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Glasgow Airport

Glasgow Airport

Glasgow Airport (Scots: Glesga Airport, Scottish Gaelic: Port-adhair Eadar-nàiseanta Ghlaschu), also known as Glasgow International Airport (IATA: GLA[6], ICAO: EGPF), formerly Abbotsinch Airport, is an international airport in Scotland. It is located in Paisley, Renfrewshire, 8.6 nautical miles (15.9 km; 9.9 mi) west[3] of Glasgow city centre. In 2017, the airport handled nearly 9.9 million passengers, a 6% annual increase, 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 AGS Airports which also owns and operates Aberdeen and Southampton Airports. It was previously owned and operated by Heathrow Airport Holdings (formerly known as BAA).[7] The airport's largest tenants are British Airways, easyJet and Loganair, the latter using it as a hub. Other major airlines using GLA as a base include Flybe, Jet2, Thomas Cook Airlines and TUI Airways (formerly known as Thomson Airways).

Glasgow Airport was opened in 1966 and originally flights only operated to other places in the United Kingdom and Europe. Glasgow Airport began to offer flights to other places around the world, flights which previously used Glasgow Prestwick Airport, which was subsequently relegated as the city's secondary airport catering for low-cost airlines, freight and charter operators.

Glasgow Airport
Airport typePublic
OwnerAGS Airports
OperatorGlasgow Airport Limited
LocationPaisley, Renfrewshire, United Kingdom
Elevation AMSL26 ft / 8 m
Coordinates55°52′19″N 004°25′59″W [60]
Websiteglasgowairport.com [61]
EGPF is located in Renfrewshire
Location of airport in Renfrewshire
05/232,6658,743Grooved Asphalt
Statistics (2018)
Passenger change 17–18Decrease2.1%
Aircraft movements86,226
Movements change 17–18Decrease3.2%
Sources: UK AIP at NATS[3]
Statistics from the UK Civil Aviation Authority[4]
Location from Glasgow Airport[5]


The history of the present Glasgow Airport goes back to 1932, when the site at Abbotsinch, between the Black Cart Water and the White Cart Water, near Paisley in Renfrewshire, was opened and the Royal Air Force 602 Squadron (City of Glasgow) Auxiliary Air Force moved its Wapiti IIA aircraft from nearby Renfrew in January 1933.[8] The RAF Station HQ, however, was not formed until 1 July 1936 when 6 Auxiliary Group, Bomber Command, arrived.[8] From May 1939, until moving away in October 1939, the Squadron flew the Supermarine Spitfire.


In 1940, a torpedo training unit was formed, which trained both RAF and Royal Navy crews.[8] On 11 August 1943 Abbotsinch was handed over solely to the Royal Navy and it became a naval base. All Her Majesty's Ships and naval bases are given ship names and Abbotsinch's was known as HMS Sanderling since June 1940.[8] During the 1950s, the airfield housed a large aircraft storage unit and squadrons of the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve.

The Royal Navy left in October 1963.[8] The name Sanderling was, however, retained as a link between the two: HMS Sanderling's ship's bell was presented to the new airport and a bar in the airport was named The Sanderling Bar.


In the 1960s, Glasgow Corporation decided that a new airport for the city was required. The original site of Glasgow's main airport, Renfrew Airport, was 3 km (1.9 mi) east of Abbotsinch, in what is now the Dean Park area of Renfrew. The original Art Deco terminal building of the original airport has not survived. The site is now occupied by a Tesco supermarket and the M8 motorway; this straight and level section of motorway occupies the site of the runway.[9]

Abbotsinch took over from Renfrew Airport on 2 May 1966.[8][9] The UK Government had already committed millions into rebuilding Prestwick Airport fit for the "jet age". Nevertheless, the plan went forward and the new airport, designed by Basil Spence and built at a cost of £4.2 million, was completed in 1966, with British European Airways beginning services using De Havilland Comet aircraft.

The first commercial flight to arrive was a British European Airways flight from Edinburgh, landing at 8 am on 2 May 1966. The airport was officially opened on 27 June 1966 by Queen Elizabeth II. The political rows over Glasgow and Prestwick airports continued, with Prestwick enjoying a monopoly over transatlantic traffic (under the 1946 US-UK bilateral air transport agreement known as the Bermuda Agreement), while Glasgow Airport was only allowed to handle UK and intra-European traffic.

