Bristol Airport

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This article is about the airport in the United Kingdom. For other uses, see Bristol Airport (disambiguation).
Bristol Airport
Bristol Airport logo vector.svg
Bristol airport overview.jpg
Airport type Public
Owner Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan
Serves Bristol, Gloucestershire, Somerset, North and West Wiltshire
Location Lulsgate Bottom, North Somerset
Elevation AMSL 622 ft / 190 m
Coordinates 51°22′58″N 002°43′09″W / 51.38278°N 2.71917°W / 51.38278; -2.71917Coordinates: 51°22′58″N 002°43′09″W / 51.38278°N 2.71917°W / 51.38278; -2.71917
EGGD is located in Somerset
Location in Somerset
Direction Length Surface
m ft
09/27 2,011 6,598 Asphalt
Statistics (2016)
Passengers 7,604,147
Passenger change 15–16 Increase12.04%
Aircraft Movements 68,074
Movements change 14–15 Increase6.0%
Sources: UK AIP at NATS[1]
Statistics from the UK Civil Aviation Authority[2]

Bristol Airport (IATA: BRSICAO: EGGD), located at Lulsgate Bottom in North Somerset, is the commercial airport serving the city of Bristol, England, and the surrounding area. It is 7 nautical miles (13 km; 8.1 mi) southwest of Bristol city centre.[1] Built on the site of a former RAF airfield, it opened in 1957 as Bristol (Lulsgate) Airport,[3] replacing Bristol (Whitchurch) Airport as Bristol's municipal airport. From 1997 to 2010 it was known as Bristol International Airport.[4] In 1997 a majority shareholding in the airport was sold to FirstGroup, and then in 2001 the airport was sold to a joint venture of Macquarie Group and others. In September 2014, Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan bought out Macquarie to become the sole owner.

In 2016, it was the ninth busiest airport in the United Kingdom, handling over 7.6 million passengers, a 12% increase compared with 2015.[2] According to a 2012 passenger survey, 25.7% of journeys using the airport started or ended in the city of Bristol, 18.9% in Wales, 18.5% in Somerset and 12.4% in Devon.[5]

Airlines with operating bases at the airport include EasyJet, Ryanair, Thomas Cook, Thomson Airways and BMI Regional. The airport has a CAA Public Use Aerodrome Licence (number P432) that allows flights for the public transport of passengers and for flying instruction. in 2016 Bristol Airport handled 7,532,298 million passengers


First airport[edit]

In 1927 a group of local businessmen raised £6,000 through public subscription[6] to start the Bristol and Wessex Aeroplane Club, a flying club initially based at Filton Aerodrome. In 1929, Bristol Corporation took up the club's proposal to develop farmland located at Whitchurch, to the south of Bristol, into a municipal airport.[7] On its opening by Prince George, Duke of Kent in 1930, Bristol (Whitchurch) Airport was the third civil airport in the United Kingdom. Passenger numbers grew to 4,000 by 1939.[6]

During World War II, Whitchurch was the main civil airport remaining operational. The newly formed British Overseas Airways Corporation was transferred to Whitchurch from Croydon Airport and Heston Airport.[8] BOAC operated routes around the British Empire and to neutral nations, including the Bristol–Lisbon route which was operated by the Dutch airline KLM, under charter to BOAC.[9]

RAF Lulsgate Bottom[edit]

In September 1940, No 10 Elementary Flying Training School at RAF Weston-super-Mare established a Relief Landing Ground on 14 acres (5.7 ha) at Broadfield Down by the hamlet of Lulsgate Bottom, near Redhill. Being high, at 600 ft (180 m), the site had a poor weather record during warm front conditions, when it was often covered in low cloud.[10] However, when this occurred the alternative airfields at Filton and Cardiff were usually clear and operational; and as Lulsgate was clear when the low-lying airfields were obscured by radiation fog in calm weather, the landing ground provided a useful alternative. Few facilities were constructed although pillboxes, defensive anti-aircraft guns and later two Blister hangars were added.[10] In late 1940, a Starfish site was set up[11] south of the village of Downside and just west of the airfield.[12] Its decoy fires attracted a large quantity of Luftwaffe high explosives and incendiaries on the nights of 16 March, 3 April and 4 April 1941 during the Bristol Blitz.[13]

