Bilbao Airport

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Bilbao Airport

Bilboko aireportua  (Basque)
Aeropuerto de Bilbao  (Spanish)
Aena Bilbao.svg
Aeropuerto Bilbao Loiu 01.jpg
Airport typePublic
LocationBilbao metropolitan area
Focus city for
Elevation AMSL42 m / 137 ft
Coordinates43°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 Edit this at Wikidata
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 (2018)
Passenger change 17-18Increase10.0%
Aircraft Movements49,966
Movements change 17-18Increase6.3%
Cargo (t)1,216
Cargo change 17-18Decrease 37.8%
Sources: Passenger Traffic, AENA[1]
Spanish AIP, AENA[2][3]

Bilbao Airport (IATA: BIO, ICAO: LEBB) is a minor international airport located 9 km (5.6 mi) north[4] of Bilbao, in the municipality of Loiu, in Biscay. It is the largest airport in the Basque Country and northern Spain, with 5,469,453 passengers in 2018. 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.

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 installed. 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 1980s, 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.[5]

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.[6]

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 especially visible when approaching the terminal from the sides. This original design has granted the building the nickname of La Paloma ("The Dove").[7] 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.

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.[7]


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 saw the recovery of passengers up to 5.4 million passengers by 2018.[8]

Airlines and destinations[edit]

The following airlines operate regular scheduled and charter flights at Bilbao Airport:

Aegean Airlines Seasonal: Athens
Aer Lingus Dublin
Air Arabia Maroc Tangier[9]
Air Cairo Seasonal: Cairo,[10] Luxor[11]
Air Europa Lanzarote, Madrid, Palma de Mallorca, Tenerife–North
Seasonal: Ibiza, Menorca
Air France Hop Paris–Charles de Gaulle
Azores Airlines Seasonal: Ponta Delgada (begins 1 July 2023)[12]
Blue Air Seasonal: Bucharest
Brussels Airlines Brussels
easyJet Lisbon (begins 1 November 2022),[13] London–Gatwick, Manchester
Seasonal: Bristol, Geneva, Milan–Malpensa (resumes 29 March 2023)[citation needed]
Edelweiss Air Zürich[14]
Eurowings Düsseldorf, Hamburg,[15] Stuttgart
Iberia Madrid
Iberia Regional Santiago de Compostela, Valencia, Vigo
Seasonal: Funchal
KLM Amsterdam
Lufthansa Frankfurt, Munich
Norwegian Air Shuttle Seasonal: Oslo
TAP Air Portugal Lisbon
Transavia Eindhoven
Seasonal: Paris–Orly[16]
Turkish Airlines Istanbul
Volotea[17] A Coruña, Alicante, Málaga, Palma de Mallorca, Seville, Valencia, Venice
Seasonal: Athens,[18] Cagliari, Castellón,[19] Ibiza, Menorca, Naples, Porto
Vueling Alicante, Amsterdam, Barcelona,[20] Copenhagen, Fuerteventura, Granada, Gran Canaria, Ibiza, Jerez de la Frontera, Lanzarote, Lisbon, London–Gatwick, Málaga, Palma de Mallorca, Paris–Charles de Gaulle, Porto, Santiago de Compostela, Seville, Tenerife–North, Valencia
Seasonal: Almería, La Palma, Malta,[21] Menorca, Milan–Malpensa, Murcia[21]
Wizz Air Warsaw–Chopin (begins 28 March 2023)[22]


Bilbao Airport interior
Bilbao Airport jetway
Control tower

Annual passenger traffic at BIO airport. See Wikidata query.
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%
2017 4,973,712 Increase08.4% 46,989 Increase04.2% 1,956 Decrease034.2%
2018 5,469,453 Increase010% 49,966 Increase06.3% 1,216 Decrease037.8%
Source: Aena Statistics[1]

Top Carriers[edit]

Rank Carrier Passengers 2021 % Passenger %
Change 2020
Passenger %
Change 2019
1 Flag of Spain.svg Vueling 1,351,077 52.35 Increase 71.4 Decrease 42.1
2 Flag of Spain.svg Iberia 259,469 10.05 Increase 50.5 Decrease 52.5
3 Flag of Spain.svg Volotea 238,769 9.25 Increase 65.9 Decrease 5.7
4 Flag of Germany.svg Lufthansa 211,203 8.18 Increase 80.1 Decrease 62.2
5 Flag of Spain.svg Air Europa 187,969 7.28 Increase 33.2 Decrease 59.1
6 Flag of Netherlands.svg KLM 80,009 3.10 Increase 36.3 Decrease 60.1
7 Flag of Spain.svg Air Nostrum 55,831 2.16 Increase 47.2 Decrease 63.8
8 Flag of France.svg Air France 43,708 1.69 Decrease 30.2 Decrease 79.6
9 Flag of Belgium.svg Brussels Airlines 23,864 0.92 Decrease 22.7 Decrease 84.6
10 Flag of Germany.svg Eurowings 22,051 0.85 Increase 23.0 Decrease 82.9
Source: Aena Statistics[1]

