George Best Belfast City Airport

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George Best Belfast City Airport
George Best Belfast City Airport ( IATA: BHD, ICAO: EGAC) is a single-runway airport in Belfast, County Down, Northern Ireland. Situated adjacent to the Port of Belfast it is 3 miles (5 km) from Belfast City Centre. 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 professional footballer from Belfast, best known for his time with Manchester United. The airport handled over 2.7 million passengers in 2010, a 4.5% increase since 2009 and a record total for the airport. 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 Corner then became Belfast's main airport (while Aldergrove 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 in 2003 for £35 million to the Spanish company Ferrovial, the owner of BAA Airports. Ferrovial re-sold the airport in September 2008 for £132.5 million to ABN Amro Global Infrastructure Fund. On 30 October 2007, Ryanair established its 23rd base at the airport. The newest route was between Belfast and London Stansted, following Air Berlin's announcement that it would discontinue the route on 31 October 2007. On 31 August 2010, Ryanair announced it would close its Belfast City base, meaning all Ryanair services were lost from 31 October 2010. Five routes and 800,000 passengers per annum will be lost at the airport as a result. The closure of the base was due to the planned runway extension being delayed for a further two years. The airline had stated it would fly to European destinations from the airport if the runway was extended. The handling agent at the airport is Servisair, which also operates at most other airports in the UK & Ireland. Passenger numbers increased by 4.5% from 2,621,763 in 2009 to 2,740,341 in 2010, the highest total on record at the airport.

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 turboprop aircraft) 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 Exchange retail development. This would take advantage of the high capacity flyover serving that site and reduce congestion at the existing entrances.

Renaming in memory of George Best
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 22 May 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 - Manchester service after the late footballer, dedicating a plane to him.

Airlines and destinations
Note: denotes charter airlines and their destinations

Passenger statistics


The airport is located on the A2, Sydenham by-pass road between Belfast and Holywood.

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

Sydenham railway station 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 Bangor and Portadown. Trains towards Portadown call at the Belfast Central and Great Victoria Street railway stations. With the construction of the new passenger terminal further north-east, passengers arriving or departing by train can request an airport courtesy bus to take them to or from the terminal.

Airlines Destinations BMI London-Heathrow Bmibaby Birmingham, Cardiff, East Midlands, London-Stansted, Manchester EasyJet London-Luton Flybe Aberdeen, Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, Doncaster/Sheffield, East Midlands, Edinburgh, Exeter, Glasgow-International, Inverness, Leeds/Bradford, Liverpool, London-Gatwick, Manston , Manchester, Newcastle upon Tyne, Paris Charles de Gaulle, Southampton Seasonal: Guernsey, Jersey, Rennes Flybe Seasonal: Bergerac, Chambery, Grenoble, Memmingen, Salzburg, Verona Flybe operated by Loganair Dundee Manx2 Blackpool, Isle of Man Seasonal: Galway Busiest Domestic routes to and from Belfast City Airport (2009) Rank Airport Passengers 2009 Passengers 2008 % Change 2008 / 09 1 London Heathrow 522,676 521,913 0 2 London Stansted 328,619 340,303 3 3 Manchester 229,875 235,998 2 4 London Gatwick 215,485 189,398 13 5 Birmingham 195,383 213,847 8 6 East Midlands 162,271 128,764 26 7 Liverpool 158,172 155,876 1 8 Edinburgh 119,386 126,539 5 9 Glasgow 100,055 104,553 4 10 Prestwick 91,672 86,330 6 11 Southampton 84,051 86,399 2 12 Bristol 79,014 - - 13 Leeds Bradford 78,332 76,101 2 14 Newcastle 41,878 40,449 3 15 Cardiff 32,754 40,673 19

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