In 1941, RAF Fighter Command planned to use the airfield for an experimental unit, and after requisitioning land from several adjacent farms, contracted George Wimpey and Company to begin work on 11 June 1941.[10] However, its intended use soon changed into being a satellite airfield for the fighter squadrons based at RAF Colerne. Originally, the new airfield's name was to be RAF Broadfield Down.[14] The runways used the standard triangular pattern. The main, east-west runway was 3,891 ft (1,186 m) long, with a designated alignment of 28/10, and the others were 3,300 ft (1,000 m) aligned 21/03 and 3,294 ft (1,004 m) aligned 34/16.[12] The first aircraft to land was a Luftwaffe Ju 88 at 06.20 on 24 July 1941. Returning from a raid, it was confused by the RAF electronic countermeasures radio beacon at Lympsham, which was re-radiating the signal from a Luftwaffe homing beacon at Brest, France.[10]

By 1942, there was no longer a need for an additional fighter airfield. With its name changed to RAF Lulsgate Bottom,[14] the airfield was declared operational on 15 January 1942. The Miles Masters, Airspeed Oxfords and Hawker Hurricanes of No. 286 (AA Cooperation) Squadron became resident, with the duty of providing realistic exercises for ground anti-aircraft defences. However, as the site lacked some basic facilities, No. 286 moved to RAF Zeals in May.[15] From 1 June 1942, the airfield was under No. 23 Group of Flying Training Command, and initially became a satellite airfield for No. 3 (Pilot) Advanced Flying Unit (3 (P)AFU), based at RAF South Cerney, flying Oxfords.[16] In March 1943, No. 1540 Beam Approach Training Flight (1540 BATF) was formed at Lulsgate, again flying Oxfords.[17] On 27 September 1943, 3 (P)AFU left Lulsgate for RAF Southrop, and was replaced on 1 October 1943 by No. 3 Flying Instructors School (3 FIS), which was previously headquartered at RAF Hullavington.[18] 3 FIS flew mostly Oxfords and some Masters.[19]

In 1944, BOAC started to use the airfield for Dakota and Liberator crew training,[18] and BOAC flights made use of it occasionally as an alternate airfield for Whitchurch,[20] and for topping-up fuel on the Bristol–Lisbon route.[18]

On 6 February 1945, 1540 BATF left for RAF Weston Zoyland. On 18 July 1945, 3 FIS was absorbed into 7 FIS.[21] With the war over, the RAF ceased training at Lulsgate on 15 April 1946, and the next month 7 FIS left the airfield and joined the Central Flying School at RAF Little Rissington. The RAF finally abandoned Lulsgate on 25 October 1946.[22]

Lulsgate Bottom Airfield[edit]

From 1948, the site was the home of the Bristol Gliding Club. In 1949 and 1950, the Bristol Motor Cycle and Light Car Club hosted motor races on a 2 mi (3.2 km) circuit known as Lulsgate Aerodrome, but due to planning and noise issues moved in 1950 to a site that became known as Castle Combe Circuit.[15]

Bristol (Lulsgate) Airport[edit]

Whitchurch airport continued to be used after World War II, but the introduction of heavier post-war airliners made a runway extension highly desirable. However, this was difficult at Whitchurch, because of the nearby housing estates.[23] In June 1955, the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation agreed to sell the Lulsgate airfield to Bristol Corporation, for the development of a new airport there.[24] Bristol Gliding Club moved out to Nympsfield in Gloucestershire.[15]

In addition to the purchase price of £55,000, the city spent a further £200,000 by 1958 on building the terminal and other development.[25] In mid-April 1957 all air traffic was transferred from Whitchurch to the new airport.[26] With the name of Bristol (Lulsgate) Airport,[3] it was officially opened on 1 May 1957 by Princess Marina, Duchess of Kent.[27] In the airport's first year it was used by 33,000 people.[3] Bristol and Wessex Aeroplane Club also moved to Lulsgate.[15]

In 1962 a new control tower was built,[28] and in 1965 the runway was lengthened and extensions were made to the terminal.[29] In 1968 a new 5,000 sq ft (460 m2) cargo transit shed was constructed.[3] In 1974 the airline Court Line collapsed, causing a fall in passenger numbers.

