Belfast International Airport ( IATA: BFS, ICAO: EGAA) is a major airport located 6 miles/11 kilometres from Antrim and 11.5 NM (21.3 km; 13.2 mi) 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. Around 4 million passengers travelled through the airport in 2010, an 11.7% decline since 2009. 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 Belfast-City, Cork and Shannon. 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 airport lies within the parish of Killead, between the small villages of Killead (to the east) and Aldergrove (to the west).

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 London-Gatwick started and in 1968 Aer Lingus and BOAC introduced scheduled services to New York City via Shannon and Glasgow-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
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 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. Flyglobespan previously operated summer seasonal services to Orlando Sanford International Airport and John C. Munro Hamilton International Airport. These routes ceased following the carrier's demise in December 2009. 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 been completed within the airport to move the 'Central Search' area from its previous location,this is part of a bigger plan to increase the area for the main departure Lounge. In addition,as of June 2010 the airport's new drop off zone has been completed and implemented at the front of the complex. The airport has one jetway located on the international pier that allows speedy boarding. It is used on the Newark Service as well as other charter and high density services to mainland Europe and some transcontinental services. The single terminal is large and accommodates most aircraft. The terminal serves all destinations. Bmibaby moved to George Best Belfast City Airport in order to keep its operation under one roof with sister company Bmi. A few months after the BmiBaby moved to the city airport, easyJet announced that their London-Luton route would return to Belfast International and a route to Manchester would commence on 31 October 2011.

Airlines and destinations
Note: denotes charter operators and their destinations

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. BIA plays host to a long-established nightly Royal Mail operation. The major cargo operators are:

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 and again in 2010 to 4 million. 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 2010 passenger numbers have increased by an average of 4.8% annually. Belfast International was the 13th busiest airport in the UK by passenger traffic in 2010, but the large freight volumes handled made it the 6th busiest freight airport in the UK during the period.

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 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 throughout 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.
  • 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.
  • On 31 October 2010, a bomb was found inside a Toyota Carina parked in the long-stay car park. Army bomb experts dismantled the bomb, however it is believed it failed to explode due to a possibility it had been in the car park since 2009, it was only discovered when workers were getting ready to tow the vehicle out of the car park. Many passengers had to spend the night in hotels or arrange alternative transport home as they were unable to get to their cars

Airlines Destinations Aer Lingus Lanzarote, Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, London-Heathrow, Málaga, Tenerife-South Seasonal: Alicante, Barcelona, Faro, Rome-Fiumicino Air Europa Seasonal: Palma de Mallorca Austrian Airlines Seasonal: Innsbruck BH Air Seasonal: Burgas Bulgaria Air Seasonal: Burgas, Varna Continental Airlines Newark Dubrovnik Airline Seasonal: Dubrovnik, Split EasyJet Alicante, Amsterdam, Barcelona, Bristol, Edinburgh, Faro, Glasgow-International, Kraków, Liverpool, London-Gatwick, London-Luton , London-Stansted, Málaga, Malta, Manchester , Newcastle upon Tyne, Paris-Charles de Gaulle Seasonal: Geneva, Ibiza, Nice, Palma de Mallorca Easyjet Seasonal: Brescia Freebird Airlines Seasonal: Dalaman Iberworld Seasonal: Faro Leeds/Bradford, Tenerife-South Seasonal: Alicante , Blackpool, Dubrovnik, Geneva, Ibiza, Jersey, Minorca, Murcia, Palma de Mallorca, Pisa, Toulouse Seasonal: Brescia, Plovdiv, Rovaniemi, Turin Monarch Airlines Seasonal: Funchal Nouvelair Seasonal: Monastir Olympic Airlines Seasonal: Rhodes Onur Air Seasonal: Bodrum , Dalaman Thomas Cook Airlines Alicante, Enfidha , Lanzarote, Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, Tenerife-South Seasonal: Antalya, Bodrum, Dalaman, Fuerteventura, Heraklion, Ibiza, Izmir, Kos , Lleida-Alguaire , Larnaca, Minorca , Orlando-Sanford, Palma de Mallorca, Reus, Sharm el-Sheikh, Verona Thomson Airways Seasonal: Bodrum, Burgas, Dalaman, Faro, Ibiza, Lanzarote, Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, Málaga, Palma de Mallorca, Reus, Sharm el-Sheikh , Tenerife-South Travel Service Seasonal: Arrecife, Corfu, Faro, Fuerteventura, Ibiza, Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, Palma de Mallorca, Reus, Rhodes, Tenerife-South Viking Hellas Seasonal: Heraklion , Larnaca , Rhodes Airlines Destinations DHL Express East Midlands, London-Luton DHL Express operated by Atlantic Airlines Coventry East Midlands Loganair operated by Avion Express Seasonal: Edinburgh (Royal Mail) Maersk London-Stansted Titan Airways Birmingham TNT Airways East Midlands,
Number of Passengers Number of Movements Freight (tonnes) 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 2010 4,016,170 40,324 29,716 Source: United Kingdom Civil Aviation Authority Busiest international routes to and from Belfast International Airport (2009) Rank Airport Passengers 2009 Passengers 2008 % Change 2008 / 09 1 Spain - Málaga 166,017 187,529 11 2 France - Paris Charles de Gaulle 144,345 128,537 12 3 Portugal - Faro 125,419 128,091 2 4 Spain - Palma de Mallorca 124,539 150,828 17 5 United States - Newark 99,794 99,714 0 6 Spain - Barcelona 95,665 122,121 21 7 Netherlands - Amsterdam 91,031 138,669 34 8 Spain - Alicante 86,864 97,098 10 9 Spain - Lanzarote 84,993 66,545 27 10 Spain - Tenerife South 57,196 93,725 38 11 Turkey - Dalaman 47,911 45,545 5 12 Italy - Rome Fiumicino 42,857 36,545 17 13 Poland - Krakow 41,085 50,783 19 14 France - Nice 40,108 54,783 26 15 Spain - Murcia 35,980 44,132 18 16 Germany - Munich 31,419 4,687 570 17 Turkey - Bodrum 28,938 36,786 21 18 Spain - Reus 25,228 39,649 32 19 Spain - Ibiza 24,049 27,720 13 20 United States - Orlando Sanford 23,875 27,276 12 Busiest Domestic routes to and from Belfast International Airport (2009) Rank Airport Passengers 2009 Passengers 2008 % Change 2008 / 09 1 Liverpool 397,052 394,569 1 2 London Gatwick 309,976 347,377 10 3 London Stansted 293,077 313,111 6 4 London Heathrow 266,819 258,033 3 5 London Luton 246,905 263,238 6 6 Edinburgh 232,121 236,927 2 7 Glasgow International 223,844 219,623 2 8 Newcastle 192,673 205,180 6 9 Bristol 163,459 211,923 22 10 Birmingham 130,139 155,920 16


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