Busiest routes[edit]

Busiest routes from Bilbao Airport – 2021
Rank City Passengers 2021 % Passenger %
Change 2020
Passenger %
Change 2019
1 Flag of Spain.svg Madrid, Spain 355,298 13.77 Increase42.7 Decrease57.5
2 Flag of Spain.svg Barcelona, Spain 322,573 12.50 Increase63.9 Decrease48.3
3 Flag of Spain.svg Seville, Spain 206,138 7.99 Increase72.8 Decrease30.9
4 Flag of Spain.svg Málaga, Spain 186,896 7.24 Increase70.6 Decrease26.7
5 Flag of Spain.svg Palma de Mallorca, Spain 177,670 6.88 Increase78.3 Decrease26.7
6 Flag of Germany.svg Frankfurt, Germany 132,362 5.13 Increase111.4 Decrease43.8
7 Flag of Spain.svg Tenerife North, Spain 111,182 4.31 Increase30.8 Decrease42.5
8 Flag of Spain.svg Alicante, Spain 107,488 4.16 Increase64.4 Decrease40.4
9 Flag of Spain.svg Menorca, Spain 100,876 3.91 Increase128.4 Increase16.5
10 Flag of Netherlands.svg Amsterdam, Netherlands 96,642 3.74 Increase48.8 Decrease59.9
Source: Aena Statistics[1]

Public transport[edit]


Metro extension[edit]

There is a project to extend Metro Bilbao's Line 3 to the airport in the near future, but there is no official timetable yet.

Accidents and incidents[edit]

  • On 15 September 1975 British Airways flight NS552 operated by Trident 1E G-AVYD was written off at Bilbao while taking off. The aircraft came off the runway following the commander's decision to abort the take-off on a wet runway at or close to V1.[24]
  • On 19 February 1985, Iberia Flight IB610 from Madrid crashed into Mount Oiz. All 148 passengers and crew on board were killed.
  • On 7 February 2001, Iberia Airlines Flight 1456 arriving from Barcelona encountered wind shear while landing and suffered collapsed landing gear. All people on board survived but 25 people were injured.[25]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d AENA passenger statistics and aircraft movements
  2. ^ Spanish AIP (AENA) Archived 13 January 2017 at the Wayback Machine
  3. ^ "Bilbao".
  4. ^ EAD Basic
  5. ^ The Associated Press (20 February 1985). "48 Are Killed As Spanish Jet Hits Mountain". The New York Times.
  6. ^ García, Josu (19 November 2010). "La ampliación del aeropuerto de Bilbao se retrasa al menos 5 años". El Correo (in Spanish). Vocento. Retrieved 17 September 2019.
  7. ^ a b Daley, Suzanne (13 September 2013). "A Star Architect Leaves Some Clients Fuming". The New York Times. Retrieved 13 September 2013.
  8. ^ "'La Paloma' pierde un 24% de pasajeros en el primer mes de un año "difícil"". Archived from the original on 1 August 2009. Retrieved 20 February 2009.
  9. ^ "Flight schedule Tangier to Bilbao". Retrieved 1 March 2021.
  10. ^ "Spain, the country of beautiful architecture and flamenco songs".
  11. ^ "Air Cairo Adjusts Spain Service in NW22".
  12. ^ "Azores Airlines Adds Bilbao Service in 3Q23".
  13. ^ "EasyJet lança 13 novas rotas a partir de Lisboa". 27 July 2022.
  14. ^ "Bilbao".
  15. ^ "Eurowings flies to more destinations in summer 2022 than ever before".
  16. ^ "Transavia : 61 avions et 8 nouvelles lignes pour l'été 2022".
  17. ^ - Destinations retrieved 17 June 2022
  18. ^ "El aeropuerto de Bilbao estrena rutas a Atenas y Cerdeña este verano". 9 February 2022.
  19. ^ "VOLOTEA | Cheap flights, offers and plane tickets to Europe". 12 February 2022.
  20. ^ "Vueling volará a Bilbao este verano – aeroAlmería info".
  21. ^ a b[bare URL]
  22. ^ "WIZZ – Dream more. Live more. Be more".
  23. ^ Moovit, A3247: Aireportua/Aeropuerto (Etorrerak/Llegadas) (1003)→Bilbao Intermodal (2877), accessed 18 March 2021
  24. ^ "Accident description in the Aviation Safety Network". Archived from the original on 24 May 2005.
  25. ^ "Accident description on the Aviation Safety Network website". Archived from the original on 10 March 2005.

External links[edit]

Media related to Bilbao Airport at Wikimedia Commons