Belfast International Airport

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Belfast International Airport

Belfast/Aldergrove Airport
Belfast International Airport.svg
BFS airport terminal (Image copyright Andrew McCarron).jpg
Airport typePublic
Owner/OperatorVINCI Airports
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
EGAA is located in island of Ireland
EGAA (island of Ireland)
Direction Length Surface
m ft
07/25 2,780 9,121 Asphalt
17/35 1,891 6,204 Asphalt
Statistics (2021)
Passenger change 2020-21Increase 33%
Aircraft Movements33,964
Movements change 2020-21Increase 75%
Sources: UK AIP at NATS[2]
Statistics from the UK Civil Aviation Authority[3]

Belfast International Airport (IATA: BFS, ICAO: EGAA) is an airport 11.5 NM (21.3 km; 13.2 mi)[2] northwest of Belfast in Northern Ireland, is the main airport for the city of Belfast. Until 1983, it was known as Aldergrove Airport, after the nearby village of Aldergrove. In 2018, over 6.2 million passengers travelled through the airport, a 7.4% increase compared with 2017.[3] The majority of flights from Belfast International are operated by easyJet, Northern Ireland's biggest airline. It features flights to some European metropolitan and several leisure destinations.

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.[4]



"Map of Air Routes and Landing Places in Great Britain, as temporarily arranged by the Air Ministry for civilian flying", published in 1919, showing Aldergrove as a "civil station".
Royal Air Force B-24 Liberators in Belfast, c.1943
British Airways BAe ATP in Belfast, 1994

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,[dubious ] when flights were conducted to fly newspapers from Chester. The first scheduled passenger service was started in 1933 by the Scottish airline Midland & Scottish Air Ferries. This service consisted of two daily flights each way between Aldergrove and Renfrew Airport, Glasgow.[5] This was subsequently augmented by a twice-daily, return service to Croydon, at that time London's airport, with stops at the Isle of Man, Liverpool and Birmingham.[6]

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 Harbour Airport 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. The first regular jet service to London–Gatwick started in 1966, 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, extending the terminal's landside and airside area. A new Executive Aviation Terminal was also opened in 1987 and the new cargo centre opened in 1991.

The airport was privatised in 1994. TBI became the new owner 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-three direct European scheduled routes have been added to the network, making the airline the largest user of the airport.[7]

Development since the 2000s[edit]

Main check-in hall

In 2005, Continental Airlines launched the first ever nonstop scheduled service to Newark; this continued to operate under the United Airlines brand until its termination in January 2017.[8]

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.[9] However, this was later closed again in October 2019.

Ryanair opened a base at the airport in 2016, initially operating flights to nine destinations. The airline said it would carry 1.1 million passengers a year out of the airport. In 2017 and 2018, Norwegian Air Shuttle operated long-haul services to Newburgh and Providence.[10]

In April 2018, Vinci Airports, a subsidiary of Vinci SA, acquired an airport portfolio held by Airports Worldwide (previously named ADC & HAS),[11] with the transaction expected to close later that year, Vinci Airports became the new owner of Belfast International Airport.[12]

Thomas Cook Airlines had a seasonal base at the airport, until their collapse in September 2019. They operated routes to Europe and some other destinations, operated by an Airbus A321 aircraft. Every July, they operated long-haul flights from Belfast to Cancun and Orlando, operated by their Airbus A330 aircraft. In August 2021, Ryanair announced they would be ending its operations at both of Belfast's airports.[13] In July 2022, Ryanair announced that they will be returning to Belfast International Airport, in addition to opening a base.[14]

Airlines and destinations[edit]


The following airlines operate regular scheduled and charter flights to and from Belfast International:[15]