1970s to 1990s

The aftermath of the 2007 Glasgow International Airport attack

The aftermath of the 2007 Glasgow International Airport attack

In 1975, the BAA took ownership of Glasgow Airport. When BAA was privatised in the late 1980s, as BAA plc, it consolidated its airport portfolio and sold Prestwick Airport. The restrictions on Glasgow Airport were lifted and the transatlantic operators immediately moved from Prestwick, Glasgow Airport being renamed Glasgow International Airport. BAA embarked on a massive redevelopment plan for Glasgow International Airport in 1989.[10]

An extended terminal building was created by building a pre-fabricated metal structure around the front of the original Basil Spence building, hence screening much of its distinctive Brutalist style architecture from view, with the void between the two structures joined by a glass atrium and walkway. Spence's original concrete facade which once looked onto Caledonia Road now fronts the check-in desks. The original building can be seen more clearly from the rear, with the mock barrel-vaulted roof visible when airside.

A dedicated international departure lounge and pier was added at the western side of the building, leaving the facility with a total of 38 gates, bringing its capacity up to nine million passengers per year. In 2003, BAA completed redevelopment work on a satellite building (called "T2", formerly the St. Andrews Building), to provide a dedicated check-in facility for low-cost airlines, principally Aer Lingus, Virgin Atlantic Airways and Thomas Cook Airlines.

By 1996, Glasgow was handling over 5.5 million passengers per annum, making it the fourth-largest airport in the UK.[11]


Terminal 2 building, situated next to the main terminal building

Terminal 2 building, situated next to the main terminal building

Tail fins at the international pier

Tail fins at the international pier

Glasgow Airport main terminal building

Glasgow Airport main terminal building

The airport serves a variety of destinations throughout Europe, North America and the Middle East. Jet2, easyJet, Thomas Cook Airlines, TUI Airways and Loganair have a base at the airport.

The terminal consists of three piers; the West Pier, Central Pier and East Pier.

The West Pier, commonly known as the International Pier, was built as part of the 1989 extension project and is the principal international and long haul departure point. All but two of the stands on this pier are equipped with airbridges. This pier has stands 27 - 36.[12] From 2019, the pier will have the ability to facilitate the A380 following an £8 million upgrade. [13]

The Central Pier was part of the original 1966 building. The British Airways gates are located in the 1971 extension at the end of the pier, with Heathrow and Gatwick shuttles making up most of its traffic as well as BA CityFlyer flights to London City. The British Airways lounge is located on this pier, across from gate 15. Other users of the Central Pier are Flybe and Aer Lingus. Most of the stands on this pier are equipped with airbridges. This pier has stands 14 - 26.[12]

The East Pier, constructed in the mid-1970s, was originally used for international flights but in recent years has been re-developed for use by low-cost airlines. None of the stands on this pier are equipped with airbridges. The main users of this pier are Ryanair, easyJet, Jet2 and Loganair. In 2015 a £3,000,000 extension was added to the pier, creating space for 750,000 extra passengers a year. This pier has stands 1- 12.[12]

In late 2007,[14] work commenced on Skyhub (located between the Main Terminal and Terminal 2)[15] 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 enlarged duty-free shopping area created by taking most of the previous landside shopping and restaurant 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. This however meant that the former public viewing areas of the apron are now airside, making the airport inaccessible to aviation enthusiasts and spectators.

Future 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 areas of Drumchapel, Clydebank, Bearsden, Foxbar, Faifley and Linwood all sit directly underneath the approach paths into the airport, meaning that further increases in traffic may be politically sensitive. The airport is challenged by Edinburgh Airport, which now serves a wider range of European destinations and has grown to overtake Glasgow as Scotland's busiest airport.

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 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.[16]

Currently, the airport is easily accessible by road due with direct access to the adjoining M8 motorway. It is also served by a frequent bus service, the Glasgow Airport Express, which operates services to city centre. The service is run by First Glasgow and all buses feature leather seats, USB charging ports and free WiFi.

The airport is home to the Scottish regional airline Loganair, previously a Flybe franchise operator, who have their head office located on site.[17] British Airways has a maintenance hangar at the airport, capable of carrying out overhaul work on Airbus A320, 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.

In 2007, Glasgow became the second-busiest airport in Scotland as passenger numbers were surpassed by those at Edinburgh Airport.