Aviation Traders Carvair and the tail of an Airspeed Ambassador in 1965

By 1980, although 17 charter airlines were operating from the airport,[3] it was making a loss.[30] Les Wilson took over as managing director in that year, a position which he held until his death in a car crash in November 1995; much of the airport's subsequent strong recovery over that period has been attributed to him.[31] The airport moved back into profit in financial year 1981/82,[32] and by 1983/84 the profit was £0.5 million.[33] In 1984, an international departure lounge was added, with duty-free shops and a 24-hour air-side bar.[3]

The Airports Act 1986 required every municipal airport with a turnover greater than £1 million to be turned into a public limited company.[34] On 1 April 1987,[35] Bristol City Council transferred the operation and net assets of the airport to Bristol Airport plc. The council retained full ownership of the company.[36] However, under the terms of the Act, as long as the local authority retained a majority shareholding there were restrictions on the ability of the company to raise finance for capital projects.[34]

In 1988 the airport opened a new concourse area.[29] In 1994, a planning application for a new terminal was approved.[3] With other projects also planned, the council decided to sell a majority shareholding in the airport, so that the restrictions imposed by the Airports Act on raising the necessary finance could be removed.[37]

Bristol International Airport[edit]

Terminal building check-in area in 2008
Terminal at Bristol International Airport

In mid-1997 the airport's name was changed to Bristol International Airport.[38] In November 1997, the successful bidder for the purchase of a 51% stake in the airport company was revealed to be FirstBus. The remaining 49% was retained by the council. Work on the new terminal building had already started;[37] it opened in March 2000, at a cost of £27 million.[39] In 2000, passenger numbers exceeded two million for the first time.[3] A new control tower was built and the A38 road was diverted to cater for the installation of a Category 3 instrument landing system; these projects were completed in 2001.[15]

In January 2001 the airport was purchased for £198m,[3] by a joint venture of Macquarie Bank and Cintra, part of the Ferrovial group.[40] Ferrovial sold its 50% share to Macquarie in 2006.[41] The Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan made two substantial share purchases, in 2002 and 2009.[42]

In May 2001, the low-cost carrier Go Fly made Bristol Airport its second base after Stansted.[43] Passenger numbers passed through three million in 2002,[3] largely due to Go's arrival. EasyJet purchased Go in 2002,[43] took over the base in 2003 and continued its rapid growth in destinations.[44] In May 2005, Continental Airlines introduced a direct flight from Bristol to Newark with Boeing 757 aircraft,[3] though this ceased in November 2010.[45]

A new asphalt runway surface was laid between November 2006 and March 2007,[46] at a cost of £17 million.[47] Within this period, on 29 December and 3 January there were four incidents of reduced braking action in wet conditions on the temporary surface, including two in which aircraft left the runway.[48] From 5 January ten airlines, led by EasyJet, cancelled or diverted their Bristol flights. The airport closed the runway on 7 January to cut grooves into the surface to improve water runoff, and flights resumed the next day.[47]

Ryanair established a base at the airport in 2007.[49] In 2008, passenger numbers reached six million.[3]

Bristol Airport[edit]

The control tower

In March 2010, the airport was rebranded as Bristol Airport.[50] The airport gained a new logo, said by the airport's owners to represent 'people', 'place' and 'region'; and a new slogan, "Amazing journeys start here".[4]

Bristol Airport does not operate any jetways, so aircraft have to park on the apron and passengers either walk out to their flights or are carried by bus. May 2010 saw the opening of a 450 m (1,480 ft)[51] walkway to the west of the terminal building,[52] connecting it to eight new pre-boarding zones, at a cost of £8 million, to reduce the need for buses.[51]

In 2012, BMI Regional established a base at the airport.[53] In 2013, the airline added routes to German and Italian hub airports, aimed at business travellers.[54]

In September 2014, Toronto-based Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan agreed to buy Macquarie's remaining 50% stake in the airport, thereby gaining 100% ownership.[55]


In response to the UK Governments's 2003 White Paper The Future of Air Transport, the airport published a Master Plan for expansion over the period 2006–2030.[36] In October 2007, the airport announced that it would delay the planning application until the middle of 2008 to give it time to complete research on the airport's effect on the environment.[56] The World Development Movement claimed that flights from the airport generated the same amount of carbon dioxide as the nation of Malawi.[57] A campaign against the plan was led by Stop Bristol Airport Expansion, supported by Bristol Friends of the Earth and the Campaign to Protect Rural England.[58]

