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Bilbao Airport
Bilboko aireportua (eu)
Aeropuerto de Bilbao (es)
Aeropuerto de Bilbao.jpg
Trafico bilbao.JPG
Airport type Public
Owner/Operator Aena
Location Bilbao, Spain
Built 1928
Elevation AMSL 42 m / 137 ft
Coordinates 43°18′04″N 002°54′38″W / 43.30111°N 2.91056°W / 43.30111; -2.91056 (Bilbao Airport)Coordinates: 43°18′04″N 002°54′38″W / 43.30111°N 2.91056°W / 43.30111; -2.91056 (Bilbao Airport)
Website (English)
Direction Length Surface
m ft
10/28 2,000 6,562 Asphalt
12/30 2,600 8,530 Asphalt
Statistics (2007)
Passengers 4,277,610
Passenger growth +6.94%
Source: Spanish AIP at EUROCONTROL[1]

Bilbao Airport (IATA: BIOICAO: LEBB) is a public airport located 9 km (5.6 mi) north[1] of Bilbao, in the municipality of Loiu, in Spain. It is the most important airport of the Basque Country and northern Spain, with 4,172,903 passengers on 2008 (declined by 2.7% compared to 2007). It is famous for its new main terminal opened in 2000 and designed by Santiago Calatrava.



After various different 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 many deficiencies of this site, 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 the 19th 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 (410 by 200 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 installed. 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.

On 19 February 1985, an Iberia flight from Madrid crashed into Mount Oiz, all passengers and crew died.

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 the 19th 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 will be finished in 2014 and cost €114 million.


The airport closed during a blizzard, January 1985.
Interior of the terminal, departures corridor.
An Airbus A320 boarding, destination Rome. The control tower is seen in the background.

The terminal has a sleek design, with two symmetrical "wings" and a sharp tip at its center which is specially 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 have taken place in 2005-2006 in the check-in area to provide enhanced shopping facilities for travellers, with almost double the retail space now being offered.

Basques using the airport widely complain about its lack of an arrivals area, since once passengers clear customs, they step directly outside. However, there is a dramatic viewing gallery raised above the baggage reclaim area, where those waiting to greet passengers can wait and watch as they collect their baggage and leave the terminal. There is often waving and excitement as relatives or friends scan to see each other from the gallery, and the architect cites this in defence of his design of the arrivals area.

Calatrava also designed the Zubizuri bridge in Bilbao. Like the terminal, it has been praised by its architectural looks and criticized for impracticality.


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.

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.[2]

Airlines and destinations

Airlines Destinations
Aer Lingus Dublin [seasonal]
Air Berlin Düsseldorf [begins 26 March], Palma de Mallorca
Air Europa Fuerteventura, Gran Canaria, Ibiza, Lanzarote, Palma de Mallorca, Tenerife-North, Tenerife-South
Air France operated by Brit Air Paris-Charles de Gaulle
Brussels Airlines Brussels
easyJet London-Stansted, Ibiza
Iberia Madrid
Iberia operated by Air Nostrum A Coruña, Alicante, Santiago de Compostela, Seville, Valencia, Vigo
Lufthansa Frankfurt
Lufthansa Regional operated by Lufthansa CityLine Düsseldorf, Munich, Stuttgart
Quantum Air Lanzarote, Madrid, Malaga, Palma de Mallorca, Seville
Spanair Barcelona, Lanzarote, Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, Madrid, Tenerife-South, Munich
TAP Portugal operated by Portugália Lisbon
Vueling Airlines Amsterdam [begins 28 March], Barcelona, London-Heathrow, Malaga, Seville

Public transport

  • BizkaiBus: a bus line (3247) connects Bilbao center (Moyúa square) and the city bus station with the airport. The service frequency is every 30 minutes, from 5:25 am to 21:55 pm from Bilbao to the airport, and from 6:15 am to 24:00 pm from the airport to Bilbao. From March 16 to October 31 the frequency is every 20 minutes. The trip takes 15-20 minutes.
  • Rail transport: It is planned to build a train connection between City Centre and the Airport.

See also


External links



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