Glasgow Airport

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Glasgow Airport

Scots: Glesga Airport
Scottish Gaelic: Port-adhair Eadar-nàiseanta Ghlaschu
Glasgow Airport logo.svg
Airport typePublic
OwnerAGS Airports
OperatorGlasgow Airport Ltd.
LocationAbbotsinch, Paisley, Scotland, United Kingdom
OpenedMay 2, 1966 (1966-05-02)
Hub for
Focus city for
Elevation AMSL26 ft / 8 m
Coordinates55°52′19″N 004°25′59″W / 55.87194°N 4.43306°W / 55.87194; -4.43306Coordinates: 55°52′19″N 004°25′59″W / 55.87194°N 4.43306°W / 55.87194; -4.43306
EGPF is located in Renfrewshire
Location of airport in Renfrewshire
Direction Length Surface
m ft
05/23 2,665 8,743 Grooved asphalt
Statistics (2019)
Passenger change 18–19Decrease 8.4%
Aircraft movements86,226
Movements change 17–18Decrease 3.2%
Sources: UK AIP at NATS[1]
Statistics from the UK Civil Aviation Authority[2]
Location from Glasgow Airport[3]

Glasgow Airport, also known as Glasgow International Airport (IATA: GLA[4], ICAO: EGPF), formerly Abbotsinch Airport, is an international airport in Scotland. It is located in Paisley, Renfrewshire, 8.6 nautical miles (15.9 km; 9.9 mi) west[1] of Glasgow city centre. In 2019, the airport handled 8.84 million passengers, an 8.4% annual decrease, making it the second-busiest in Scotland, after Edinburgh Airport, and the ninth-busiest airport in the United Kingdom.

The airport is owned and operated by AGS Airports which also owns and operates Aberdeen and Southampton airports. It was previously owned and operated by Heathrow Airport Holdings (formerly known as BAA).[5] The airport's largest tenants are easyJet and Loganair. Other major airlines using Glasgow as a base include and TUI Airways.

Glasgow Airport was opened in 1966 and originally flights only operated to other places in the United Kingdom and Europe. Glasgow Airport began to offer flights to other places around the world, flights which previously used Glasgow Prestwick Airport, which was subsequently relegated as the city's secondary airport catering for Ryanair and freight operators.


The history of the present Glasgow Airport goes back to 1932, when the site at Abbotsinch, between the Black Cart Water and the White Cart Water, near Paisley in Renfrewshire, was opened. In 1933 the Royal Air Force 602 Squadron (City of Glasgow) Auxiliary Air Force moved its Westland Wapiti IIA aircraft from nearby Renfrew.[6] The RAF Station HQ, however, was not formed until 1 July 1936 when 6 Auxiliary Group, Bomber Command, arrived.[6] From May 1939, until moving away in October 1939, the Squadron flew the Supermarine Spitfire.


In 1940, a torpedo training unit was formed, which trained both RAF and Royal Navy crews under RAF Coastal Command.[6] On 11 August 1943 Abbotsinch was handed over solely to the Royal Navy and it became a naval base. All navy ships and bases are given ship names and Abbotsinch's was known as HMS Sanderling since June 1940.[6] During the 1950s, the airfield housed a large aircraft storage unit and squadrons of the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve.

The Royal Navy left in October 1963.[6] The name Sanderling was, however, retained as a link between the two: HMS Sanderling's ship's bell was presented to the new airport and a bar in the airport was named The Sanderling Bar.

The following squadrons were based at Glasgow Airport at some point:[7]



In the 1960s, Glasgow Corporation decided that a new airport for the city was required. The original site of Glasgow's main airport, Renfrew Airport, was 3 km (1.9 mi) east of Abbotsinch, in what is now the Dean Park area of Renfrew. The original Art Deco terminal building of the original airport has not survived. The site is now occupied by a Tesco supermarket and the M8 motorway; this straight and level section of motorway occupies the site of the runway.[19]

Abbotsinch took over from Renfrew Airport on 2 May 1966.[6][19] The UK Government had already committed millions into rebuilding Glasgow Prestwick Airport fit for the "jet age". Nevertheless, the plan went forward and the new airport, designed by Basil Spence and built at a cost of £4.2 million, it was completed in 1966, with British European Airways beginning services using De Havilland Comet aircraft.

