Bilbao Airport

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Bilbao Airport
Bilboko aireportua  (Basque)
Aeropuerto de Bilbao  (Spanish)
Bilbao air logo.png
Bilbao (- Sondica) (BIO - LEBB) AN0466068.jpg
Airport type Public
Owner/Operator ENAIRE
Location Bilbao, Spain
Focus city for
Built 1928
Elevation AMSL 42 m / 137 ft
Coordinates 43°18′04″N 02°54′38″W / 43.30111°N 2.91056°W / 43.30111; -2.91056Coordinates: 43°18′04″N 02°54′38″W / 43.30111°N 2.91056°W / 43.30111; -2.91056
BIO is located in Basque Country
Location of the airport in the Basque Country
Direction Length Surface
m ft
10/28 2,000 6,562 Asphalt
12/30 2,600 8,530 Asphalt
Statistics (2016)
Passengers 4,588,265
Passenger change '15-'16 Increase7.3%
Aircraft Movements 45,105
Movements change '15-'16 Increase2.8%
Sources: Passenger Traffic, AENA[1]
Spanish AIP, AENA[2]

Bilbao Airport (IATA: BIOICAO: LEBB) is a public airport located 9 km (5.6 mi) north[3] of Bilbao, in the municipality of Loiu, in Biscay. It is the most important airport in the Basque Country and northern Spain, with 4,045,613 passengers in 2011. It is famous for its new main terminal opened in 2000 designed by Santiago Calatrava.


After various aeronautic experiments in the province of Biscay, in October 1927 steps were taken by the Union of Public Works to establish an airport in Bilbao. A Provincial Board was created to study the possible location of the airport. It was not until 1936 that the General Aeronautics Management authorised the installation of an airport in Sondika. However, due to the site's many deficiencies, the airport was not considered of interest. Bilbao is surrounded by mountains and a flat valley without significant population had to be found.

The construction works commenced during the Civil War but during this time and until June 1937 the airport was only used as a base for military activities. In 1938, the second stage of the airport's development began. The council resumed procedures with the government to modify the primitive project of 1936 and the drafting of a new project was authorised and later approved by the General Management of Infrastructure.

Bilbao Airport interior
Bilbao Airport finger

In 1940, it was decided by common agreement with the local organisations affected to build a civilian airport in Sondika. The construction works progressed slowly and on 19 September 1948, the airport was at last opened to daytime traffic with the establishment of an air path to Madrid by Aviación y Comercio, SA. Two years later, the terminal, named Carlos Haya after the well-known pilot from Bilbao, began to give service. At this time, the airport had an asphalt runway, the 11/29 (measuring 1,440 by 45 m (4,724 by 148 ft)), another earth runway (measuring 1,500 by 150 m (4,921 by 492 ft)), a taxiway, a passenger terminal, a tower control, a radio beacon, a direction finder as well as police, post office, weather, health, fuel and telephone services. In 1955, a taxiway was built to link the runway with the parking stands and terminal. An apron measuring 124 by 60 m (407 by 197 ft), a hangar for the Royal Flying Club of Vizcaya and permanent facilities for Campsa were also built.

Between 1964 and 1965, an instrumental ILS landing system and a meteorological radio for storm detection were installed; the runway was extended to 2,000 m (6,562 ft) and the apron to 12,000 m2 (130,000 sq ft). In 1975, the runway was surfaced and its orientation became 10/28 due to the change in magnetic declination. In 1977, the parking stand was extended, a link road was built and an ILS system was instaled. The runway 12/30, measuring 2,600 m (8,530 ft) long, was opened the same year and the airport was classified as first category the following year. As a result of the population density of the area, approaching planes may have to fly over the extensive Derio cemetery.

During the eighties, the ILS landing system entered into service for runway 10/28; the communication centre, passenger terminal and parking facilities were enlarged; and a fire service building and cargo terminal were constructed.

On 19 February 1985, an Iberia flight from Madrid crashed into Mount Oiz, all passengers and crew died.

In 1996, a new taxiway with two rapid exits and a new aircraft parking apron were built. The works required the removal of tons of soil poisoned with lindane residues. In May 1999, the new tower control was put into service, which allowed for a more centred vision of the airfield and at the same time facilitated airport operations. On 19 November 2000, a new terminal area was opened in the north zone, consisting of a new terminal building, with a surface area of 32,000 m2 (340,000 sq ft), a car park with 3,000 parking spaces measuring 95,000 m2 (1,020,000 sq ft) and a north apron for aircraft parking to serve the new terminal area.