BH Air Seasonal: Burgas
Eastern Airways[16] Southampton (begins 6 April 2023)[17]
easyJet[18] Alicante, Amsterdam, Birmingham, Bristol, Edinburgh, Faro, Glasgow, Isle of Man, Leeds/Bradford, Liverpool, London–Gatwick, London–Luton, London–Stansted, Málaga, Manchester, Newcastle upon Tyne, Paris–Charles de Gaulle, Tenerife–South
Seasonal: Antalya (begins 26 March 2023),[19] Barcelona, Bordeaux, Corfu, Dalaman, Geneva, Gran Canaria, Ibiza, Jersey, Kraków, Lanzarote, Lyon, Menorca, Nice, Palma de Mallorca, Rhodes (begins 3 June 2023)[20][21] Alicante, Fuerteventura, Gran Canaria, Lanzarote, Tenerife–South
Seasonal: Antalya, Dalaman, Dubrovnik, Faro, Heraklion, Ibiza, Málaga, Menorca, Palma de Mallorca, Paphos, Prague, Reus, Rhodes, Salzburg, Verona, Zakynthos
Seasonal charter: Sofia, Plovdiv
Ryanair[22] Alicante (resumes 28 March 2023), Beauvais (begins 27 March 2023), Bergamo (resumes 26 March 2023), Budapest (begins 27 March 2023),[23] Cardiff (begins 29 March 2023),[24] East Midlands (begins 27 March 2023), Edinburgh (begins 26 March 2023), Faro (resumes 26 March 2023), Gdańsk (resumes 27 March 2023), Girona (resumes 26 March 2023), Kraków (resumes 26 March 2023), London–Stansted (resumes 26 March 2023), Málaga (resumes 28 March 2023), Manchester (resumes 26 March 2023), Palma de Mallorca (begins 29 March 2023),[25] Valencia (begins 1 May 2023)[26]
TUI Airways[27] Seasonal: Corfu, Dalaman, Heraklion (begins 15 May 2023),[28] Ibiza, Kos, Lanzarote, Málaga, Melbourne/Orlando (begins 22 June 2023),[27] Palma de Mallorca, Reus, Rhodes, Tenerife–South


DHL Aviation[29] East Midlands

General Aviation[edit]

Woodgate Aviation has a base at the airport, featuring a private jet terminal, with facilities to accommodate small aircraft. Woodgate Aviation is Belfast International Airport’s only FBO to provide hangarage. Their 33,000 sq ft hangar was constructed in 2015, and at the time of completion, access to hangar floor was through Europe’s largest hydraulic door. [30]

Belfast International Airport welcomed Global Trek Aviation, as the third FBO on the airfield, during 2015.[31][32] This was part of the Airports commercial drive to develop the non-scheduled, Military and GA development at the airport.[33] This had notable success with an increase in growth across these movement types at Belfast International Airport.[34]

Traffic and statistics[edit]

Traffic figures[edit]

Belfast International handled over 2.3 million passengers in 2021. The airport's busiest year over operation was in 2019 when it handled over 6.27 million passengers.[3] The airport is the busiest in Northern Ireland and the 8th-busiest airport in the UK by passenger traffic in 2021.[3]

Annual passenger traffic at BFS airport. See Wikidata query.
Number of Passengers[35] Number of Movements[36] Freight
1997 2,476,834 35,070 24,838
1998 2,671,848 38,976 25,275
1999 3,035,907 44,817 25,773
2000 3,147,670 41,256 30,599
2001 3,618,671 45,706 32,130
2002 3,576,785 38,453 29,474
2003 3,976,703 39,894 29,620
2004 4,407,413 43,373 32,148
2005 4,824,271 47,695 37,878
2006 5,038,692 48,412 38,417
2007 5,272,664 51,085 38,429
2008 5,262,354 55,000 36,115
2009 4,546,475 44,796 29,804
2010 4,016,170 40,324 29,716
2011 4,103,620 57,460 31,062
2012 4,313,685 58,011 29,095
2013 4,023,336 54,003 29,288
2014 4,033,954 50,973 30,073
2015 4,391,307 52,246 30,389
2016 5,147,546 55,155 7,597
2017 5,836,552 58,152 12,308
2018 6,269,025 60,541 27,672
2019 6,278,563 47,230 25,095
2020 1,747,086 19,416 27,946
2021 2,328,276 33,964

