George Best Belfast City Airport

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George Best Belfast City Airport
George Best Belfast City Airport.png
George Best Belfast City Airport - - 714574.jpg
Airport typePublic
Owner3i Group plc (3i)
OperatorBelfast City Airport Ltd.
ServesBelfast, Northern Ireland
LocationPort of Belfast
Opened16 March 1938
Hub for
Focus city for
Elevation AMSL15 ft / 5 m
Coordinates54°37′05″N 05°52′21″W / 54.61806°N 5.87250°W / 54.61806; -5.87250Coordinates: 54°37′05″N 05°52′21″W / 54.61806°N 5.87250°W / 54.61806; -5.87250
EGAC is located in Greater Belfast
Location in Greater Belfast
EGAC is located in island of Ireland
Location in Northern Ireland
EGAC is located in the United Kingdom
Location on the island of Ireland
EGAC is located in Northern Ireland
Location in the United Kingdom
Direction Length Surface
m ft
04/22 1,829 6,001 Asphalt
Statistics (2019)
Passenger change 18–19Decrease2.6%
Aircraft Movements34,625
Movements change 18–19Decrease3.7%
Sources: UK AIP at NATS[1]
Statistics from the UK Civil Aviation Authority[2]
George Best Belfast City Airport in relation to Belfast city centre

George Best Belfast City Airport (IATA: BHD, ICAO: EGAC) is a single-runway airport in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Situated in County Down, it is adjacent to the Port of Belfast[1] and is 3 mi (5 km) from Belfast City Centre. It shares the site with the Short Brothers/Bombardier aircraft manufacturing facility. The airport began commercial operations in 1983, and was known as "Belfast City Airport" until it was renamed in 2006 in memory of George Best, the professional footballer from Belfast.[3] The airport has a CAA public use aerodrome licence (number P862) that allows flights for the public transport of passengers or for flying instruction.

The airport primarily handles intra-UK flights. It handled over 2.4 million passengers in 2019, having peaked at 2.7 million in 2010. [2] The airport was a major base for Flybe which began operations at the airport in 1993, and was the largest operator at Belfast City until its demise in 2020. Ground handling is provided by Swissport[4] and Menzies Aviation,[5] the latter also offering cargo handling services.


Early years[edit]

Sydenham Airport was established by Shorts beside its Belfast factory at Sydenham in 1937. It was opened on 16 March 1938 by Anne Chamberlain, the wife of then British Prime Minister, Neville Chamberlain. The inaugural flight was to Glasgow, Scotland.[6] This became Belfast's main civilian airport from 1938 to 1939. The airfield was requisitioned by the Royal Navy during the Second World War and named HMS Gadwall. RAF Nutts Corner then became Belfast's main airport (while Aldergrove would later become the primary airport in Northern Ireland).

In 1952, the runway was extended to its present 6,000 feet (1,800 m).[6] The Sydenham airfield continued to be used for military purposes until the 1970s, including use by the Fleet Air Arm as a naval aircraft storage unit, after which it was used solely by Shorts.

In 1983, following interest from airlines and customers, the airfield was opened for commercial flights as Belfast Harbour Airport (subsequently Belfast City Airport and now in its current form).

Development from 2000 to 2010[edit]

A new terminal was officially opened on 3 June 2001.[6] Following major capital investment Bombardier sold the airport in 2003 for £35 million to the Spanish company Ferrovial,[7] the owner of BAA Airports. Ferrovial re-sold the airport in September 2008 for £132.5 million to ABN Amro Global Infrastructure Fund.[8]

In March 2006, it was announced that the airport would be renamed in memory of Northern Irish footballer George Best. The new name, George Best Belfast City Airport, and signage were revealed at the renaming ceremony attended by Best's family and friends on 22 May 2006, which would have been Best's 60th birthday.[3] The renaming of the airport caused controversy, with many articles in local and national print media highlighting the mixed feelings of Belfast residents.[9] Also in March 2006 Flybe announced that it would be naming its Belfast City – Manchester service after the footballer, dedicating a plane to him.

In October 2007 Ryanair established its 23rd base at the airport, operating five routes and carrying 800,000 annual passengers. The airline closed its Belfast City base in 2010 due to delays in the planned runway extension. The airline stated that would fly to European destinations from the airport if the runway was extended.[10]

In January 2010 easyJet commenced flights to London Luton, though the airline moved the route back to Belfast International in 2011.

Manx2 moved its Isle of Man service to the airport in 2010, however the airline has since ceased operations.

Passenger numbers increased by 4.5% from 2,621,763 in 2009 to 2,740,341 in 2010, the highest total on record at the airport.[2]

Development since 2011[edit]

In January 2011 Bmibaby moved its Belfast base to the airport, in order to keep its operation under one roof with sister airline BMI.[11] The airline ceased operations from Belfast City Airport in June 2012.

