George Best Belfast City Airport

George Best Belfast City Airport
Belfast City Airport
Airport type Public
Operator Belfast City Airport Ltd.
Serves Belfast, United Kingdom
Location Port of Belfast
Elevation AMSL 15 ft / 5 m
Coordinates 54°37′05″N 05°52′21″W / 54.61806°N 5.87250°W / 54.61806; -5.87250Coordinates: 54°37′05″N 05°52′21″W / 54.61806°N 5.87250°W / 54.61806; -5.87250

Location in Northern Ireland

Direction Length Surface
m ft
04/22 1,829 6,001 Asphalt
Statistics (2015)
Passengers 2,692,713
Passenger change 14–15 Increase5.4%
Aircraft Movements 41,782
Movements change 14–15 Decrease12.6%
Sources: UK AIP at NATS[1]
Statistics from the UK Civil Aviation Authority[2]

George Best Belfast City Airport (IATA: BHD, ICAO: EGAC) is a single-runway airport in Belfast, County Antrim, Northern Ireland. Situated adjacent to the Port of Belfast[1] it is 3 mi (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.[3] The airport handled over 2.7 million passengers in 2010, a record total for the airport, though the total was only slightly below 2.7 million in 2015.[2]

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. The airport has a CAA public use aerodrome licence (number P862) that allows flights for the public transport of passengers or for flying instruction. Ground handling is provided by Swissport and Menzies Aviation.[4][5] In 2012 Aer Lingus opened a base at the airport transferring operations from Belfast International Airport.


Early years

Sydenham Airport was established by Shorts beside its Belfast factory at Sydenham 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 and named HMS Gadwall. 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, including use by the Fleet Air Arm as a naval aircraft storage unit, after which it was used solely 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).

Development from 2000 to 2010

Following major capital investment Bombardier sold the airport in 2003 for £35 million to the Spanish company Ferrovial,[6] the owner of BAA Airports. Ferrovial re-sold the airport in September 2008 for £132.5 million to ABN Amro Global Infrastructure Fund.[7]

In March 2006, it was announced that the airport would be renamed in memory of 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.[3] The renaming of the airport caused controversy, with many articles in local and national print media highlighting the mixed feelings of Belfast residents.[8] Also in March 2006 Flybe announced that it would be naming its Belfast City – Manchester service after the footballer, dedicating a plane to him.

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.[9]

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.[2] Figure for 2014 is 2,555,111 passengers, up 0.5% on 2013's figure and 2,692,729 for 2015, up 5.4% from the previous year.

In late 2010 Manx2 moved its Isle of Man service to the airport. Many airlines followed the Manx airline in moving to the City airport.

Development since 2011

Flybe Bombardier Q400 on the runway at Belfast City Airport

In early 2011 Easyjet operated its London Luton route from the airport. This was to see if there was any benefit to the airline and its customers. The airline noticed no difference and moved the route back to Belfast International.

In January 2011 Bmibaby moved to George Best Belfast City Airport in order to keep its operation under one roof with sister company BMI. In June 2012 Bmibaby ceased all routes from Belfast City, prior to its total cessation of operations, leading Flybe to increase schedule frequency on some routes. The carrier added routes from Belfast to Málaga, Alicante, Palma, Faro and Ibiza for summer 2012, in addition to a new year-round six-times weekly service to Amsterdam from October 31, 2011, and a twice-weekly winter service to Geneva from December 17, 2011. They all ceased in summer 2012.

In October 2012 Aer Lingus moved its services from Belfast International to the Airport. They launched flights to London Heathrow and London Gatwick and summer seasonal destinations that included Faro, Málaga and Palma. In late 2014, they also hinted that they were considering launching further routes.

In November 2014, Spanish airline Vueling announced that it was going to launch summer-seasonal flights to Barcelona from May 2015. Vueling cancelled the route in late 2015. Flybe also announced that it would commence flights to Liverpool in February 2015. Both of these new routes would be in direct competition with easyJet, who flies from Belfast International.

In January 2015, Dutch carrier KLM announced that it was going to launch flights to Amsterdam from May 2015 using Fokker 70 aircraft. This will be the first time the airline has flown to Northern Ireland since it suspended flights to Belfast International in 1999. The route will be in direct competition with easyJet, who flies from Belfast International.