Busiest routes[edit]

Busiest routes to and from Belfast International (2021)[37]
Rank Airport Total
1 United Kingdom London–Gatwick 317,949 Increase 43% easyJet
2 United Kingdom Liverpool 265,698 Increase 37% easyJet
3 United Kingdom Manchester 240,660 Increase 68% easyJet
4 United Kingdom Birmingham 205,360 Increase 71% easyJet
5 United Kingdom Edinburgh 179,970 Increase 49% easyJet
6 United Kingdom Bristol 167,053 Increase 54% easyJet
7 United Kingdom London–Luton 163,726 Increase 24% easyJet
8 United Kingdom London–Stansted 158,123 Increase 1% easyJet
9 United Kingdom Glasgow 157,308 Increase 40% easyJet
10 United Kingdom Newcastle 120,294 Increase 24% easyJet
11 Spain Alicante 37,912 Increase 40% easyJet,
12 Spain Tenerife–South 33,593 Increase 39% easyJet,, TUI
13 Spain Málaga 33,593 Increase 16% easyJet,, TUI
14 Portugal Faro 30,276 Increase 48% easyJet,
15 United Kingdom Leeds Bradford 26,845 Increase New Route easyJet
16 United Kingdom East Midlands 25,547 Increase New Route easyJet
17 Spain Lanzarote 23,553 Increase 4% easyJet,, TUI
18 Spain Palma de Mallorca 23,362 Increase 744% easyJet,, TUI
19 Jersey Jersey 12,292 Increase 485% easyJet
20 Isle of Man Isle of Man 11,384 Increase 172% easyJet

Transport links[edit]


Travellers by car can reach the airport from Belfast 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.[38]


Translink operates an express bus service 300 to the airport from its Europa Buscentre in Belfast City Centre. This runs 24 hours a day, every 15 minutes at peak times. Translink also offers bus connections to Antrim railway station. The airport can be reached from Derry and the northwest by the Airporter. The 109A bus service operates between 6am and 6pm from Lisburn bus centre in Lisburn City Centre, calling at Lisburn railway station, Ballinderry, Glenavy, Crumlin, Belfast International Airport, and Antrim Train and Bus Centre Providing connections with Northern Ireland railways to Belfast Great victoria street station and Derry/Londonderry station.


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.[citation needed]

Accidents and incidents[edit]

  • On 24 March 1996, Vickers Viscount G-OPFE of British World Airlines was damaged beyond economic repair when it made a wheels-up landing.[39]
  • On 23 December 1997, a Maersk Air Boeing 737 aircraft operating for 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.[40]
  • On 31 October 2010, a bomb was found inside a Toyota Carina parked in the long-stay car park; 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.[41][42]