In October 2012 Aer Lingus moved its services from Belfast International to the Airport. The airline launched flights to five destinations, though has since reduced their operations to just one route.[12] Spanish carrier Vueling launched summer-seasonal flights to Barcelona in May 2015, though the route was cancelled in late 2015.[13] Dutch carrier KLM launched daily flights to Amsterdam in 2015, with flights operated by KLM Cityhopper.[14] Brussels Airlines launched flights to Brussels in 2016, though the airline axed the route in 2017.[15] In early 2017, Eastern Airways commenced flights to the Isle of Man following the demise of Citywing, though the airline axed the route in 2018. Icelandic carrier Air Iceland Connect commenced flights to Keflavik in 2017 on behalf of Icelandair, though the route was cancelled in 2018.[16] Scottish airline Loganair commenced operations to Carlisle in 2019, followed by Dundee in 2020.[17] Flybe, which operated 80% of flights and carried over 1.6 million passengers across 14 routes, ceased operations in March 2020.[18] Subsequently, Loganair commenced flights to Aberdeen and Inverness.[19]

Aer Lingus Group announced on 23 July 2020, it was to establish an Aer Lingus Regional base at the airport with 6 new routes to Birmingham, East Midlands, Edinburgh, Exeter, Leeds/Bradford and Manchester with 5 based ATR72-600 aircraft and over 200 weekly flights planned to operate.[20] The news was welcomed by Airport and Government officials in what was described as "an extremely challenging environment" during the Coronavirus pandemic.[21]

Expansion plans and objections[edit]

Control tower at Belfast City

As the airport is adjacent to residential areas, the issue of noise pollution is a major one and a source of public debate. The airport has developed a noise management strategy following a planning agreement, under which the airport operates, and has established operational noise abatement procedures.

The airport has applied for a complete removal of the limit on the seats it can sell in 2013[22] – a key element of the 1997 planning agreement, which guards against over-expansion of an airport which is sited in a densely populated location. As a result, numerous residents' groups have formed a coalition – The Coalition Against Belfast City Airport Expansion[23] – to protest against the airport's proposed expansion plans, and to represent the views of residents at the Examination in Public held during 2006.[22]

Restrictions applied to the airport include:

  • The requirement for flights to be scheduled between 6:30 am and 9:30 pm. The exception to this is for delayed flights where extensions may be granted.
  • That there would be a limit of 45,000 commercial (and unlimited general aviation) aircraft movements in any year, restricted further in 2008 to 48,000 combined commercial and general aviation aircraft movements.[24]
  • That airlines must not offer more than 4 million seats for sale on flights from the airport per year.[24]
  • The majority of flights must approach and depart the airport over Belfast Lough (currently 52% as of April 2017),[25] rather than over the city of Belfast.[26]
  • Any flight departing over the lough must turn left to head north (further from land) at 500 feet. Only after reaching 2,000 feet (for turboprops) or 3,000 feet (for jet aircraft) may they then turn south to move over land again.
  • Any flight departing over the city must head in a straight line until 2,000 feet (for turboprop aircraft) or 3,000 feet (for jet aircraft) before they are allowed to turn.[27]

Airlines and destinations[edit]

The following airlines operate regular scheduled and charter flights to and from Belfast City Airport:[28]

Aer Lingus[28] London–Heathrow
Aer Lingus Regional[28] Birmingham (begins 14 September 2020),[20] East Midlands (begins 1 October 2020),[20] Edinburgh (begins 27 August 2020),[20] Exeter (begins 28 August 2020),[20] Leeds/Bradford (begins 1 October 2020),[20] Manchester (begins 14 September 2020)[20]
British Airways[28] London–City (begins 1 September 2020),[29] London–Heathrow
Eastern Airways[28] Southampton, Teesside
KLM[28] Amsterdam
Loganair[28] Aberdeen, Dundee, Glasgow (begins 4 September 2020),[30] Inverness


Traffic figures[edit]

Busiest routes[edit]

15 busiest routes to and from Belfast City (2018)[33]
Rank Airport Total
2017 / 18
1 United Kingdom London–Heathrow 655,338 Decrease 5%
2 United Kingdom Manchester 280,250 Decrease 2%
3 United Kingdom Birmingham 275,477 Increase 2%
4 United Kingdom London–City 184,881 Increase 53%
5 United Kingdom Leeds Bradford 165,858 Decrease 1%
6 United Kingdom Edinburgh 151,147 Decrease 12%
7 United Kingdom East Midlands 150,497 Increase 1%
8 United Kingdom Glasgow 148,907 Decrease 9%
9 United Kingdom Southampton 128,209 Increase 8%
10 United Kingdom Cardiff 70,784 Increase 39%
11 Netherlands Amsterdam 49,648 Increase 7%
12 United Kingdom Aberdeen 41,903 Decrease 2%
13 Spain Málaga 41,041 Decrease 28%
14 Portugal Faro 39,674 Decrease 29%
15 United Kingdom Exeter 36,722 Increase 1%

Ground transport[edit]


Regular train services operate into central Belfast

Sydenham railway station is adjacent to the southern perimeter of the airport, across the A2 from the old passenger terminal. It is served by frequent Northern Ireland Railways trains between Bangor and Portadown. Trains towards Portadown call at the Belfast Central and Great Victoria Street railway stations. With the construction of the new passenger terminal further northeast, passengers arriving or departing by train can request an airport courtesy bus to take them to or from the terminal.


