Belfast International Airport

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Belfast International Airport
Belfast/Aldergrove Airport
Belfast International Airport logo.svg
Belfast International Airport - - 119152.jpg
Airport typePublic
OwnerVINCI Airports
ServesBelfast, United Kingdom
LocationAldergrove, County Antrim,
Northern Ireland
Focus city for
Elevation AMSL268 ft / 82 m
Coordinates54°39′27″N 006°12′57″W / 54.65750°N 6.21583°W / 54.65750; -6.21583Coordinates: 54°39′27″N 006°12′57″W / 54.65750°N 6.21583°W / 54.65750; -6.21583
EGAA is located in Northern Ireland
Location in Northern Ireland
Direction Length Surface
m ft
07/25 2,780 9,121 Asphalt
17/35 1,891 6,204 Asphalt
Statistics (2017)
Passenger change 16-17Increase13.3%
Aircraft Movements58,152
Movements change 16-17Increase5.4%
Sources: UK AIP at NATS[1]
Statistics from the UK Civil Aviation Authority[2]

Belfast International Airport (IATA: BFS, ICAO: EGAA) is an airport 11.5 NM (21.3 km; 13.2 mi)[1] northwest of Belfast in Northern Ireland. Formerly known as Aldergrove Airport, after the nearby village of Aldergrove, Belfast International is Northern Ireland's busiest airport and the second busiest airport on the island of Ireland after Dublin Airport. In 2017, over 5.8 million passengers travelled through the airport, marking a 13% increase compared with 2016.[2] It features flights to some European metropolitan and several leisure destinations as well as seasonal long-haul routes to the United States.

Belfast International has a CAA Public Use Aerodrome Licence that allows flights for the public transport of passengers or for flying instruction. 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. The airport is owned and operated by VINCI Airports which was previously owned by ADC & HAS.[3]


Kerbside of the terminal building


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.

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 twelve domestic routes and twenty direct European scheduled routes have been added to the network, making the airline the largest user of the airport.[4]

Development since the 2000s[edit]

In 2005 Continental Airlines launched the first ever nonstop scheduled service to Newark, which continued to operate under the United Airlines brand until its termination in January 2017.[5]

In July 2013, it was confirmed that abertis would sell Belfast International Airport, Stockholm Skavsta Airport & Orlando Sanford International Airport to ADC & HAS based in the United States. In February 2015 the airport re-opened the viewing gallery that had been closed for 10 years which provides a view of the apron and the runways that serve the airport. It also includes live ATC, arrival and departure boards, and a live flight radar screen.[6]

In 2016 Ryanair opened a base at the airport, initially operating flights to nine destinations. The airline said they would carry 1.1 million passengers a year out of the airport. In July 2017, Norwegian Air Shuttle launched two new long-haul routes from Belfast International Airport, with services to Newburgh, about 70 miles from New York, and Providence, 60 miles from Boston.[7]

In April 2018, Vinci Airports, a subsidiary of Vinci S.A, acquired an airport portfolio held by Airports Worldwide (previously named ADC & HAS),[8] with the transaction expected to close later this year, Vinci Airports will become the new owner of Belfast International Airport.[9]

Airlines and destinations[edit]


The following airlines operate regular scheduled and charter flights to and from Belfast International:[10]

BH Air Seasonal charter: Burgas
easyJet Alicante, Amsterdam, Birmingham, Bristol, Edinburgh, Faro, Glasgow, Isle Of Man, Kraków, Liverpool, London–Gatwick, London–Luton, London–Stansted, Málaga, Manchester, Newcastle upon Tyne, Paris–Charles de Gaulle, Prague, Venice
Seasonal: Barcelona, Bordeaux, Dubrovnik, Fuerteventura, Geneva, Ibiza, Jersey, Lanzarote, Lyon, Naples, Nice, Palma de Mallorca, Reykjavík–Keflavík, Salzburg (begins 13 December 2018),[11] Split, Valencia Alicante, Fuerteventura, Funchal, Gran Canaria, Lanzarote, Tenerife–South
Seasonal: Almería, Antalya, Burgas (begins 29 May 2019),[12] Dalaman, Dubrovnik, Faro, Girona, Heraklion, Ibiza, Málaga, Malta, Menorca, Naples, Palma de Mallorca, Paphos, Reus, Rhodes, Salzburg, Verona, Zakynthos
Ryanair Alicante, Bergamo, Berlin–Schönefeld, Gdańsk, Kraków, Lanzarote, London–Stansted, Málaga, Malta, Manchester, Tenerife–South, Warsaw–Modlin, Wrocław
Seasonal: Faro, Girona
Thomas Cook Airlines Lanzarote, Tenerife–South
Seasonal: Antalya, Dalaman, Enfidha (resumes 13 March 2019),[13] Gran Canaria, Larnaca, Palma de Mallorca, Reus
TUI Airways Seasonal: Burgas, Corfu, Gran Canaria, Ibiza, Lanzarote, Málaga, Menorca, Palma de Mallorca, Reus, Rhodes, Tenerife–South, Verona
Virgin Atlantic Seasonal: Orlando
Wizz Air Vilnius


Belfast International Airport has a wide range of cargo operators at the airport, they are currently:[14]