  1. ^ "Ryanair Reopens Belfast International Base from Summer'23 – Ryanair's Corporate Website".
  2. ^ a b "Belfast/Aldergrove - EGAA". Archived from the original on 12 March 2012. Retrieved 12 July 2012.
  3. ^ a b c d e "Aircraft and passenger traffic data from UK airports". UK Civil Aviation Authority. 3 March 2017. Archived from the original on 11 February 2017. Retrieved 15 March 2017.
  4. ^ "albertis - Belfast International Airport". Belfast International Airport. Archived from the original on 5 November 2011. Retrieved 19 December 2011.
  5. ^ Warner, Guy (March 2010). "Belfast International Airport". Airliner World: 92.
  6. ^ "Midland and Scottish Air Ferries Ltd" (PDF). Flight. 8 February 1934.
  7. ^ "easyJet Route Map". easyJet. Archived from the original on 15 February 2012. Retrieved 6 December 2007.
  8. ^ "United to stop Belfast to New York flights". BBC News. 4 November 2016. Archived from the original on 24 May 2019. Retrieved 14 August 2019.
  9. ^ Jess, Mervyn (23 February 2015). "Belfast International Airport 'puts fun back into flying'". BBC News. Archived from the original on 8 October 2015. Retrieved 10 August 2015.
  10. ^ O'Neill, Julian (23 February 2017). "Belfast gets two new air routes to US". BBC News. Archived from the original on 14 August 2019. Retrieved 14 August 2019.
  11. ^ "ADC & HAS AIRPORTS WORLDWIDE, INC. Announces Name Change". Archived from the original on 14 June 2018. Retrieved 14 June 2018.
  12. ^ "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]". Archived from the original on 14 June 2018. Retrieved 14 June 2018.
  13. ^ "Ryanair pulls out of Northern Ireland as it ends flights from Belfast airports". belfasttelegraph. ISSN 0307-1235. Retrieved 12 August 2022.
  14. ^ Fitzmaurice, Maurice (7 July 2022). "Ryanair announces Belfast 'comeback' with 12 destinations". BelfastLive. Retrieved 12 August 2022.
  15. ^ - Destination Map retrieved 27 August 2020
  16. ^ "Flight Schedule". Eastern Airways.
  17. ^ "Eastern Airways revives Southampton-Northern Ireland route".
  18. ^ "Flights 2021/2022". easyJet.
  19. ^ "EASYJET NS23 NETWORK ADDITIONS SUMMARY – 30JAN23". Aeroroutes. 31 January 2023. Retrieved 1 February 2023.
  20. ^ "EasyJet expands Belfast International Airport base with direct route to Rhodes and 40 new jobs announced". Belfasttelegraph.
  21. ^ "Flight Timetable".
  22. ^ "Third Time Lucky? Ryanair Announces Belfast Base with 12 Routes". 7 July 2022.
  23. ^ "Ryanair announces new routes and new jobs in £160m investment". 19 December 2022.
  24. ^ "Ryanair announces new routes and new jobs in £160m investment". 19 December 2022.
  25. ^ "Ryanair announces new routes and new jobs in £160m investment". 19 December 2022.
  26. ^ "Ryanair announces new routes and new jobs in £160m investment". 19 December 2022.
  27. ^ a b "Flight Timetable".
  28. ^ "Flights with TUI | Thomson now TUI Airways".
  29. ^ "Destinations served". DHL.
  30. ^ "FBO/VIP Handling". Woodgate Aviation. Retrieved 11 August 2021.
  31. ^ Epstein, Curt. "Northern Ireland Airport Gets New FBO". Aviation International News. Retrieved 19 July 2021.
  32. ^ "Handling Agents". Belfast International Airport. Retrieved 19 July 2021.
  33. ^ "BlueSky Business Aviation News -". Retrieved 19 July 2021.
  34. ^ "UK airport data | UK Civil Aviation Authority". Retrieved 19 July 2021.
  35. ^ Number of Passengers, Freight and Mail include both domestic and international counterparts.
  36. ^ Number of Movements represents total air transport takeoffs and landings during that year.
  37. ^ "Airport Data 2021". UK Civil Aviation Authority. 6 June 2021. Tables 12.1(XLS) and 12.2 (XLS). Archived from the original on 13 March 2017. Retrieved 6 June 2021.
  38. ^ "Belfast International Airport Parking - Park and Fly". Archived from the original on 5 July 2015. Retrieved 3 June 2015.
  39. ^ "Accident description". Aviation Safety Network. Archived from the original on 5 March 2012. Retrieved 9 October 2009.
  40. ^ "Boeing 737-5L9, G-MSKC, 23 December 1997". 23 December 1997. Archived from the original on 7 November 2010. Retrieved 3 February 2011.
  41. ^ "Small bomb found in car at Belfast International Airport". BBC News. 31 October 2010. Archived from the original on 17 December 2018.
  42. ^ "Belfast International Airport bomb 'there for a year'". BBC News. 1 November 2010. Archived from the original on 12 December 2010. Retrieved 3 February 2011.

External links[edit]

Media related to Belfast International Airport at Wikimedia Commons