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George Best Belfast City Airport is an airport in Belfastmarker, County Down, Northern Irelandmarker. The airport has a single runway operation. Situated adjacent to the Port of Belfastmarker it is 2 miles from Belfast city centremarker. It shares the site with the Short Brothers/Bombardier aircraft manufacturing facility. The airport began commercial operations in 1983.

The airport was formerly known as Belfast City Airport until it was renamed in 2006 in memory of George Best, the famous footballer from Belfast.

The airport handled over 2.5 million passengers for the first time in 2008, a 17.5% increase since 2007 and a 35.6% increase over the six years since 2002.

The airport is a major base for Flybe, which began operations at the airport in 1993 and is now the largest operator at Belfast City.

Belfast City has a CAA public use aerodrome licence (number P862) that allows flights for the public transport of passengers or for flying instruction.


Sydenham Airport was established by Shorts beside its Belfast factory at Sydenham, Belfast in 1937. This became Belfast's main civilian airport from 1938 to 1939. The airfield was requisitioned by the Royal Navy during the Second World War. RAF Nutts Cornermarker then became Belfast's main airport (while Aldergrovemarker would later become the primary airport in Northern Ireland). The Sydenham airfield continued to be used for military purposes until the 1970s, after which it was used 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 guise).

Present day

Following major capital investment Bombardier sold the airport for £35 million to the Spanish company Ferrovial, the owner of British Airports Authority, however on 27 May 2008, they announced their intention to resell the airport by placing it on the open market, as reported by the BBC.

Ferrovial is one of Europe's leading construction groups and a growing airport management group. It also manages several other airports worldwide.

On 30 October 2007, Ryanair established its 23rd base at the airport. The newest route was between Belfast and London Stanstedmarker, following Air Berlin's announcement that it would discontinue the route on 31 October 2007.

The only handling agent at the airport is Aviance UK Ltd which operates at several other airports around the UK.



The airport is located on the A2marker, Sydenham by-pass road between Belfastmarker and Holywoodmarker.


Flexibus route 600 is the Belfast City Airlink service, from the terminal to the Belfast Europa Buscentremarker adjacent to the Europa Hotelmarker and Belfast Great Victoria Street railway stationmarker. Buses run up to every twenty minutes throughout the day. In addition Metro bus 3A operates every 20 minutes from Sydenham to Belfast City Hallmarker. The Airporter service operates 10 coaches on weekdays and 7 coaches on weekends and bank holidays to Derrymarker.


Sydenham railway stationmarker 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 Bangormarker and Portadownmarker. Trains towards Portadown call at Belfast Centralmarker and Belfast Great Victoria Streetmarker. With the construction of the new passenger terminal further north-east, passengers arriving or departing by train can request a airport courtesy bus to take them to or from the terminal.

Expansion plans and objections

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 recently applied for a complete removal of the limit on the seats it can sell - 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 - to protest against the airport's proposed expansion plans, and to represent the views of residents at the Examination in Public held during 2006.

The airport is now preparing to make a proposal for a hotel to be sited either on the land currently occupied by the cargo facilities or the short stay car park . If sited on the car park it would have a covered walkway into the terminal . The nearest hotels to the airport are in the city centre, around 10 to 15 minutes drive from the terminal during peak times.

Restrictions applied to the airport include:
  • The requirement for flights to operate between 6:30 am and 9:30 pm (with extensions granted in exceptional circumstances to operate delayed flights up to midnight).
  • 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.
  • That airlines must not offer more than 4 million seats for sale on flights from the airport per year.
  • The majority of flights must approach and depart the airport over Belfast Lough (currently 57% as of December 2008)), rather than over the city of Belfast.
  • Any flight departing over the lough must turn left to head north (further from land) at 500 feet. Only after reaching 1500 feet (for turboprops) or 3000 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 1500 feet (for turboprops) or 3000 feet (for jet aircraft) before they are allowed to turn.

The airport owners are studying providing access to the airport through the adjacent Holywood Exchangemarker retail development. This would take advantage of the high capacity flyover serving that site and reduce congestion at the existing entrances.

Renamed in memory of George Best

The new airport signage
In March 2006, it was announced that the airport would be renamed in memory of the late 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 May 22 2006, which would have been Best's 60th birthday.

The renaming of the airport caused considerable controversy, with many articles in local and national print media highlighting the mixed feeling of Belfast residents. While many residents supported the move, an equal number of citizens felt that a more appropriate Belfast figure could have been chosen for the honour.

In March 2006 Flybe announced that it would be naming its Belfast City - Manchestermarker service after the late footballer, dedicating a plane to him. However the aircraft, a Bombardier Dash 8, G-JECL, does not serve this route on a regular basis and rarely makes an appearance at the airport.

Airlines and destinations


External links


  1. Spanish firm secures Northern Ireland Airport
  3. Examination in Public - Belfast City Airport Planning Agreement
  4. Belfast City Airport Watch
  5. [1]
  6. [2]
  7. [3]
  8. [4]
  9. Best family proud of airport name
  10. 'George Best Airport' splits city

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