Belfast International Airport: Wikis


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Belfast International Airport
Belfast/Aldergrove Airport
Belfast int.png
Airport type Public
Owner TBI plc
Operator Belfast International Airport Ltd.
Serves Belfast
Location Aldergrove, County Antrim
Hub for
Elevation AMSL 268 ft / 82 m
Coordinates 54°39′27″N 006°12′57″W / 54.6575°N 6.21583°W / 54.6575; -6.21583 (Belfast International Airport)Coordinates: 54°39′27″N 006°12′57″W / 54.6575°N 6.21583°W / 54.6575; -6.21583 (Belfast International Airport)
Direction Length Surface
m ft
07/25 2,780 9,121 Asphalt
17/35 1,891 6,204 Asphalt
Statistics (2009)
Aircraft Movements 68,813
Passengers 4,546,475
Sources: UK AIP at NATS[1]
Statistics from the UK Civil Aviation Authority[2]

Belfast International Airport (IATA: BFSICAO: EGAA) is an airport located 6 miles/11 kilometres from Antrim and 11.5 NM (21.3 km; 13.2 mi)[1] northwest of Belfast in Northern Ireland. It was formerly known and is still referred to as Aldergrove Airport, after the village of the same name lying immediately to the west of the airport. Belfast International shares its runways with the Royal Air Force base RAF Aldergrove, which otherwise has its own facilities.

Over 4.5 million passengers travelled through the airport in 2009, a 13.6% decline since 2008.[2] Belfast International is the busiest airport in Northern Ireland and the second busiest airport on the island of Ireland in terms of passenger numbers after Dublin Airport, and is followed by Cork and Shannon. It is the largest of two airports which serve Belfast; the other being Belfast-City.

The airport is owned by Abertis, the same company which owns Stockholm Skavsta and Cardiff Airport and is concessionary to Orlando Sanford International Airport and London Luton.

Belfast International has a CAA Public Use Aerodrome Licence (Number P798) that allows flights for the public transport of passengers or for flying instruction. The airport operates 24 hours a day, 365 days a year and is not subject to noise abatement procedures, significant environmental constraints or airspace limitations.





The site for the airport was established in 1917 when it was selected to be a Royal Flying Corps training establishment during the First World War. The airport remained open at the end of the war for RAF activity.

Civil traffic began in 1922 when flights were conducted flying newspapers from Chester, although it was not until 1933 that a regular, sustained civil air service started. The flight was to Glasgow and was operated by Midland and Scottish Air Ferries. This was subsequently augmented by flights to the Isle of Man, Liverpool and Croydon, then London’s airport.

During the Second World War, Aldergrove remained an RAF base particularly for the Coastal Command. So that the airport could accommodate larger, long-range aircraft, a major works programme was undertaken to replace the four existing runways with two new long paved runways, thereby forming the basis of the layout that still exists at the airport today.


One of the outcomes of the wartime airfield construction programme was the building of Nutts Corner Airport, just 3 mi (4.8 km) from Aldergrove. On 1 December 1946, the new site replaced Belfast Harbour Airport (now George Best Belfast City Airport) as Northern Ireland’s civil airport, as the site at Sydenham was considered unsuitable.

By the 1950s civil air traffic had outstripped the facilities at Nutts Corner and, in addition, aircraft were being regularly diverted to Aldergrove because of adverse weather conditions. In July 1959 the decision was made to move civil flights to Aldergrove to take advantage of the large airfield and this took place in October 1963.

A new terminal and apron were built with the necessary passenger facilities and the complex was opened by Queen Elizabeth, The Queen Mother on 28 October 1963. In 1966 the first regular jet service to Gatwick started and in 1968 Aer Lingus and BOAC introduced scheduled services to New York City via Shannon and Prestwick respectively.


In 1971 Northern Ireland Airports Limited was formed to operate and develop the airport and its facilities. A major programme of airfield upgrades was undertaken resulting in improvements to runways, taxiways and the parking apron.

A new International Pier was built together with lounge facilities and car parks, while an additional apron was provided to separate the smaller general aviation aircraft from large commercial jets. In the meantime, British Airways launched the first Belfast to Heathrow shuttle service, and the first Boeing 747 operated from the airport on a charter service to Toronto via Shannon. The first scheduled service to a European city was started by NLM Cityhopper (now KLM Cityhopper) flying to Amsterdam.