The first commercial flight to arrive was a British European Airways flight from Edinburgh, landing at 8 am on 2 May 1966.[20] The airport was officially opened on 27 June 1966 by Queen Elizabeth II. The political rows over Glasgow and Prestwick airports continued, with Prestwick enjoying a monopoly over transatlantic traffic (under the 1946 US-UK bilateral air transport agreement known as the Bermuda Agreement), while Glasgow Airport was only allowed to handle UK and intra-European traffic.

1970s to 1990s[edit]

In 1975, the BAA took ownership of Glasgow Airport. When BAA was privatised in the late 1980s, as BAA plc, it consolidated its airport portfolio and sold Prestwick Airport. BAA embarked on a massive redevelopment plan for Glasgow International Airport in 1989.[21]

In the early 1990s, Glasgow became the first UK airport, and one of the first in Europe (after Israel) to screen all baggage. Until this time, only 'high risk' flights had their hand luggage and hold luggage checked. This was a result of the bombing of Pan Am flight 103 on the 21st December 1988 over the Scottish town of Lockerbie.

An extended terminal building was created by building a pre-fabricated metal structure around the front of the original Basil Spence building, hence screening much of its distinctive Brutalist style architecture from view, with the void between the two structures joined by a glass atrium and walkway. Spence's original concrete facade which once looked onto Caledonia Road now fronts the check-in desks. The original building can be seen more clearly from the rear, with the mock barrel-vaulted roof visible when airside.

A dedicated international departure lounge and pier was added at the western side of the building, leaving the facility with a total of 38 gates, bringing its capacity up to nine million passengers per year.[22] In 2003, BAA completed redevelopment work on a satellite building (called "T2", formerly the St. Andrews Building), to provide a dedicated check-in facility for low-cost airlines, principally Aer Lingus, Virgin Atlantic and Thomas Cook Airlines until they went into administration.

By 1996, Glasgow was handling over 5.5 million passengers per annum, making it the fourth-largest airport in the UK.[23]

Post 2000[edit]

Terminal 2 building, situated next to the main terminal building
Tail fins at the international pier
Glasgow Airport main terminal building

The airport serves a variety of destinations throughout Canada, Europe and the Middle East. easyJet,, Loganair and TUI Airways are all based at the airport.

The terminal consists of three piers; the West Pier, Central Pier and East Pier.

The West Pier, commonly known as the International Pier, was built as part of the 1989 extension project and is the principal international and long haul departure point. All but two of the stands on this pier are equipped with airbridges. This pier has stands 27 - 36.[24] In 2019, the pier received the ability to facilitate the A380 following an £8 million upgrade.[25]

The Central Pier was part of the original 1966 building. The British Airways gates are located in the 1971 extension at the end of the pier, with Heathrow and Gatwick shuttles making up most of its traffic as well as BA CityFlyer flights to London City. The British Airways lounge is located on this pier, across from gate 15. Aer Lingus and Flybe formerly operated from the centre pier. Most of the stands on this pier are equipped with airbridges. This pier has stands 14 - 26.[24]

The East Pier, constructed in the mid-1970s, was originally used for international flights but in recent years has been re-developed for use by low-cost airlines. None of the stands on this pier are equipped with airbridges. The main users of this pier are easyJet,, Loganair and Ryanair. In 2015, a £3 million extension was added to the pier, creating space for 750,000 extra passengers a year. This pier has stands 1–12.[24]

In late 2007,[26] work commenced on Skyhub (located between Terminal 1 and Terminal 2)[27] which created a single, purpose-built security screening area in place of the previous individual facilities for each of the three piers, the other side effect being an enlarged duty-free shopping area created by taking most of the previous landside shopping and restaurant facilities airside. This new arrangement also frees up space in the departure lounges through the removal of the separate duty-free shops in the West and Central Piers. This however meant that the former public viewing areas of the apron are now airside, making the airport inaccessible to aviation enthusiasts and spectators.

