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George Best Belfast City Airport

George Best Belfast City Airport (IATA: BHDICAO: 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.

George Best Belfast City Airport
George Best Belfast City Airport.png
George Best Belfast City Airport - - 714574.jpg
Airport type Public
Owner 3i Group plc (3i)
Operator Belfast City Airport Ltd.
Serves Belfast, Northern Ireland
Location Port of Belfast
Focus city for Flybe
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
EGAC is located in Northern Ireland
Location in Northern Ireland
Direction Length Surface
m ft
04/22 1,829 6,001 Asphalt
Statistics (2016)
Passengers 2,665,139
Passenger change 15–16 Decrease1.0%
Aircraft Movements 42,475
Movements change 15–16 Increase1.7%
Sources: UK AIP at NATS[1]
Statistics from the UK Civil Aviation Authority[2]
George Best Belfast City Airport in relation to Belfast city centre

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 slightly below 2.7 million in 2016.[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 yearsEdit

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 2010Edit

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] Recent annual totals were 2,555,111 for 2014, up 0.5% on 2013's figure, 2,692,729 for 2015, up 5.4% from the previous year, and 2,665,139 in 2016, a 1.0% annual fall.[2]

In late 2010 Manx2 moved its Isle of Man service to the airport. Manx2 which became Citywing ceased trading in 2017, however, Eastern airlines subsequently picked up the Isle of Man route.

Development since 2011Edit

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 31 October 2011, and a twice-weekly winter service to Geneva from 17 December 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 (which has since been discontinued) and summer seasonal destinations that included Faro, Málaga and Palma. In late 2014, they also hinted that they were considering launching further routes, however, this has not occurred with a reduction in overall service to the airport.

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 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. The service has been discontinued.

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

In spring 2017, after Citywing announced it was going out of business, Eastern Airways began operating the route to Isle of Man.

Expansion plans and objectionsEdit

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:

  • The requirement for flights to be scheduled between 6:30 am and 9:30 pm. The exception to this is for delayed flights where extensions may be granted.
  • 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.[12]
  • That airlines must not offer more than 4 million seats for sale on flights from the airport per year.[12]
  • The majority of flights must approach and depart the airport over Belfast Lough (currently 52% as of April 2017),[13] rather than over the city of Belfast.[14]
  • Any flight departing over the lough must turn left to head north (further from land) at 500 feet. Only after reaching 2,000 feet (for turboprops) or 3,000 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 2,000 feet (for turboprop aircraft) or 3,000 feet (for jet aircraft) before they are allowed to turn.[15]

Airlines and destinationsEdit

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

Airlines Destinations
Aer Lingus London–Heathrow
Seasonal: Faro, Málaga
Air Iceland Connect Reykjavik–Keflavík (ends 13 May 2018)[17][18]
British Airways London–Heathrow
Flybe Aberdeen, Birmingham, Cardiff, Doncaster/Sheffield (begins 15 June 2018),[19] East Midlands, Edinburgh, Exeter, Glasgow, Inverness, Isle of Man, Leeds/Bradford, Liverpool, London–City, Manchester, Newcastle,[20] Southampton
Seasonal: Newquay
Seasonal charter: Salzburg[21]
KLM Amsterdam


15 busiest routes to and from Belfast City (2016)[22]
Rank Airport Total
2015 / 16
1 London–Heathrow 693,937   1.4%
2 Manchester 266,431   3.6%
3 Birmingham 256,598   0.2%
4 Glasgow 169,839   9.5%
5 Edinburgh 165,550   20.0%
6 Leeds Bradford 159,107   5.5%
7 East Midlands 144,312   2.6%
8 Southampton 117,277   8.1%
9 London–City 111,944   2.6%
10 Liverpool 97,866   13.7%
11 Málaga 67,618   24.2%
12 Faro 67,151   13.7%
13 Cardiff 43,676   4.3%
14 Aberdeen 43,082   7.6%
15 Amsterdam 41,042   57.3%

Ground transportEdit


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 every thirty 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.[23]


  1. ^ a b Belfast/City – EGAC.
  2. ^ a b c d "Aircraft and passenger traffic data from UK airports". UK Civil Aviation Authority. 3 March 2017. Retrieved 15 March 2017. 
  3. ^ a b "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". Archived from the original on 7 May 2015. 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 Archived 18 September 2007 at the Wayback Machine.. (22 March 2006).
  9. ^ "Ryanair to pull out of Belfast City Airport". BBC News. 31 August 2010. 
  10. ^ a b "Examination in Public – Belfast City Airport Planning Agreement". Retrieved 4 June 2015. 
  11. ^ Belfast City Airport Watch.
  12. ^ a b "Belfast City Airport curbs to be relaxed". 2 September 2008. Archived from the original on 7 May 2012. Retrieved 8 October 2014. 
  13. ^
  14. ^ "Error 404: Page Not Found" (PDF). Retrieved 4 June 2015. 
  15. ^[permanent dead link]
  16. ^ - Routes retrieved 11 October 2016
  17. ^
  18. ^
  19. ^ "Flybe Timetable (BHD–DSA)". Flybe. Retrieved 30 November 2017. 
  20. ^ Eastern Airways Flights to operate under Flybe brand
  21. ^
  22. ^ "Airport Data 2016". UK Civil Aviation Authority. 3 March 2017. Tables 12.1(XLS) and 12.2 (XLS). Retrieved 16 March 2017. 
  23. ^ "Airporter Winter Timetable - Valid from 26th October 2014". Airporter. Archived from the original on 28 September 2014. Retrieved 4 June 2015. 

External linksEdit

  Media related to Belfast City Airport at Wikimedia Commons