In 1983 the airport, renamed Belfast International, was regularly accommodating the largest civil aircraft in service, and with the installation of new technology was capable of all weather operations. In 1985 passenger numbers reached 1.5 million and BMI went into competition with British Airways on the Heathrow service. Further developments to the terminal occurred throughout the late 1980s and early 1990s. A new Executive Aviation Terminal was opened in 1987 and the new cargo centre opened in 1991.

The airport was privatised in 1994. TBI became the new owners of the airport on 13 August 1996, by which time annual passenger numbers had reached 2.5 million.

1998 to date

Continental's Daily, 757, Newark Service, as of April 2009 this Jetway was replaced with a new one

In 1998 EasyJet started operations from the airport with flights to London Luton. Since then the airline has established a large base at Belfast International and a further eight domestic routes and 11 direct European scheduled routes have been added to the network, making the airline the largest user of the airport.[3]

In 2005 Continental Airlines launched the first ever direct scheduled service to Newark, and direct scheduled services were later introduced to Vancouver with Zoom Airlines but have now ceased following the carrier's demise in August 2008.

In December 2007 Aer Lingus opened a base at Belfast International, its third hub (and first outside the Republic of Ireland). By March 2008 three Airbus A320 aircraft were based at the airport serving nine Aer Lingus routes from Belfast, and the airline has restored the link between Belfast International and London Heathrow Airport which was abandoned by British Airways.[4]

Flyglobespan was a Scottish airline operating services to Orlando Sanford International Airport and John C. Munro Hamilton International Airport. This route ceased following the carrier's demise.

Despite these additional flights, passengers at Belfast International did not rise beyond 6 million in 2008 as some had predicted[5] but in fact fell by 10,000 passengers to 5.2 million.

Work has begun within the airport to move the 'Central Search' area from its current location to a small grassy area next to the ramps that take passengers from check-in to the food court area before the current Central Search. This is part of a bigger plan to increase the area for the International Lounge.[6]

Airlines and destinations

Check in
An Air Transat A310 parked at the gate


Airlines Destinations
Aer Lingus Alicante [begins 30 March], Barcelona [seasonal], Faro [seasonal], Lanzarote, London-Heathrow, Málaga, Munich [ends 27 March], Rome-Fiumicino [seasonal], Tenerife-South
Bmibaby Cardiff [resumes 31 October], Birmingham, East Midlands, Manchester
Continental Airlines Newark
EasyJet Alicante, Amsterdam, Barcelona, Bristol, Edinburgh, Faro, Geneva [seasonal], Glasgow-International, Ibiza [seasonal], Kraków, Liverpool, London-Gatwick, London-Stansted, Málaga, Newcastle upon Tyne, Nice, Palma de Mallorca [seasonal], Paris-Charles de Gaulle Blackpool [seasonal], Chambery [seasonal], Dubrovnik [seasonal], Jersey [seasonal], Leeds/Bradford, Minorca [seasonal] Murcia [seasonal], Newquay [seasonal], Palma de Mallorca [seasonal], Pisa [seasonal], Tenerife-South [seasonal], Toulouse [seasonal]
Manx2 Isle of Man
Skyservice Toronto-Pearson
Thomson Airways Bodrum [seasonal], Burgas [seasonal], Dalaman [seasonal], Faro [seasonal], Ibiza [seasonal], Lanzarote [seasonal], Las Palmas de Gran Canaria [seasonal], Málaga [seasonal], Palma de Mallorca [seasonal], Reus [begins 7 May;seasonal], Tenerife-South [seasonal]


