Glasgow Airport

Submitted by George Farquhar on Wed, 2011-04-06

Glasgow Airport is Scotland’s principal long-haul gateway, with year-round flights to Canada, the United States and the Gulf. Approximately 7 million passengers use the airport every year, flying to around 90 destinations worldwide.

Glasgow International Airport (Scottish Gaelic: Port-adhair Eadar-nàiseanta Ghlaschu) (formerly Glasgow Abbotsinch Airport) is an international airport in Scotland, located 8 miles (13 km) south west of Glasgow city centre, near the towns of Paisley and Renfrew in Renfrewshire. In 2010 the airport handled 6,548,865 passengers, a 9.4% annual reduction, making it the second busiest in Scotland, after Edinburgh Airport, and the eighth busiest airport in the United Kingdom.

The airport is owned and operated by BAA, which also owns and operates five other UK airports, and is itself owned by ADI Limited, an international consortium, which includes Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec and GIC Special Investments, that is led by the Spanish Ferrovial Group. The Airport is a base for airlines such as BMI Regional, EasyJet, Flybe and Loganair, Jet2, Thomas Cook Airlines and Thomson Airways, and also houses maintenance facilities for British Airways.

Glasgow Aiport was first opened in 1966 and originally only facilatated flights to other places in the United Kingdom and Europe. The British Airports Authority (BAA) took control of the airport in 1975 and when BAA was privatised in the 1980s, Glasgow Airport began to offer flights to other places around the world, flights which previously were facilitated by Glasgow Prestwick Airport. The aiport was the target of a terrorist attack on June 30, 2007, when a Jeep Cherokee loaded with propane canisters was slammed into the main terminal building causing some damage but there were no civilian deaths.

The terminal has three piers:

  • West (International)
  • Central (Domestic)
  • East (Low-cost, Ireland & Scottish islands)

The Central Pier, which was part of the original 1966 building, is now used for domestic destinations. British Airways is based in the 1971 extension to the end of the pier, with Heathrow and Gatwick shuttles making up most of its traffic. There are two BA Executive Club lounges. BMI and Flybe also use the Central Pier.

The East Pier, constructed in the mid 1970s, was originally used for international flights but in recent years has been redeveloped for use by EasyJet and Loganair as well as some charters. Most flights to Ireland and Northern Ireland also use this pier. None of the stands on this pier are provided with airbridges. The major users of this pier are Aer Lingus, Loganair and EasyJet.

The West Pier, built as part of the 1989 extension project, is the principal international and long haul departure point, with some gates capable of handling Boeing 747 aircraft. The largest aircraft currently regularly using the airport are the Emirates Boeing 777-300ER. In early 2006 a redevelopment of the International Departure Lounge took place including the provision of a new business/premium lounge.

Work commenced in late 2007, on Skyhub (located between the Main Terminal and Terminal 2) which created a single, purpose built security screening area in place of the previous individual facilities for each of the three piers, the other side effect being an enlargened duty free shopping area created by taking most of the previous landside shopping and restuarant facilities airside. This new arrangement also frees up space in the departure lounges through the removal of the separate duty free shops in the West and Central Piers. The side effect of this however is that the former public viewing areas of the apron are now airside, making the airport inaccessible to aviation enthusiasts and spectators.

Further growth is hampered by the airport’s location, which is constrained by the M8 motorway to the south, the town of Renfrew to the east and the River Clyde to the north. At present the towns of Clydebank, Bearsden and Linwood all sit directly underneath the approach paths into the airport, meaning that further increases in traffic may be politically sensitive. Glasgow International also faces stiff competition from Glasgow Prestwick Airport, which has reinvented itself as a low-cost hub for budget airlines and which has a direct rail link to Central Glasgow. The Scottish Executive announced in 2002 that a rail line – known as the Glasgow Airport Rail Link (GARL) – would be built from Glasgow Central station to Glasgow International Airport. The rail link was to be completed by 2012 with the first trains running early in 2013. In 2009, however, it was announced by the Scottish Government that the plan had been cancelled.

Currently, the airport is easily accessed by road due to the adjoining M8 motorway and is served by a frequent and dedicated express bus (the “Glasgow Flyer”) from the city centre. The service is run by Arriva under contract to BAA.

The airport is home to the Scottish regional airline Loganair, currently a Flybe franchise operator, who have hangar facilities as well as their head office located on site. British Airways has a maintenance hangar at the airport, capable of carrying out overhaul work on Airbus A320 and Boeing 737 aircraft, as well as a cargo facility.

The Royal Air Force also has a unit based within the airport – The Universities of Glasgow and Strathclyde Air Squadron – to provide flying training to university students who plan to join the RAF.


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