George Best Belfast City Airport
|Owner||3i Group plc (3i)|
|Operator||Belfast City Airport Ltd.|
|Serves||Belfast, Northern Ireland|
|Location||Port of Belfast|
|Opened||16 March 1983|
|Focus city for|
|Elevation AMSL||15 ft / 5 m|
George Best Belfast City Airport (IATA: BHD, ICAO: EGAC) is a single-runway airport in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Situated in County Down, it is adjacent to the Port of Belfast and is 3 miles (5 kilometres) from Belfast City Centre. It shares the site with the Short Brothers/Bombardier aircraft manufacturing facility. The airport began commercial operations in 1983, and was known as "Belfast City Airport" until it was renamed in 2006 in memory of George Best, the professional footballer from Belfast. The airport has a CAA public use aerodrome licence (number P862) that allows flights for the public transport of passengers or for flying instruction.
The airport primarily handles intra-UK flights. It handled over 2.4 million passengers in 2019, having peaked at 2.7 million in 2010.  The airport was a major base for Flybe which began operations at the airport in 1993, and was the largest operator at Belfast City until its demise in 2020. Ground handling is provided by Swissport and Menzies Aviation, the latter also offering cargo handling services.
Sydenham Airport was established by Shorts beside its Belfast factory at Sydenham in 1937. It was opened on 16 March 1938 by Anne Chamberlain, the wife of then British Prime Minister, Neville Chamberlain. The inaugural flight was to Glasgow, Scotland. This became Belfast's main civilian airport from 1938 to 1939. The airfield was requisitioned by the RAF as RAF Belfast in 1941, then transferred to Royal Navy becoming HMS Gadwall (also as RNAS Belfast or RNAS Sydenham) in 1943.RAF Nutts Corner then became Belfast's main airport (while Aldergrove would later become the primary airport in Northern Ireland).
In 1952, the runway was extended to its present 6,000 feet (1,800 m). The Sydenham airfield continued to be used for military purposes until the 1970s (reverting to RAF Belfast in 1973 and closing in 1978), 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 form).
A new terminal was officially opened on 3 June 2001. 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.
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. The renaming of the airport caused controversy, with many articles in local and national print media highlighting the mixed feelings of Belfast residents. Also in March 2006 Flybe announced that it would be naming its Belfast City - Manchester service after the footballer, dedicating a plane to him.
In October 2007 Ryanair established its 23rd base at the airport, operating five routes and carrying 800,000 annual passengers. The airline closed its Belfast City base in 2010 due to delays in the planned runway extension. The airline stated that would fly to European destinations from the airport if the runway was extended.
Manx2 moved its Isle of Man service to the airport in 2010, however the airline has since ceased operations.
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.
In January 2011 Bmibaby moved its Belfast base to the airport, in order to keep its operation under one roof with sister airline BMI. The airline ceased operations from Belfast City Airport in June 2012.
In October 2012 Aer Lingus moved its services from Belfast International to the Airport. The airline launched flights to five destinations, though has since reduced their operations to just one route. Spanish carrier Vueling launched summer-seasonal flights to Barcelona in May 2015, though the route was cancelled in late 2015. Dutch carrier KLM launched daily flights to Amsterdam in 2015, with flights operated by KLM Cityhopper.Brussels Airlines launched flights to Brussels in 2016, though the airline axed the route in 2017. In early 2017, Eastern Airways commenced flights to the Isle of Man following the demise of Citywing, though the airline axed the route in 2018. Icelandic carrier Air Iceland Connect commenced flights to Keflavik in 2017 on behalf of Icelandair, though the route was cancelled in 2018. Scottish airline Loganair commenced operations to Carlisle in 2019, followed by Dundee in 2020.
Flybe, which operated 80% of flights and carried over 1.6 million passengers across 14 routes, ceased operations in March 2020. Subsequently, Loganair commenced flights to Aberdeen, Glasgow, and Inverness. Eastern Airways also took up former flybe services to Southampton Airport. It will also take up Flybe's former service to Cardiff Airport in March 2021. In August 2020, Aer Lingus Regional established a new base at the airport, operating 5 based aircraft to 6 UK destinations. British Airways also took up Flybe's former London City route having commenced operating flights to London City on 7 September 2020. As of March 2021, five airlines fly from the airport.
In March 2021, Ryanair announced that they would recommence flights from Belfast City, transferring them back from Belfast International Airport, to eight international destinations for the summer of that year. It will be the first time in almost 11 years that Ryanair has operated flights from the Geogre Best since they left the airport in October 2010, claiming issues about the runway being extended. There are still no plans for the runway to be extended, casting doubt on the veracity of Ryanair's reasons for leaving the airport and moving to Belfast International Airport in 2010.
The current CEO, Brian Ambrose, is due to retire in the summer of 2021.
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 applied for a complete removal of the limit on the seats it can sell in 2013 - 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.
Restrictions applied to the airport include:
The following airlines operate regular scheduled and charter flights to and from Belfast City Airport:
|Birmingham, East Midlands, Edinburgh, Exeter, Leeds/Bradford, Manchester|
|British Airways|| London-City, London-Heathrow |
Seasonal charter: Palma de Mallorca (begins 19 June 2021)
|Cardiff (begins 24 May 2021),Southampton|
|Loganair||Aberdeen, Dundee, Glasgow, Inverness, Isle of Man (begins 21 June 2021),Teesside|
|Ryanair||Seasonal: Alicante (begins 1 June 2021),Barcelona (begins 1 June 2021),Bergamo (begins 3 July 2021),Faro (begins 2 June 2021), Ibiza (begins 2 July 2021),Málaga (begins 1 June 2021),Palma de Mallorca (begins 2 June 2021),Valencia (begins 1 July 2021)|
|Number of passengers||Number of movements||Freight |
2018 / 19
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.
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.
Media related to Belfast City Airport at Wikimedia Commons