Belfast International Airport

Airport History

November 1917

Aldergrove selected to be the Royal Flying Corps training establishment during the First World War.  With the end of the war, Aldergrove remained open for Royal Air Force aircraft and for the fledgling civil traffic to and from Northern Ireland.

June 1921

King George V and Queen Mary visited Northern Ireland.  Aircraft landed at Aldergrove with cameramen and reporters and returned to London with newsreel films and photographs of the event.

May 1925

Northern Ireland's own Special Reserve unit No 502 (Ulster) Squadron RAF was formed at Aldergrove.


During the second World War, Aldergrove remained an RAF base, particularly for the Coastal Command.


The decision was taken to move civil flights back to Aldergrove because of less variable weather conditions than those at Nutts Corner.  In recent years aircraft had been diverted from Nutts Corner to Aldergrove because of adverse weather conditions.

26 Sept 1963

Operations were transferred from Nutts Corner to Aldergrove.  The first passenger flight to land that day was a BEA Viscount from Manchester.

28 Oct 1963

HRH Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother reopened Aldergrove as a civil airport and inaugurated the present terminal building.

4 January 1966

The start of the first regular jet service, by a British United BAC 1-11 to Gatwick.


Aer Lingus and BOAC started scheduled services to New York via Shannon and Prestwick respectively.


Annual passenger numbers hit the 1 million mark.


The Minister of Development revealed a £3million expansion plan for the airport which included the extension of the main runway by over 3,000 ft.

1 Jun 1971

The newly formed Northern Ireland Airports Limited took over operation of the airport from the UK Department of Trade and Industry.

1 April 1977

British Airways launch the first Belfast Heathrow shuttle service.

3 Jul 1977

The first Jumbo jet operates from Aldergrove on a charter service to Toronto via Shannon.


The first scheduled service to a European city was started by NLM Cityhopper which operated flights to Amsterdam.


Work finished on the second stage of the long term development plan which included the completion of the dedicated international pier, relocation of the check-in area and the installation of the moving walkway.


The Airport was renamed Belfast International.


Annual passenger numbers hit the 1.5 million mark.

26 Mar 1984

British Midland went into competition with BA on the Heathrow route.


The new Executive Aviation Terminal was opened.


Annual passenger numbers hit the 2 million mark.

17 July 1991

The new cargo centre was officially opened.

20 July 1994

Belfast International Airport was privatised following a management buy-out resulting in the creation of Belfast International Airport Holdings Ltd.

30 November 1995

Air Force One landed at Belfast International carrying the former US President and First Lady, Bill and Hilary Clinton.

13 August 1996

Belfast International was bought by TBI.


easyJet started operations from the airport.


Annual passenger numbers hit the 3 million mark.

21 Oct 2003

Concorde touches down at Belfast International on its final farewell tour.


Annual passenger numbers hit the 4.5 million mark.

5 Jan 2005

The TBI group is bought over by ACDL.

27th May 2005

Continental Airlines start direct services between Belfast International Airport and New York Newark.


Annual passenger numbers hit the 5 million mark.

10 December 2007

Aer Lingus open their first base outside of the Republic of Ireland at Belfast International Airport.

22 October 2010

HRH The Queen offically marks the completion of the terminal infrastructure including the new central circulation core

6 November 2011

BIA host  airport for the MTV European Music Awards

15-18th June 2013

BIA host  airport for the G8 conference

1st October 2013

US-based ADC & HAS Airports Worldwide completes the acquisition of Belfast International Airport from TBI Limited