The application was eventually submitted in 2009.[59] The £150 million plan,[60] designed to facilitate growth in annual passenger numbers to 10 million,[59] was approved by North Somerset Council in 2010 and by the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government later the same year.[60] In October 2011, Stop Bristol Airport Expansion lost its legal challenge to the plan.[61]

The expansion was to occur in stages, spread over 30 construction projects.[62] Plans included a doubling of passenger terminal floorspace, new piers and aircraft parking stands, extensions to the apron, multi-storey car parking and a public transport interchange.[63] The first project was completed in June 2012, with the opening of three new aircraft stands.[64] In July 2014, a 3,880 m2 (41,800 sq ft), £6.5 million walkway connected to the centre of the terminal was opened, providing four more pre-boarding zones and allowing the use of jetways, including for wide-body aircraft such as the Boeing 787 Dreamliner.[65] In July 2015 the airport opened an £8.6 million eastward extension of the terminal, having a larger departure lounge and an outdoor terrace. Construction of another terminal extension started immediately, to the west and costing £24 million.[66] The first phases of the 9,000-square-metre (97,000 sq ft) western extension, which opened in summer 2016, provided a new security search area for departures, with 12 security lanes including a Fast Track zone. New arrivals facilities within the extension, including baggage reclaim and customs, were scheduled to open later in 2016.[67] In October 2016, the airport announced that a further project, an enlargement of the immigration hall, will complete in 2017. This will enable an increase in the number of passport control points from 10 to 17, of which 10 will be ePassport gates.[68]

A planning application for an on-site 251-room hotel was approved separately in 2010.[69] In February 2014, a planning application was submitted for a revision to the previously approved design, with a 201-room hotel to be built initially, followed later by a 50-room addition. The airport stated that among the UK's busiest 16 airports, only Bristol lacked an on-site hotel.[70] In February 2015, the airport announced that the 201-room hotel would be completed in 2016, and will be operated as a Hampton by Hilton. It is being funded, built, and will eventually be owned, by a Chinese company,[71] CIMC Modular Building Systems,[72] who will ship prefabricated modules for its construction from China.[71]

Airlines and destinations[edit]

The following airlines operate scheduled and charter flights to and from Bristol Airport:[73]