Airlines Destinations
Air Europa Palma de Mallorca [seasonal]
Austrian Airlines operated by Tyrolean (Airline) Innsbruck [seasonal], Salzburg [seasonal]
BH Air Burgas [seasonal], Sofia [seasonal]
BMI Alicante [seasonal], Corfu [seasonal], Dalaman [seasonal], Faro [seasonal], Fuerteventura [seasonal], Ibiza [seasonal], Lanzarote, Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, Monastir [seasonal], Paphos [seasonal], Reus [seasonal], Tenerife-South [seasonal], Verona [seasonal]
Bulgaria Air Burgas [seasonal]
Dubrovnik Airline Dubrovnik [seasonal]
easyJet Brescia/montichiari [seasonal]
Eurocypria Airlines Heraklion [begins 18 June] , Larnaca , Paphos [begins 26 May] [All Seasonal]
Freebird Airlines Dalaman [begins June] Lourdes [seasonal], Maribor [seasonal], Reus [seasonal], Turin [seasonal], Verona-Bresica [seasonal]
Nouvelair Monastir [seasonal]
Onur Air Antalya [begins 26 June], Bodrum, Dalaman [All seasonal]
SmartWings Corfu ,Faro, Fuerteventura, Ibiza, Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, Lanzarote, Palma de Mallorca, Reus, Rhodes, Tenerife-South [All begin summer 2010]
Thomas Cook Airlines Alicante, Antalya [seasonal], Bodrum [seasonal], Cancun [seasonal], Corfu [seasonal], Dalaman, Fuerteventura, Heraklion [seasonal], Ibiza [seasonal], Izmir [begins 5 June], Lanzarote, Larnaca [seasonal], Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, Monastir, Orlando-Sanford [seasonal], Palma de Mallorca [seasonal], Puerto Plata [seasonal], Reus [seasonal], Sharm el-Sheikh, Tenerife-South, Toulouse [seasonal], Verona [seasonal]
Titan Airways Lourdes [Seasonal]
Viking Airlines Corfu [begins 22 June], Dalaman [begins 29 June], Heraklion [begins 23 June], Rhodes [begins 23 June]


Belfast International Airport is one of the most important regional airfreight centres in the UK, handling 48,000 tonnes (47,000 LT; 53,000 ST) of air cargo in 2008.[7] BIA plays host to a long-established nightly Royal Mail operation. The major cargo operators are:

Airlines Destinations
Atlantic Airlines Coventry
DHL Express East Midlands, London-Luton East Midlands
Maersk London-Stansted
TNT Airways East Midlands


Domestic Scheduled Passenegers by route in 2006.      London Airports (1,102,531)      Liverpool (475,256)      Edinburgh (314,247)      Glasgow (310,003)      Bristol (242,941)      Newcastle upon Tyne(230,438      Manchester (179,718)      Birmingham (176,141)      East Midlands (165,989)      Leeds Bradford (112,134)      *Others (162,849)

Nearly 5.3 million passengers used Belfast International in 2007, the highest total in the airport's history, with total passenger numbers remaining relatively static during 2008 but declining sharply in 2009 to 4.5 million.[2] The airport is the busiest in Northern Ireland, having experienced steady growth in passenger numbers, aircraft movements and freight throughput over most of the last decade. Between 1997 and 2009 passenger numbers have increased by an average of 7.0% annually. Belfast International was the 13th busiest airport in the UK by passenger traffic in 2009, but the large freight volumes handled made it the 6th busiest freight airport in the UK during the period.[2]

Number of Passengers[2] Number of Movements[8] Freight
1997 2,476,834 35,070 24,838
1998 2,671,848 38,976 25,275
1999 3,035,907 44,817 25,773
2000 3,147,670 41,256 30,599
2001 3,618,671 45,706 32,130
2002 3,576,785 38,453 29,474
2003 3,976,703 39,894 29,620
2004 4,407,413 43,373 32,148
2005 4,824,271 47,695 37,878
2006 5,038,692 48,412 38,417
2007 5,272,664 51,085 38,429
2008 5,262,354 55,000 36,115
2009 4,546,475 44,796 29,804
Source: United Kingdom Civil Aviation Authority [9]
Busiest international routes out of Belfast International Airport (2008)[2]
Rank Airport Passengers handled in 2008 Passengers handled in 2007 Percentage Change Airlines Served (2008)
1 Málaga Airport 187,529 134,011 40% Aer Lingus, easyJet, Thomson,, Spanair, Thomas Cook
2 Palma de Mallorca Airport 150,828 144,313 5% Air Europa, easyJet, Thomson,, Thomas Cook
3 Amsterdam Airport Schiphol 138,669 95,185 46% Aer Lingus, easyJet
4 Paris-Charles de Gaulle Airport 128,537 92,582 39% Aer Lingus, easyJet
5 Faro Airport 128,091 75,307 70% Aer Lingus, bmi, easyJet, Thomson, Thomas Cook
6 Barcelona Airport 122,121 62,649 95% Aer Lingus, easyJet
7 Newark Liberty International Airport 99,714 103,628 4% Continental Airlines
8 Alicante Airport 97,098 94,656 3% bmi, easyJet, Thomson, Spanair, Thomas Cook
9 Tenerife South Airport 93,725 74,935 25% BMI, Thomson, Spanair, Thomas Cook
10 Lanzarote Airport (Arrecife) 66,545 65,372 2% Aer Lingus, bmi, Thomson, Futura , Spanair, Thomas Cook,XL Airways
11 Prague (Ruzyně Airport) 57,838 60,526 4% easyJet,
12 Nice Airport 54,783 32,182 70% Aer Lingus, easyJet
13 Krakow Airport 50,783 29,093 75% easyJet
14 Dalaman Airport 45,545 39,674 15% Onur Air
15 Murcia Airport 44,132 48,077 8%