Future growth is hampered by the airport's location, which is constrained by the M8 motorway to the south, the town of Renfrew to the east and the River Clyde to the north. At present the areas of Drumchapel, Clydebank, Bearsden, Foxbar, Faifley and Linwood all sit directly underneath the approach paths into the airport, meaning that further increases in traffic may be politically sensitive. The airport is challenged by Edinburgh Airport, which now serves a wider range of European destinations and has grown to overtake Glasgow as Scotland's busiest airport.

The Scottish Executive announced in 2002 that a rail line – known as the Glasgow Airport Rail Link (GARL) – would be built from Glasgow Central station to Glasgow Airport. The rail link was to be completed by 2012 with the first trains running early in 2013. In 2009, however, it was announced by the Scottish Government that the plan had been cancelled.[28]

Currently, the airport is easily accessible by road due with direct access to the adjoining M8 motorway. It is also served by a frequent bus service, the Glasgow Airport Express, which operates services to city centre. The service is run by First Glasgow and all buses feature leather seats, USB charging ports and free WiFi.

The airport is home to the Scottish regional airline Loganair, previously a Flybe franchise operator, who have their head office located on site.[29] British Airways has a maintenance hangar at the airport, capable of carrying out overhaul work on Airbus A320, as well as a cargo facility.

The Royal Air Force also has a unit based within the airport – The Universities of Glasgow and Strathclyde Air Squadron – to provide flying training to university students who plan to join the RAF.

In 2007, Glasgow became the second-busiest airport in Scotland as passenger numbers were surpassed by those at Edinburgh Airport.

On 30 June 2007, a day after the failed car bomb attacks in London, an attack at Glasgow International Airport occurred. A flaming Jeep Cherokee was driven into the entrance of Main Terminal. Two men, one alight, fled the vehicle before being apprehended by a combination of police officers, airport security officers and witnesses. One of the men died in the following months due to injuries sustained in the attack. New barriers and security measures have been added to prevent a similar incident from taking place.[30]

Icelandair temporarily moved its base of operations from Keflavík International Airport to Glasgow due to the 2010 eruptions of Eyjafjallajökull.

On 10 April 2014, Emirates operated an Airbus A380 to Glasgow to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Glasgow - Dubai route, and was the first time an A380 had visited a Scottish airport.[31]

In July 2014, Emirates opened a dedicated lounge at the airport[32] for First and Business class passengers. It is located at the top of the West Pier. In October 2014, Heathrow Airport Holdings reached an agreement to sell the airport, together with Southampton and Aberdeen, to a consortium of Ferrovial and Macquarie Group for £1 billion.[33]

In 2017, easyJet became the first airline to carry more than one million passengers from the airport in a period of 12 months.[34]

On 27 February 2018, Ryanair announced that it would close its base at Glasgow, and retain just three of its 22 routes. It cited the Scottish Government's failure to replace Air Passenger Duty with a cheaper Air Departure Tax.[35][36]

On 16 April 2019, Emirates launched a daily A380 flight on the Glasgow - Dubai route, making it the first regular A380 service in Scotland.[25]

On 12 June 2021, Aer Lingus Regional operator Stobart Air entered liquidation resulting in all Aer Lingus routes to and from the airport being cancelled with immediate effect. Stobart Air was due to be replaced by Emerald Airlines as the Aer Lingus Regional operator in 2023, although their CEO states they would be able to launch flights from summer 2021 should they need to, bringing the possibility of the routes being restored in the future.[37][38]


In 2005, BAA published a consultation paper[39] for the development of the airport. The consultation paper included proposals for a second runway parallel to and to the north-west of the existing runway 05/23; redevelopment and enlargement of the East (low-cost) pier to connect directly with Terminal 2; and an additional International Pier to the west of the existing International Pier. There were plans for a new rail terminal, joined to the airport's passenger terminal and multi-storey car park. On 29 November 2006, the Scottish Parliament gave the go-ahead for the new railway station as part of the Glasgow Airport Rail Link to Glasgow Central station, originally due for completion in 2011. However, on 17 September 2009, due to escalating costs, the project was cancelled by the Scottish Government.[40]

BAA's plans, which are expected to cost some £290 million over the next 25 years, come in response to a forecasted trebling of annual passenger numbers passing through the airport by 2030. The current figure of 9.4 million passengers passing through the airport is expected to rise to more than 24 million by 2030.