Icelandair temporarily moved its base of operations from Keflavík International Airport to Glasgow due to the 2010 eruptions of Eyjafjallajökull.

On 10 April 2014 Emirates operated an Airbus A380 to Glasgow to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Glasgow - Dubai route, the first time an A380 had visited a Scottish airport.[18]

In July 2014, Emirates opened a dedicated lounge at the airport[19] for First and Business class passengers. It is located at the top of the West Pier. In October 2014, Heathrow Airport Holdings reached an agreement to sell the airport, together with Southampton and Aberdeen, to a consortium of Ferrovial and Macquarie Group for £1 billion.[20]

easyJet became the first airline to carry more than one million passengers a year from the airport.[21]

On 27 February 2018, Ryanair announced that it would close its base at Glasgow, and retain just three of its 22 routes. It cited the Scottish Government's failure to replace Air Passenger Duty with a cheaper Air Departure Tax.[22][23]

On 16 April 2019, Emirates launched a daily A380 flight on the Glasgow - Dubai route, making it the first regular A380 service in Scotland.[24]


In 2005 BAA published a consultation paper[25] for the development of the airport. The consultation paper included proposals for a second runway parallel to and to the north-west of the existing runway 05/23; redevelopment and enlargement of the East (low-cost) pier to connect directly with Terminal 2; and an additional International Pier to the west of the existing International Pier. There were plans for a new rail terminal, joined to the airport's passenger terminal and multi-storey car park. On 29 November 2006 the Scottish Parliament gave the go-ahead for the new railway station as part of the Glasgow Airport Rail Link to Glasgow Central station, originally due for completion in 2011. However, on 17 September 2009, due to escalating costs, the project was cancelled by the Scottish Government.[26]

BAA's plans, which are expected to cost some £290 million over the next 25 years, come in response to a forecasted trebling of annual passenger numbers passing through the airport by 2030. The current figure of 9.4 million passengers passing through the airport is expected to rise to more than 24 million by 2030.

As of late 2017, there are plans to build a tram-rail link that will link the city centre to the airport with plans already underway to begin construction of the project.[27]

Airlines and destinations

The following airlines operate regular scheduled and charter services to and from Glasgow:[28]

Aer Lingus RegionalCork, Dublin
Air Canada RougeSeasonal: Toronto–Pearson
Air TransatToronto–Pearson
BH AirSeasonal charter: Burgas[29]
Blue AirBucharest
British AirwaysLondon–City, London–Gatwick, London–Heathrow
Seasonal charter: Alicante,[30] Barcelona,[31] Faro,[32] Genoa,[31] Menorca,[33] Milan-Malpensa,[34] Palma de Mallorca,[31] Reus,[31] Salzburg,[35] Venice[31]
Delta Air LinesSeasonal: New York–JFK
easyJetAlicante, Amsterdam, Belfast–International, Berlin–Schönefeld, Birmingham (begins 29 March 2020),[36] Bristol, Faro, Jersey, London–Gatwick, London–Luton, London–Stansted, Málaga, Paris–Charles de Gaulle, Venice[37]
Seasonal: Bordeaux, Geneva, Kos, Marseille, Palma de Mallorca, Split
FlybeBelfast-City, Birmingham, Cardiff (ends 25 October 2019),[38] East Midlands (ends 26 October 2019),[39] Exeter, Manchester, Southampton
Seasonal: Jersey, Newquay
Jet2.comAlicante, Antalya, Barcelona, Fuerteventura, Funchal, Gran Canaria, Kraków (begins 29 November 2019),[40][41] Lanzarote, Prague, Rome–Fiumicino, Tenerife–South
Seasonal: Almeria (begins 3 May 2020),[42] Bodrum, Burgas, Corfu, Dalaman, Dubrovnik, Faro, Geneva, Girona, Grenoble, Heraklion, Ibiza, Izmir, Kefalonia,[43] Kos, Larnaca, Málaga, Malta, Menorca, Naples, Palma de Mallorca, Paphos, Reus, Rhodes, Thessaloniki,[44] Zakynthos
LoganairBarra, Benbecula, Campbeltown, Cardiff (begins 27 February 2020),[45] Derry, Donegal,[46][47] Düsseldorf,[48] East Midlands (begins 27 October 2019) [49], Islay, Kirkwall, London-Southend,[50] Stornoway, Sumburgh, Tiree
Seasonal: Guernsey[51]
Seasonal: Munich[52]
RyanairDublin, Kraków, Málaga, Warsaw–Modlin, Wrocław
Seasonal: Alicante, Charleroi
Thomas Cook AirlinesAntalya, Fuerteventura, Lanzarote, Tenerife–South
Seasonal: Bodrum, Burgas, Cancún, Corfu, Dalaman, Enfidha, Gran Canaria, Heraklion, Hurghada,[53] Ibiza, Kos,[54] Larnaca, Menorca, Orlando, Palma de Mallorca, Reus, Rhodes, Zakynthos
TUI AirwaysAlicante, Lanzarote, Tenerife–South
Seasonal: Antalya, Burgas, Cancún, Corfu, Dalaman, Dubrovnik, Enfidha, Gran Canaria, Heraklion, Ibiza, Larnaca, Málaga, Menorca, Naples, Orlando/Sanford, Palma de Mallorca, Paphos, Reus, Rhodes, Rovaniemi, Salzburg, Verona, Zakynthos[55]
Seasonal charter: Chambéry,[56] Turin[56]
United AirlinesSeasonal: Newark
Virgin AtlanticSeasonal: Orlando
WestJetSeasonal: Halifax
Wizz AirBudapest
Seasonal: Katowice