Airlines Destinations
Aer Lingus Regional
operated by Stobart Air
Cork, Dublin
Air Malta Seasonal: Malta
Aurigny Guernsey
Austrian Airlines Seasonal: Innsbruck[74]
BH Air Seasonal: Burgas, Sofia
BMI Regional Aberdeen, Düsseldorf, Frankfurt, Hamburg, Milan–Malpensa, Munich, Paris–Charles de Gaulle
Seasonal charter: Bastia, Cagliari (begins 8 July 2017),[75] Figari (begins 16 July 2017),[76] Verona
British Airways
operated by BA CityFlyer
Seasonal: Florence (begins 20 May 2017),[77] Ibiza (begins 20 May 2017),[77] Malaga (begins 20 May 2017),[77] Palma de Mallorca (begins 20 May 2017)[77]
Brussels Airlines
operated by BMI Regional
easyJet Alicante, Amsterdam, Barcelona, Basel/Mulhouse, Belfast-International, Berlin-Schönefeld, Bilbao, Bordeaux, Copenhagen, Edinburgh, Faro, Fuerteventura, Funchal, Geneva, Gibraltar, Glasgow, Gran Canaria, Inverness, Isle of Man, Kraków, Lanzarote, Lisbon, Madrid, Málaga, Marrakech, Murcia, Newcastle upon Tyne, Nice, Palma de Mallorca, Paphos, Paris–Charles de Gaulle, Pisa, Porto, Prague, Rome–Fiumicino, Tenerife–South, Toulouse, Venice, Vienna
Seasonal: Bodrum, Catania, Corfu, Dalaman, Dubrovnik, Grenoble, Heraklion, Ibiza, Innsbruck, La Rochelle, Lyon, Mahón, Marseille, Nantes, Naples, Olbia, Pula (begins 27 June 2017),[78] Reykjavík–Keflavík, Salzburg, Split, Turin, Zakynthos
Enter Air Seasonal charter: Sofia[79]
operated by Blue Islands
Jersey Seasonal charter: Chambéry, Verona[80]
operated by KLM Cityhopper
Mistral Air Seasonal: Verona
Ryanair Alicante, Bergamo, Bucharest, Budapest, Cologne/Bonn (begins 28 October 2017),[81] Dublin, Faro, Gdańsk, Gran Canaria, Kaunas, Kraków, Lanzarote, Málaga, Malta, Poznań, Tenerife–South, Venice, Warsaw–Modlin, Wrocław
Seasonal: Bergerac, Béziers, Bologna, Castellón, Chania, Girona, Ibiza, Knock, Limoges, Palma de Mallorca, Reus, Rzeszów, Valencia, Zadar (begins 28 March 2017)[82]
Thomas Cook Airlines Fuerteventura, Gran Canaria, Lanzarote, Tenerife–South
Seasonal: Antalya, Corfu, Dalaman, Geneva, Heraklion, Ibiza, Kos, Kefalonia, Larnaca, Malta (begins 6 April 2017),[83] Mahón, Palma de Mallorca, Rhodes, Skiathos, Zakynthos
Thomson Airways Gran Canaria, Hurghada, Lanzarote, Málaga, Sal, Sharm el-Sheikh (resumes 30 March 2017),[84] Tenerife–South
Seasonal: Alicante, Antalya, Bodrum, Burgas, Cancún (begins 6 May 2017),[85] Catania, Cephalonia, Chania (begins 23 May 2017),[86] Corfu, Dalaman, Dubrovnik, Enfidha, Fuerteventura, Girona (begins 23 May 2017),[86] Heraklion, Ibiza, Kittila, Kos, Larnaca, Marrakech, Menorca, Naples, Palma de Mallorca, Paphos, Orlando–Sanford (begins 7 May 2017),[85] Punta Cana (begins 5 April 2018),[87] Pula, Reus, Rhodes, Santorini, Sofia, Thessaloniki, Toulouse, Zakynthos
Seasonal charter: Chambéry, Geneva, Salzburg, Turin[88]
Wizz Air Katowice, Košice, Sofia, Warsaw–Chopin
WOW Air Reykjavík–Keflavík (ends 24 March 2017; resumes 14 June 2017)[89]


Passengers and movements[edit]

Number of
passengers[note 1]
Number of
movements[note 2]
Bristol Airport passenger totals
1997–2016 (millions)
1997 1,614,837 59,547
1998 1,838,219 61,582
1999 1,993,331 62,072
2000 2,141,525 63,252
2001 2,694,464 69,854
2002 3,445,945 72,152
2003 3,915,072 74,635
2004 4,647,266 77,956
2005 5,253,752 84,289
2006 5,757,963 84,583
2007 5,926,774 76,428
2008 6,267,114 76,517
2009 5,642,921 70,245
2010 5,747,604 69,134
2011 5,780,746 66,179
2012 5,921,530 61,206
2013 6,131,896 65,299
2014 6,339,805 64,230
2015 6,786,790 68,074
2016 7,603,890 TBA Source: UK Civil Aviation Authority[2]

Busiest routes[edit]

Aer Lingus Regional ATR 72-600, franchised to Stobart Air, departing Bristol Airport (2014)
ATR 72-500 of Aurigny lands at Bristol Airport (2014)
20 busiest routes to and from Bristol Airport (2015)
Rank Airport Passengers handled  % Change
2014 / 15
1 Amsterdam 384,482 Increase10
2 Dublin 378,261 Increase14
3 Edinburgh 351,954 Increase9
4 Málaga 299,986 Increase7
5 Palma de Mallorca 288,943 Increase6
6 Faro 272,715 Increase1
7 Alicante 271,540 Steady0
8 Glasgow International 267,162 Increase9
9 Belfast International 246,504 Increase7
10 Geneva 206,136 Increase9
11 Tenerife 172,766 Increase4
12 Newcastle 169,231 Decrease3
13 Lanzarote 135,872 Increase31
14 Barcelona 132,045 Increase3
15 Paris Charles de Gaulle 131,899 Increase10
16 Toulouse 110,399 Decrease1
17 Leonardo da Vinci–Fiumicino Airport
17 Dalaman 89,217 Decrease5
19 Berlin-Schönefeld 83,224 Increase13
20 Inverness 82,446 Increase6
Source: UK Civil Aviation Authority[2]


