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Belfast International Airport is an airport located northwest of Belfastmarker in Northern Irelandmarker. 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 Aldergrovemarker, which otherwise has its own facilities.

Nearly 5.3 million passengers (2.2% of passengers at all UK airports) travelled through the airport in 2008, a 1.7 million (47.1%) increase since 2002. Belfast International is the second busiest airport in Irelandmarker in terms of passenger numbers after Dublin Airportmarker and it is the busiest airport in the province of Ulster. It is the larger of two airports in Belfast (the other being George Best Belfast City Airportmarker).

The airport is owned by Abertis, the same company which owns Stockholm Skavstamarker, Cardiff Airportmarker and is concessionary to Orlando Sanford International Airportmarker and London Lutonmarker.

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 Chestermarker, although it was not until 1933 that a regular, sustained civil air service started. The flight was to Glasgowmarker and was operated by Midland and Scottish Air Ferries. This was subsequently augmented by flights to the Isle of Manmarker, Liverpoolmarker and Croydonmarker, 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 Airportmarker, just 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 Gatwickmarker started and in 1968 Aer Lingus and BOAC introduced scheduled services to New York Citymarker via Shannonmarker and Prestwickmarker 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 Heathrowmarker 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 Amsterdammarker.

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.

In 2005 Continental Airlines launched the first ever direct scheduled service to Newark, and direct scheduled services were later introduced to Vancouvermarker 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 Irelandmarker). 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.

Despite these additional flights, passengers at Belfast International did not rise beyond 6 million in 2008 as some had predicted 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.


Check in
There are 48 scheduled destinations served from the airport, with 16 domestic services and 32 European and transatlantic services.Transatlantic flights include Newark and Orlando in the United States and Hamilton in Canada. There are charter and inclusive tour flights to Africa, Canada, the Caribbean, Mexico, the United States and many European destinations.

The airport is a hub for easyJet and, and Aer Lingus with other airlines including bmibaby, Thomson Airways and Thomas Cook Airlines also having a large presence. In December 2007, Aer Lingus opened a base at the airport, and now operate to a variety of European destinations.

Domestic flights

Due to Northern Ireland's relative isolation to the rest of the United Kingdom, about two in five flights from the airport are destined for England, Scotland or Wales. EasyJet, the airport's largest operator, flies to seven UK cities, each served between three and six times daily. Bmibaby fly to four UK destinations, Manchester, Birmingham, East Midlands and Cardiff. has two routes to the UK, Leeds-Bradfordmarker and Blackpoolmarker, and will commence flights to Newquaymarker and Jersey in 2009. flies up to twice daily to the Isle of Man. Aer Lingus revived direct flights from the airport to London Heathrow in January 2008. Although initial passenger numbers for this flight seemed to be low, Aer Lingus announced that more than 250,000 people travelled on the route in the first year of operation. They also added that they cover 40% of the Belfast-Heathrow Market in the last 12 months.

International flights

EasyJet is the largest airline at Belfast International, with services to 11 destinations in Europe (outside the UK) from Belfast. also operate flights to destinations such as Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, Minorca, Dubrovnik and Málaga. Aer Lingus also serves several European destinations from Belfast International.87% of passengers who travel through Belfast International are on scheduled services and 13% on charter services.

Continental Airlines operate daily scheduled flights to Newark year-round. Other transatlantic flights are operated by Flyglobespan, Air Transat and Thomas Cook Airlines during the summer season.


[[File:Domestic Scheduled Passengers-Belfast International Airport.svg|thumb|Domestic Scheduled Passenegers by route in 2006.


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. The airport is the busiest in Northern Ireland, having experienced steady growth in passenger numbers, aircraft movements and freight throughput over the last decade. Since 1997 passenger numbers have increased by an average of 10.2% annually.

Number of Passengers Number of Movements 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
Source: United Kingdom Civil Aviation Authority
Busiest international routes out of Belfast International Airport (2008)
Rank Airport Passengers handled in 2008 Passengers handled in 2007 Percentage Change Airlines Served (2008)
1 Málaga Airportmarker 187,529 134,011 40% Aer Lingus, easyJet, Thomson,, Spanair, Thomas Cook
2 Palma de Mallorca Airportmarker 150,828 144,313 5% Air Europa, easyJet, Thomson,, Thomas Cook
3 Amsterdam Airport Schipholmarker 138,669 95,185 46% Aer Lingus, easyJet
4 Paris-Charles de Gaulle Airportmarker 128,537 92,582 39% Aer Lingus, easyJet
5 Faro Airportmarker 128,091 75,307 70% Aer Lingus, bmi, easyJet, Thomson, Thomas Cook
6 Barcelona Airportmarker 122,121 62,649 95% Aer Lingus, easyJet
7 Newark Liberty International Airportmarker 99,714 103,628 4% Continental Airlines
8 Alicante Airportmarker 97,098 94,656 3% bmi, easyJet, Thomson, Spanair, Thomas Cook
9 Tenerife South Airportmarker 93,725 74,935 25% BMI, Thomson, Spanair, Thomas Cook
10 Lanzarote Airportmarker (Arrecife) 66,545 65,372 2% Aer Lingus, bmi, Thomson, Futura , Spanair, Thomas Cook,XL Airways
11 Prague (Ruzyně Airportmarker) 57,838 60,526 4% easyJet,
12 Nice Airportmarker 54,783 32,182 70% Aer Lingus, easyJet
13 Krakow Airportmarker 50,783 29,093 75% easyJet
14 Dalaman Airportmarker 45,545 39,674 15% Onur Air
15 Murcia Airportmarker 44,132 48,077 8%

Airlines and destinations




Belfast International Airport is one of the most important regional airfreight centres in the UK, handling of air cargo in 2008. BIA plays host to a long-established nightly Royal Mail operation. The major cargo operators are:

Transport links


Travellers by car from Belfast reach the airport by travelling north on the M2 motorway, turning off at Junction 5 and then via A57 for 7 miles to the airport. From the north and north west the route is easiest found by coming south on the M2 again to Junction 5.


Translink operates a 24 hour bus service to the airport from their Europa Buscentremarker, in the centre of Belfastmarker.

The airport can be reached from Derrymarker and the northwest by the Airporter. This coach service operates 7 days a week and an hourly service from Monday-Friday.


The nearest railway station is the Antrim railway stationmarker which is from the airport in Antrimmarker, and is serviced by a bus link called the Antrim Airlink (109 A), which departs from in front of the terminal building, Monday-Friday only. There are connections to Belfast, Lisburnmarker and Derry. Trains to and from Dublin are via Belfast Central railway stationmarker, 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 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 by 2015, and 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 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.

References== esactly

External links

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