In February 2009 plans were announced to expand the terminal building, the facilities and the car parking so as to double the current capacity to 8 million passengers. The work was expected be finished in 2014 and cost €114 million but in 2010 the Spanish Government announced the project would be delayed by at least 5 years due to spending cuts and a decline in passenger numbers.[4]

Design of the passenger terminal[edit]

The terminal has a sleek design, with two symmetrical "wings" and a sharp tip at its center which is specially visible when approaching the terminal from the sides. This original design has granted the building the nickname of La Paloma ("The Dove").[5] White concrete and glass have been used. The interiors are open and luminous spaces, distributed in two floors, the upper one for departures (check-in counters and gates) and the lower for arrivals.

Control tower

There has been some criticism of Santiago Calatrava's design by Aena, the Spanish airport authority, because it seems difficult to make further enlargements in the terminal's capacity because the design is too closed. In spite of this, modifications took place in 2005-2006 in the check-in area to provide enhanced shopping facilities for travellers, which almost doubled the retail space now being offered.

Users of the airport widely complained about its lack of an arrivals area, since once passengers cleared customs, they stepped directly outside, and there they were often exposed to the elements. The airport built a glass-walled shelter to remedy this problem.[5]


The airport has seen a constant increase in its traffic numbers, the old terminal was already saturated and obsolete in 1990, although it had been renewed only a few years earlier. At the present day Bilbao is the most important hub in northern Spain and the number of passengers using the new terminal continues to rise, especially after the increased tourist interest in the city since the opening of the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao.

With the past increase of traffic, the terminal would have become saturated again in a year because it is designed to handle about 4.5 million passengers per year, in 2007 it went nearly to its maximum capacity. However, the global financial crisis of 2008 has reversed the situation as of early 2009, decreasing the number of passengers by 24% in January compared to previous year. In 2014 traffic is on the rise again and will see the recovery of the 4 million passenger mark.[6]

Airlines and destinations[edit]

Airlines Destinations
Aer Lingus Dublin
Air Europa Gran Canaria, Lanzarote, Madrid, Palma de Mallorca, Tenerife–North
Seasonal: Menorca, Alicante, Almeria, Ibiza, Malaga, Valencia, Barcelona
Air France
operated by HOP!
Paris–Charles de Gaulle
British Airways London–Heathrow
Brussels Airlines Brussels
Czech Airlines Seasonal: Prague[7]
easyJet Bristol, Edinburgh, London–Stansted, Manchester
Seasonal: Milan–Malpensa, Paris–Charles de Gaulle
easyJet Switzerland Seasonal: Geneva
Eurowings Düsseldorf
operated by Germanwings
Iberia Madrid
operated by Air Nostrum
Alicante, Santiago de Compostela, Valencia, Vigo
Seasonal: Madeira
Israir Airlines Seasonal: Tel Aviv-Ben Gurion[8]
KLM Amsterdam
operated by KLM Cityhopper
Lufthansa Frankfurt, Munich
Norwegian Air Shuttle Barcelona (ends 29 October 2017)[9]
Seasonal: Oslo–Gardermoen, Tenerife-South
Royal Air Maroc Casablanca (begins 26 March 2018)
Swiss International Air Lines
operated by Swiss Global Air Lines
TAP Portugal
operated by TAP Express
Turkish Airlines Istanbul–Atatürk
Volotea Seville
Seasonal: Ibiza, Palma de Mallorca, Venice
Vueling Alicante, Amsterdam, Barcelona, Fuerteventura, Granada (begins 1 December 2017), Gran Canaria, Ibiza, Lanzarote, London–Gatwick, Málaga, Menorca, Paris–Orly, Palma de Mallorca, Rome–Fiumicino, Seville, Valencia, Tenerife–North
Seasonal: Berlin–Tegel, Bucharest, Milan–Malpensa