Transport links


Travellers by car from Belfast reach the airport via the M2 motorway.


Translink operates a 24 hour bus service to the airport from their Europa Buscentre, in the centre of Belfast. The airport can be reached from Derry and the northwest by the Airporter.


The nearest railway station is the Antrim railway station which is 10 km (6.2 mi) from the airport in Antrim, and is serviced by a bus link called the Antrim Airlink (109 A). There are connections to Belfast, Lisburn and Derry. Trains to and from Dublin are via Belfast Central railway station, which has its own Airbus stop. A new station serving the airport could one day be constructed on the mothballed Lisburn-Antrim railway line as set out in the airport master plan. This line remains in serviceable condition and passes close to the airport terminal.

Future plans

In September 2006, Belfast International Airport published their master plan[10] for the next 25 years. The master plan predicts that passenger numbers will increase to between 6 million passengers per annum (mppa) and 7.5 mppa by 2015 and to 12 mppa by 2030. Cargo throughput at BIA could reach as high as 82,000 t (81,000 LT; 90,000 ST) by 2015, and 148,000 t (146,000 LT; 163,000 ST) by 2030. To accommodate this growth a number upgrades have been suggested, some of these are listed below.


  • Extension of check-in hall
  • Extension and reconfiguration of domestic baggage reclaim
  • Construction of a new South Pier including departure lounges
  • Extension of West Pier
  • Construction of multi-storey car park and high level link to terminal
  • Expansion of cargo/freight handling facilities located on western boundaries


  • New three storey central core linking to existing and recently developed areas.
  • A passenger rail connection to the airport
  • Enhanced highway links between airport and M2 motorway and improved public transport direct to all parts of Northern Ireland.
  • Demolition of the old terminal (replacement in operation)

Accidents and incidents

  • On 24 March 1996, Vickers Viscount G-OPFE of British World Airways was damaged beyond economic repair when it made a wheels-up landing.[11]
  • On 23 December 1997, a Maersk Air, Boeing 737 aircraft operated by British Airways and with 63 passengers and 6 crew on board was forced to return to the airport after a major failure in the starboard engine. The pilot was forced to declare an emergency and the aircraft thereafter returned to the airport safely on one engine. It was later found that an engine seal had failed causing the catastrophic failure of the starboard engine and slight damage to the engine cowling and under wing surface. The subsequent investigation uncovered design and manufacturing defects with the seals and led to the incorporation of new design seals in all future engines.[12]


  1. ^ a b Belfast/Aldergrove - EGAA
  2. ^ a b c d e f g UK Airport Statistics: 2009 - annual
  3. ^ "easyJet Route Map". easyJet. 
  4. ^ "Belfast International Airport lands Aer Lingus". Belfast International Airport Press Office. Retrieved 2007-12-06. 
  5. ^ "We have lift-off!". Belfast Telegraph. Retrieved 2007-12-10. 
  6. ^
  7. ^ "Key facts". Belfast International Airport. Retrieved 2009-09-01. 
  8. ^ Number of Movements represents total air transport takeoffs and landings during that year.
  9. ^ UK Airport Statistics
  10. ^ Master Plan
  11. ^ "Accident description". Aviation Safety Network. Retrieved 9 October 2009. 
  12. ^

External links


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