As of late 2017, there are plans to build a light rail link that will connect the city centre to the airport via Govan, with plans already underway to begin construction of the project after the cancellation of the original Glasgow Airport Rail Link project.[41]

Airlines and destinations[edit]

The following airlines operate regular scheduled and charter services to and from Glasgow:[42]

Aer Lingus Belfast–City, Dublin
Air Transat Toronto–Pearson
BH Air Seasonal: Burgas
British Airways London–City, London–Gatwick, London–Heathrow
Seasonal charter: Alicante, Menorca
Corendon Airlines[43] Seasonal: Antalya
easyJet[44] Alicante, Amsterdam, Belfast–City,[45] Belfast–International, Berlin, Birmingham,[46] Bristol, Faro, Jersey, London–Gatwick, London–Luton, London–Stansted, Málaga, Paris–Charles de Gaulle
Seasonal: Agadir,[47] Barcelona,[48] Bordeaux, Chania,[49] Dalaman,[50] Geneva, Gran Canaria,[51] Kos, Lisbon (begins 3 June 2023),[52] Newquay,[53] Palma de Mallorca, Porto (begins 31 March 2023),[54] Tenerife–South[55]
Emirates Dubai–International
Icelandair[56] Reykjavík–Keflavík[57] Alicante, Antalya, Fuerteventura, Funchal, Gran Canaria, Lanzarote, Málaga, Rome–Fiumicino,[58] Tenerife–South
Seasonal: Bodrum, Burgas, Corfu, Dalaman, Faro,[59] Geneva, Girona (begins 28 May 2023),[60] Heraklion, Ibiza, Izmir, Kefalonia, Kos, Kraków,[61] Larnaca, Malta, Menorca, Naples, Palma de Mallorca, Paphos, Prague,[62] Reus, Reykjavík–Keflavík, Rhodes, Zakynthos
KLM Amsterdam
Loganair Barra, Benbecula, Campbeltown, Derry, Exeter,[63] Islay, Kirkwall,[64] Southampton, Stornoway, Sumburgh, Tiree
Seasonal: Donegal (resumes 1 July 2023)[65]
Lufthansa Frankfurt
Play Reykjavík–Keflavík (begins 26 May 2023)[66]
Ryanair Alicante, Charleroi, Dublin, Kraków, Málaga
Seasonal: Warsaw–Modlin, Wrocław
TUI Airways[67] Alicante, Gran Canaria, Lanzarote, Sal (resumes 3 November 2023),[68] Tenerife–South
Seasonal: Antalya, Barbados, Cancún, Chambéry, Corfu, Dalaman, Dubrovnik, Enfidha, Ibiza, Málaga, Melbourne/Orlando,[69] Menorca, Montego Bay, Naples, Palma de Mallorca, Paphos, Reus, Rhodes, Salzburg, Sharm El Sheikh,[70] Turin, Verona, Zakynthos

Glasgow airport investment area[edit]

Glasgow airport investment area is a £39.1million Glasgow city region city deal project to deliver the infrastructure and environmental improvements facilitating a world-class business and commercial location in the heart of Renfrewshire, connected by air, sea and land.


Annual traffic data[edit]

Annual passenger traffic at GLA airport. See Wikidata query.
Number of Passengers[note 1] Number of Movements[note 2] Freight
(tonnes)[note 1]
1997 6,117,006 98,204 10,574
1998 6,566,927 100,942 8,517
1999 6,813,955 101,608 8,972
2000 6,965,500 104,929 8,545
2001 7,292,327 110,408 5,928
2002 7,803,627 104,393 5,041
2003 8,129,713 105,597 4,927
2004 8,575,039 107,885 8,122
2005 8,792,915 110,581 8,733
2006 8,848,755 110,034 6,289
2007 8,795,653 108,305 4,276
2008 8,178,891 100,087 3,546
2009 7,225,021 85,281 2,334
2010 6,548,865 77,755 2,914
2011 6,880,217 78,111 2,430
2012 7,157,859 80,472 9,497
2013 7,363,764 79,520 11,837
2014 7,715,988 84,000 15,411
2015 8,714,307 90,790 13,193
2016 9,327,193 98,217 12,921
2017 9,902,239 102,766 15,935
2018 9,698,862 97,157 15,466
2019 8,843,241 80,383 12,822
2020 1,944,981 34,715 6,601
2021 2,071,000 39,713 5,436
2022 6,516,029[71]
Source: [72][2][73]