Bilbao Airport Passenger Totals 2000-2016 (millions)
Updated: 16 January 2015.[1] 2016 data provisional.
Passengers Change from previous year Aircraft movements Change from previous year Cargo (tonnes) Change from previous year
2000 2,556,373 Steady 45,506 Steady 4,038 Steady
2001 2,491,770 Decrease02.5% 44,166 Decrease03% 3,674 Decrease09,1%
2002 2,463,698 Decrease01.1% 39,832 Decrease09.9% 3,699 Increase00.6%
2003 2,850,524 Increase015.7% 44,009 Increase010.4% 3,813 Increase03.1%
2004 3.395,773 Increase019.1% 50,361 Increase014.4% 4,152 Increase08.9%
2005 3,843,953 Increase013.2% 56,285 Increase011.8% 3,956 Decrease04.7%
2006 3,876,072 Increase00.8% 58,574 Increase04.1% 3,417 Decrease013.6%
2007 4,286,751 Increase010.6% 63,076 Increase07.7% 3,230 Decrease05.5%
2008 4,172,903 Decrease02.7% 61,682 Decrease02.2% 3,178 Decrease01.1%
2009 3,654,957 Decrease012.4% 54,148 Decrease012.2% 2,691 Decrease015.3%
2010 3,888,969 Increase06.4% 54,119 Decrease00.1 2,547 Decrease05.4%
2011 4,045,613 Increase04.0% 54,432 Increase00.6% 2,633 Increase03.4%
2012 4,171,092 Increase03.1% 50,030 Decrease08.1% 2,663 Increase01.1%
2013 3,800,789 Decrease08.9% 42,683 Decrease014.7% 2,536 Decrease04.8%
2014 4,015,352 Increase05.6% 42,590 Decrease00.2% 2,855 Increase012.6%
2015 4,277,430 Increase06.5% 43,862 Increase03% 2,872 Increase00.6%
2016 4,588,265 Increase07.3% 45,105 Increase02.8% 2,974 Increase03.6%
Source: Aena Statistics[1]

Top Carriers[edit]

Rank Carrier Passengers 2016  % Passenger %
Change 2015
1 Flag of Spain.svg Vueling 1,615,221 35.20 Increase 4.29
2 Flag of Spain.svg Air Europa 506,065 11.03 Increase 1.53
3 Flag of Germany.svg Lufthansa 473,674 10.32 Increase 6.69
4 Flag of Spain.svg Iberia 465,181 10.14 Increase 8.41
5 Flag of the United Kingdom.svg EasyJet 213,914 4.66 Increase 9.42
6 Flag of the United Kingdom.svg British Airways 186,481 4.06 Increase41.02
7 Flag of France.svg Air France 179,379 3.91 Decrease 1.19
8 Flag of Spain.svg Air Nostrum 145,545 3.17 Increase 6.93
9 Flag of the Netherlands.svg KLM 145,347 3.17 Increase 38.74
10 Flag of Belgium.svg Brussels Airlines 133.046 2.90 Decrease 0.90
Source: Aena Statistics[1]

Busiest routes[edit]

Busiest routes from Bilbao Airport – 2016
Rank City Passengers 2016  % Passenger %
Change 2015
1 Flag of Spain.svg Madrid, Spain 721,286 15.72 Increase7.72
2 Flag of Spain.svg Barcelona, Spain 573,713 12.50 Increase16.16
3 Flag of Germany.svg Munich, Germany 236,793 5.16 Increase6.49
4 Flag of Germany.svg Frankfurt, Germany 236,694 5.16 Increase6.78
5 Flag of the Netherlands.svg Amsterdam, Netherlands 192,769 4.20 Increase29.27
6 Flag of the United Kingdom.svg London–Heathrow, United Kingdom 186,170 4.06 Increase18.14
7 Flag of Spain.svg Málaga, Spain 181,019 3.95 Increase3.99
8 Flag of France.svg Paris–Charles de Gaulle, France 179,798 3.92 Decrease1.02
9 Flag of Spain.svg Seville, Spain 159,622 3.48 Increase1.35
10 Flag of Spain.svg Palma de Mallorca, Spain 155,278 3.38 Decrease20.05
Source: Aena Statistics[1]

Public transport[edit]

Incidents & accidents[edit]

  • On 19 February 1985, Iberia Flight IB610 from Madrid crashed into Mount Oiz. All 148 passengers and crew on board were killed.

See also[edit]


External links[edit]