Nats-uk.ead-it.com. Retrieved 2012-07-12.
- "CAA: UK Annual Airport Statistics". UK Civil Aviation Authority. Retrieved 2014-04-01.
- "albertis - Belfast International Airport". Belfast International Airport. Retrieved 19 December 2011.
- "easyJet Route Map". easyJet.
- "Belfast International Airport lands Aer Lingus". Belfast International Airport Press Office. Retrieved 2007-12-06.
- bmibaby launch new services from Belfast City Airport
- Easyjet Announce Return of Luton Route and Add New Flights to Manchester
- "WIZZ AIR: MAJOR EXPANSION AND 25% GROWTH IN POLAND IN 2015 - Further 2 based aircraft and 5 new routes". Wizz Air. 26 August 2014.
- "WIZZ AIR CONTINUES EXPANSION IN VILNIUS - 3 NEW ROUTES AND FREQUENCY INCREASES FROM APRIL 2015". Wizz Air. 6 August 2014.
- "Key facts". Belfast International Airport. Retrieved 2009-09-01.
- Number of Movements represents total air transport takeoffs and landings during that year.
- "Accident description". Aviation Safety Network. Retrieved 9 October 2009.
- "AAIB.gov.uk". AAIB.gov.uk. 1997-12-23. Retrieved 2011-02-03.
- "Small bomb found in car at Belfast International Airport". BBC. 2010-10-31. Retrieved 2011-02-03.
- "BBC News - Belfast International Airport bomb 'there for a year'". Bbc.co.uk. 2010-11-01. Retrieved 2011-02-03.
Media related to Belfast International Airport at Wikimedia Commons