Bristol Airport has one runway designated 09/27. As the prevailing wind is from the southwest, runway 27 (the westerly direction) is used about 70% of the time. The airport has one of the shortest international airport runways in the country at just 2,011 m (6,598 ft) in length, with runway 27 having an available landing distance of only 1,876 m (6,155 ft). Therefore, large aircraft are rarely used due to weight restrictions, and this prevents most long-distance flights. However, the 787 Dreamliner will run from Summer 2017 with weight restrictions on takeoff.[36]

Ground transport[edit]

The Bristol Airport Flyer picking up at Bristol Temple Meads railway station

Bristol Airport is located on the A38, 8 mi (13 km) southwest of Bristol city centre. The airport is signposted from the M5, from junction 22 when approaching from the south and junction 18 when approaching from the north. Neither gives quick access to the airport, a fact which was recognised by the Greater Bristol Strategic Transport Study.[36] In November 2013, Bristol and North Somerset councils approved a planning application for the South Bristol Link road.[90] This will provide a link from the A38 northwards to the A370 at Long Ashton, giving the airport an improved connection to the M5, and a link from the A38 southwards to Hengrove Park, connecting to the Bristol Ring Road.[91] The South Bristol Link, part of the MetroBus rapid transit route,[92] was opened in January 2017 and is expected to provide a reduction in journey times to the airport for both bus passengers and car drivers.[93]

The Bristol Airport Flyer bus service links the airport to Bristol Temple Meads railway station and Bristol Bus Station.[94] The service, numbered A1, is operated by FirstGroup on behalf of Bristol Airport.[95]

The A4 'Air decker' service operated by Bath Bus Company links the airport with southern suburbs of Bristol, Keynsham and Bath.

Since 2016 a regular coach service to Bridgwater, Taunton, Exeter and Plymouth has been operated by Stagecoach South West.

Proposed rail link[edit]

In July 2016 the airport's chief executive officer Robert Sinclair discussed the possibility of a rail link to the airport.[96] The West of England LEP subsequently announced their application to the Department for Transport’s Large Local Major Transport Schemes fund for the "South West Bristol Economic Link" – a strategy designed to address "poor connectivity between North Somerset, Bristol Airport and Bristol", which includes new road links as well as light or heavy rail opportunities.[97]

General aviation[edit]

Centreline Air Charter Cessna Citation CJ2 taking off at Bristol Airport.

Bristol Airport is a general aviation (GA) centre. In 2006 the GA terminal was relocated from the north side next to the control tower to a purpose-built facility on the south east corner of the field. Handling for visiting executive GA aircraft is managed by Bristol Flying Centre, which also provides engineering services and operates a fleet of business jets trading as Centreline Air Charter. Handling for light GA aircraft is managed by Bristol & Wessex Aeroplane Club.

In 2012 Bristol Flying Centre doubled the size of its terminal,[98] to 6,500 sq ft (600 m2), with self-contained security facilities and two new passenger lounges.[99] Following the closure of Bristol Filton Airport at the end of 2012, Bristol Flying Centre gained fixed-base operator traffic such as the corporate shuttle for Airbus, flying to Toulouse, and the shuttle for BAE Systems.[100] In July 2013 the Department for Transport gave approval for Bristol Flying Centre to handle charter flights directly, without needing to clear through the main airport terminal.[100]

In 2014, a new building called The Bristol Flying School was constructed to re-house the Bristol & Wessex Aeroplane Club and to contain a flying school operated by Aeros Flight Training, which formerly operated at Filton Airport.[101]

Accidents and incidents[edit]

On 19 January 1970, Vickers Viscount G-AMOA of Cambrian Airways was damaged beyond economic repair in a heavy landing.[102]


  1. ^ Number of passengers including domestic, international and transit.
  2. ^ Number of movements represents total takeoffs and landings during that year.


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External links[edit]

Media related to Bristol International Airport at Wikimedia Commons