The airport is located on the A2, Sydenham by-pass road between Belfast and Holywood.


Translink Metro route 600 is the Belfast City Airlink service, from the terminal to the Belfast Europa Buscentre adjacent to the Europa Hotel and Belfast Great Victoria Street railway station. Buses run every thirty minutes throughout the day. In addition Metro bus 3A operates every 10 minutes from Sydenham to Belfast City Hall. The Airporter service operates 12 coach services to the airport on weekdays as well as 5 coaches on Saturdays and 8 coaches on Sundays to Derry.[34]


  1. ^ a b Belfast/City – EGAC[dead link].
  2. ^ a b c d "Aircraft and passenger traffic data from UK airports". UK Civil Aviation Authority. 16 March 2018. Archived from the original on 11 February 2017. Retrieved 16 March 2018.
  3. ^ a b "Best family proud of airport name". BBC News. 22 May 2006. Archived from the original on 29 April 2008. Retrieved 19 December 2011.
  4. ^ "Swissport International Ltd. - Network". Archived from the original on 24 January 2019. Retrieved 24 January 2019.
  5. ^ "Menzies Aviation - Network". Archived from the original on 7 May 2015. Retrieved 4 June 2015.
  6. ^ a b c "Belfast City Airport - History | About Us | Belfast City Airport". Retrieved 23 October 2019.
  7. ^ Spanish firm secures Northern Ireland Airport Archived 3 July 2004 at the Wayback Machine. BBC News (23 May 2003).
  8. ^ "Belfast City Airport - News | Recent Stories | Belfast City Airport". Archived from the original on 6 May 2009.
  9. ^ 'George Best Airport' splits city Archived 18 September 2007 at the Wayback Machine. (22 March 2006).
  10. ^ "Ryanair to pull out of Belfast City Airport". BBC News. 31 August 2010. Archived from the original on 10 November 2018. Retrieved 20 June 2018.
  11. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2 December 2018. Retrieved 1 December 2018.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  12. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 29 January 2019. Retrieved 1 December 2018.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  13. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2 December 2018. Retrieved 1 December 2018.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  14. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2 December 2018. Retrieved 1 December 2018.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  15. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2 December 2018. Retrieved 1 December 2018.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  16. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2 December 2018. Retrieved 1 December 2018.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  17. ^ "Passenger flights return to Carlisle airport after 25 years". BBC News. 4 March 2019. Archived from the original on 6 March 2019. Retrieved 4 March 2019.
  18. ^ "Collapsed Flybe: 'Do not travel to the airport'". BBC News Online. 5 March 2020.
  19. ^ "Scottish airline Loganair takes two Flybe routes". 5 March 2020 – via
  20. ^ a b c d e f g "6 new routes from Belfast City Airport". Aer Lingus Group DAC. Retrieved 23 July 2020.
  21. ^ "BELFAST CITY AIRPORT SECURES SIX ROUTES TO THE UK". Belfast City Airport. Retrieved 23 July 2020.
  22. ^ a b "Examination in Public – Belfast City Airport Planning Agreement". Archived from the original on 22 May 2013. Retrieved 4 June 2015.
  23. ^ Belfast City Airport Watch Archived 30 July 2012 at
  24. ^ a b "Belfast City Airport curbs to be relaxed". 2 September 2008. Archived from the original on 7 May 2012. Retrieved 8 October 2014.
  25. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 15 February 2009. Retrieved 8 February 2009.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  26. ^ "Error 404: Page Not Found" (PDF). Retrieved 4 June 2015.
  27. ^ "Belfast City Airport - George Best Belfast City Airport".
  28. ^ a b c d e f g - Airlines retrieved 2 May 2020
  29. ^ "British Airways to launch London City-Belfast City route". Business Traveller.
  30. ^ "Belfast City Airport - News | Recent Stories | Belfast City Airport".
  31. ^ Number of Passengers, Freight and Mail include both domestic and international counterparts.
  32. ^ Number of Movements represents total air transport takeoffs and landings during that year.
  33. ^ "Airport Data 2018". UK Civil Aviation Authority. 7 March 2019. Tables 12.1(XLS) and 12.2 (XLS). Archived from the original on 13 March 2017. Retrieved 7 March 2019.
  34. ^ "Airporter Winter Timetable - Valid from 26th October 2014". Airporter. Archived from the original on 28 September 2014. Retrieved 4 June 2015.

External links[edit]

Media related to Belfast City Airport at Wikimedia Commons