ASL Airlines Ireland East Midlands
DHL Air UK East Midlands
FedEx Feeder Birmingham, London–Stansted, Paris–Charles de Gaulle
Royal Mail London–Stansted[15]
UPS Airlines East Midlands
West Atlantic UK East Midlands

Traffic and statistics[edit]

Traffic figures[edit]

In 2017 Belfast International handled over 5.8 million passengers, which is the highest in the airport's history.[2] 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 10th busiest airport in the UK by passenger traffic in 2017.[2]

Busiest routes[edit]

Busiest routes to and from Belfast International (2017)[18]
Rank Airport Total
2016 / 17
1 London–Gatwick 982,790 Increase 14%
2 Liverpool 490,613 Increase 5%
3 London–Stansted 376,429 Increase 3%
4 London–Luton 340,034 Increase 9%
5 Edinburgh 284,833 Increase 4%
6 Manchester 265,670 Increase 5%
7 Bristol 261,739 Increase 5%
8 Glasgow 261,020 Decrease 8%
9 Newcastle 259,775 Increase 4%
10 Alicante 227,397 Increase 48%
11 Birmingham 224,393 Decrease 1%
12 Málaga 209,583 Increase 61%
13 Palma de Mallorca 183,383 Increase 24%
14 Faro 164,383 Increase 32%
15 Tenerife–South 126,232 Increase 39%
16 Lanzarote 123,470 Increase 14%
17 Amsterdam 122,389 Increase 0%
18 Kraków 99,585 Increase 82%
19 Paris–Charles de Gaulle 76,399 Increase 0%
20 Reus 61,870 Increase 18%

Transport links[edit]


Travellers by car can 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.[19]


Translink operates an express bus service to the airport from their Europa Buscentre, in the centre of Belfast. Translink also offers bus connections to Antrim railway station. The airport can be reached from Derry and the northwest by the Airporter.Antrim Rail and bus station can be reached using the 109A bus that departs from outside the airport as well.


The nearest railway station is Antrim railway station, 10 km (6.2 mi) from the airport in Antrim and serviced by a bus (the 109A Ulsterbus service) to and from Antrim bus/railway station from there connections to Derry and Belfast by train can be made. There are connections to Belfast, Lisburn and Derry. Antrim station is on the Belfast–Derry railway line. Trains to and from Dublin are via Belfast Central railway station. A new station serving the airport could 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[edit]

  • On 24 March 1996, Vickers Viscount G-OPFE of British World Airways was damaged beyond economic repair when it made a wheels-up landing.[20]
  • 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.[21]
  • 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.[22][23]
  • On 10 November 2017, Flybe flight BE331, operated by a Bombardier Dash 8 Q400, was scheduled to fly from Belfast City to Inverness. The plane reported a technical problem shortly after takeoff and was diverted to Belfast International, where it landed on its nose with the front gear retracted. One minor injury was reported.[24]


  1. ^ a b "Belfast/Aldergrove - EGAA". Retrieved 2012-07-12.
  2. ^ a b c d e "Aircraft and passenger traffic data from UK airports". UK Civil Aviation Authority. 3 March 2017. Retrieved 15 March 2017.
  3. ^ "albertis - Belfast International Airport". Belfast International Airport. Retrieved 19 December 2011.
  4. ^ "easyJet Route Map". easyJet.
  5. ^
  6. ^ Jess, Mervyn (23 February 2015). "Belfast International Airport 'puts fun back into flying'". BBC News. Retrieved 10 August 2015.
  7. ^
  8. ^ "ADC & HAS AIRPORTS WORLDWIDE, INC. Announces Name Change". Retrieved 2018-06-14.
  9. ^ "VINCI Airports enlarges its network of airports in the United States, the United Kingdom, Costa Rica and Sweden (24/04/2018) - Press releases - Media [VINCI]". Retrieved 2018-06-14.
  10. ^ - Destination Map retrieved 11 October 2016
  11. ^
  12. ^
  13. ^
  14. ^ Courier Services in Belfast International Airport | Reviews - Yell
  15. ^ "Royal Mail Operation Extension". Titan Airways. 17 June 2013. Retrieved 9 August 2015.
  16. ^ Number of Passengers, Freight and Mail include both domestic and international counterparts.
  17. ^ Number of Movements represents total air transport takeoffs and landings during that year.
  18. ^ "Airport Data 2017". UK Civil Aviation Authority. 16 March 2018. Tables 12.1(XLS) and 12.2 (XLS). Retrieved 16 March 2018.
  19. ^ "Belfast International Airport Parking - Park and Fly". Retrieved 3 June 2015.
  20. ^ "Accident description". Aviation Safety Network. Retrieved 9 October 2009.
  21. ^ "". 23 December 1997. Retrieved 3 February 2011.
  22. ^ "Small bomb found in car at Belfast International Airport". BBC News. 2010-10-31. Retrieved 2011-02-03.
  23. ^ "Belfast International Airport bomb 'there for a year'". BBC News. 1 November 2010. Retrieved 3 February 2011.
  24. ^ "Flybe plane crash-lands at Belfast airport". TheGuardian. 10 November 2017. Retrieved 10 November 2017.

External links[edit]

Media related to Belfast International Airport at Wikimedia Commons