Busiest routes[edit]

Busiest routes to and from Glasgow (2019)[74]
Rank Airport Total
2018 / 19
1 London–Heathrow 865,008 Decrease 5.1%
2 London–Gatwick 641,566 Increase 3.4%
3 Dublin 500,441 Increase 1.2%
4 Amsterdam 439,409 Increase 5.1%
5 Dubai–International 437,748 Decrease 3.8%
6 Bristol 322,126 Increase 3.2%
7 Belfast–International 293,804 Increase 0.9%
8 Alicante 289,547 Decrease 2.3%
9 London–Stansted 278,520 Decrease 35.6%
10 London–City 253,784 Increase 10.4%

Accidents and incidents[edit]

  • On 3 September 1999, a Cessna 404 carrying nine Airtours staff from Glasgow to Aberdeen on a transfer flight, crashed minutes after takeoff near the town of Linwood, Renfrewshire. Eight people were killed and three seriously injured. No one on the ground was hurt.[75] The Air Accident Investigation Branch determined the aircraft had developed an engine malfunction during takeoff. Although the captain decided to return to the airfield, he mistakenly identified the working engine as the faulty one and shut it down, causing the aircraft to crash.[76] A fatal accident inquiry was also held,[75] which reached the same conclusion.[77]
  • On 30 June 2007, a group of extremists attacked the airport by ramming a Jeep Cherokee into the entrance of the main terminal which set the car on fire. There was some damage to the airport. One of the perpetrators died in the hospital and the others were jailed.[78]
  • In August 2019, two drunken United Airlines pilots tried to fly a plane but were stopped by local authorities. They were arrested for being drunk. The plane was to leave for New York City.[79]

Ground transport[edit]

Airport express buses are painted in a distinctive livery.

The airport is currently linked to Glasgow City Centre by the 500 Glasgow Airport Express service. This is run by First Glasgow under contract to Glasgow Airport. Started in 2011, the service runs direct via the M8 motorway. McGill's Bus Services service 757 links the airport with Paisley Gilmour Street railway station, Paisley town centre, Erskine & Clydebank. This bus accepts National Rail tickets between Glasgow Airport and any railway station.

Proposed rail link[edit]

Proposed alignment for the Glasgow Airport Rail Link

Plans for a rail link from the airport to Glasgow Central station were proposed in the 2000s, shelved in 2009 and then resurrected in December 2016; work is due to start in 2022, with the line expected to open in 2025.

Glasgow Metro[edit]

A planned extension of the Glasgow Subway system which is proposed to include multiple light rail and elevated rapid transit lines around the city including a line to Paisley City Centre, and two stations at Glasgow Airport. The line would be elevated at the airport and run on segregated tracks into Glasgow City Centre, and would most likely cancel the current plans for the Glasgow Airport Rail Link


  1. ^ a b Number of Passengers including domestic, international and transit counterparts.
  2. ^ Number of Movements represents total aircraft takeoffs and landings during each year.


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  • McCloskey, Keith. Glasgow's Airports: Renfrew and Abbotsinch. Stroud, Gloucestershire, UK: The History Press Ltd., 2009. ISBN 978-0-7524-5077-3.
  • Smith, David J. Action Stations, Volume 7: Military airfields of Scotland, the North-East and Northern Ireland. Cambridge, Cambridgeshire, UK: Patrick Stephens Ltd., 1983 ISBN 0-85059-563-0.
  • Sturtivant, R; Hamlin, J; Halley, J (1997). Royal Air Force flying training and support units. UK: Air-Britain (Historians). ISBN 0-85130-252-1.

External links[edit]

Media related to Glasgow International Airport at Wikimedia Commons