Annual traffic data

**Glasgow Airport Passenger Totals 1997–2018 (millions)**
Updated: 29/05/2019
Number of Passengers[1]Number of Movements[2]Freight
*Source: United Kingdom Civil Aviation Authority [62] *[4]

Busiest routes

**Busiest routes to and from Glasgow (2018)[[CITE|57|https://web.archive.org/web/20190329195127/https://www.caa.co.uk/Data-and-analysis/UK-aviation-market/Airports/Datasets/UK-Airport-data/Airport-data-2018/]]**
2017 / 18
1United KingdomLondon–Heathrow911,191Increase0.2%
2United KingdomLondon–Gatwick620,383Increase0.3%
3Republic of IrelandDublin494,340Increase0.3%
4United Arab EmiratesDubai–International455,037Decrease2.6%
5United KingdomLondon–Stansted432,349Decrease18.0%
7United KingdomBristol312,051Increase1.6%
9United KingdomBelfast–International291,253Increase11.6%
10United KingdomLondon–Luton243,728Increase3.8%
11United KingdomBirmingham234,522Increase5.8%
13United KingdomLondon–City230,223Decrease0.4%
15SpainPalma de Mallorca206,673Decrease11.5%
16United KingdomSouthampton186,325Decrease5.8%
19United KingdomBelfast–City148,985Decrease8.9%

Accidents and incidents

  • On 3 September 1999, a Cessna 404 carrying nine Airtours staff from Glasgow to Aberdeen on a transfer flight, crashed minutes after take off near the town of Linwood, Renfrewshire. Eight people were killed and three seriously injured. No one on the ground was hurt. A fatal accident inquiry into the accident later found that the aircraft developed an engine malfunction during take off. Although the captain decided to return to the airfield, he mistakenly identified the working engine as the faulty one and shut it down, causing the aircraft to crash.

  • On 30 June 2007, a day after the failed car bomb attacks in London, an attack at Glasgow International Airport occurred. A flaming Jeep Cherokee was driven into the entrance of Main Terminal. Two men, one alight, fled the vehicle before being apprehended by a combination of police officers, airport security officers and witnesses. One of the men died in the following months due to injuries sustained in the attack. New barriers and security measures have been added to prevent a similar incident from taking place.[58]

Ground transport

Airport express buses are painted in a distinctive livery.

Airport express buses are painted in a distinctive livery.

The airport is currently linked to Glasgow City Centre by Glasgow Shuttle bus service 500. This is run by First Glasgow under contract to Glasgow Airport. Started in 2011, the service runs 24 hours a day, direct via the M8 motorway. McGill's Bus Services service 757 links the airport with Paisley Gilmour Street railway station, Paisley town centre, Erskine & Clydebank. This bus accepts National Rail tickets between Glasgow Airport and any railway station.

Plans for a rail link from the airport to Glasgow Central station were proposed in the 2000s, shelved in 2009 and then resurrected in December 2016; work is due to start in 2022, with the line expected to open in 2025.


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