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|Elevation AMSL||42 m / 137 ft|
Bilbao Airport (IATA: BIO, ICAO: LEBB) is a public airport located 9 km (5.6 mi) north 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.
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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 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.
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.
Design of the passenger terminal
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"). 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.
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.
Airlines and destinations
|Updated: 13 January 2018|
|Passengers||Change from previous year||Aircraft movements||Change from previous year||Cargo (tonnes)||Change from previous year|
|Source: Aena Statistics|
|Rank||Carrier||Passengers 2017||%||Passenger % |
|6||Norwegian Air Shuttle||205,670||4.14||170.18|
|Source: Aena Statistics|
|Rank||City||Passengers 2018||%||Passenger % |
|7||Paris–Charles de Gaulle, France||231,407||4.23||8.72|
|8||Palma de Mallorca, Spain||226,278||4.14||24.21|
|10||London–Heathrow, United Kingdom||167,155||3.06||2.76|
|Source: Aena Statistics|
- BizkaiBus: a bus line (3247) connects Bilbao center (Moyúa square) and the city bus station with the airport. Between 05:15 and 00:00 every 15 minutes.
- A bus operated by PESA  to Donostia-San Sebastián; its only stop is at Zarautz - adjacent to one of the town's two Euskotren stations (at the eastern end of the town). Between 06:15 and 23:45 every hour (July and August every 30 minutes).
- A bus operated by PESA to Mondragón with stops in Eibar and Bergara; the last daily service continues until Oñati. Between 6:45 and 23:45 every three hours.
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.
Incidents and accidents
- On 19 February 1985, Iberia Flight IB610 from Madrid crashed into Mount Oiz. All 148 passengers and crew on board were killed.
- AENA passenger statistics and aircraft movements
- Spanish AIP (AENA) Archived 13 January 2017 at the Wayback Machine
- EAD Basic
- "48 Are Killed As Spanish Jet Hits Mountain". New York Times. The Associated Press. 20 February 1985.
- Daley, Suzanne (13 September 2013). "A Star Architect Leaves Some Clients Fuming". The New York Times. Retrieved 13 September 2013.
- "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 1 August 2009. Retrieved 20 February 2009.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
- "CSA Czech Airlines Continues Europe Expansion in S15". Airline Route. Retrieved 24 November 2015.
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