In October 2015, Brussels Airlines announced that it was going to launch year-round flights to Brussels from March 2016 using Avro RJ100 aircraft.

In December 2016, Icelandair announced that it was going to launch thrice weekly flights to Reykjavik Keflavik from 1 June 2017. The flight will be operated by Sister airline Air Iceland using Bombardier Dash 8 Q400 aircraft

Expansion plans and objections

Control tower at Belfast City

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[10] – 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[11] – to protest against the airport's proposed expansion plans, and to represent the views of residents at the Examination in Public held during 2006.[10]

Restrictions applied to the airport include:

Airlines and destinations

The following airlines operate regular scheduled and charter flights to and from Belfast City Airport:[16]

Aer Lingus London–Heathrow
Seasonal: Alicante, Faro, Málaga, Palma de Mallorca
Seasonal charter: Salzburg (begins 24 December 2016),[17] Verona
British Airways London–Heathrow
Brussels Airlines Brussels
operated by Van Air Europe
Blackpool, Isle of Man
Flybe Aberdeen, Birmingham, Cardiff, East Midlands, Edinburgh, Exeter, Glasgow, Inverness, Leeds Bradford, Liverpool, London–City, Manchester, Southampton
Seasonal: Newquay
operated by Air Iceland
Reykjavík-Keflavík (begins 1 June 2017), [18]
operated by KLM Cityhopper


Busiest domestic routes to and from Belfast City Airport (2015)[2]
Rank Airport Passengers
% Change
1 London Heathrow 684,255674,889 Increase1
2 Manchester 276,512297,467 Decrease7
3 Birmingham 256,023260,330 Decrease2
4 London Gatwick 212,897277,800 Decrease23
5 Glasgow International 155,157142,833 Increase9
6 Leeds Bradford 150,842156,542 Decrease4
7 East Midlands 148,170142,815 Increase4
8 Edinburgh 137,972142,403 Decrease3
9 London City 114,94018,599 Increase518
10 Southampton 108,528106,651 Increase2
Busiest International routes to and from Belfast City Airport (2015)[2]
Rank Airport Passengers
% Change
1 Faro 59,05357,443 Increase3
2 Málaga 54,45651,398 Increase6
3 Amsterdam 26,084New Route Increase
4 Palma 11,48011,064 Increase4
5 Barcelona 10,456New Route Increase
6 Verona 9,53010,319 Decrease8

Ground transportation


Regular train services operate into central Belfast

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 northeast, passengers arriving or departing by train can request an airport courtesy bus to take them to or from the terminal.


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


Translink Metro 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 10 minutes from Sydenham to Belfast City Hall. The Airporter service operates 12 coach services to the airport on weekdays as well as 5 coaches on Saturdays and 8 coaches on Sundays to Derry.[19]


  1. 1 2 Belfast/City – EGAC.
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 "Aircraft and passenger traffic data from UK airports". UK Civil Aviation Authority. 25 March 2016. Retrieved 3 April 2016.
  3. 1 2 "Best family proud of airport name". BBC News. 22 May 2006. Retrieved 19 December 2011.
  4. Silverfish AG, Zürich. "Swissport International Ltd. - Network". Retrieved 4 June 2015.
  5. "Menzies Aviation - Network". Retrieved 4 June 2015.
  6. Spanish firm secures Northern Ireland Airport. BBC News (23 May 2003).
  7. Airport Sale News Archived 6 May 2009 at the Wayback Machine.
  8. 'George Best Airport' splits city. (22 March 2006).
  9. "Ryanair to pull out of Belfast City Airport". BBC News. 31 August 2010.
  10. 1 2 "Examination in Public – Belfast City Airport Planning Agreement". Retrieved 4 June 2015.
  11. Belfast City Airport Watch.
  12. 1 2 "Belfast City Airport curbs to be relaxed". 2008-09-02. Retrieved 2014-10-08.
  14. "Error 404: Page Not Found" (PDF). Retrieved 4 June 2015.
  16. - Routes retrieved 11 October 2016
  17. "Aer Lingus Cargo Winter 2016 -2017 effective October 30" (PDF). Aer Lingus Cargo. Retrieved 27 October 2016.
  18. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  19. "Airporter Winter Timetable - Valid from 26th October 2014". Airporter. Retrieved 4 June 2015.

External links

Media related to Belfast City Airport at Wikimedia Commons

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