Still proudly celebrating its 70th anniversary, which occurred in 2009, Birmingham Airport has grown and thrived. Located in the Midlands of the United Kingdom, Birmingham Airport began with one two-seat plane and now serves destinations around the world. Since opening, it has grown to be a large, successful regional airport, catering to a local population of 8 million.
Originally approved by the city council in 1928, the planning was delayed by the depression. It wasn’t until 1933 when the plans for the airport became reality. On May 1, 1939, Birmingham Airport began service under the name of Elmdon Airport. The first flight was piloted by the Lord Mayor who flew his two-seater Swallow onto the runway beginning the airport’s history. It was official opened by HRH the Duchess of Kent on July 8, 1939, with Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain in attendance.
The airport was taken over by the government during the war used by the RAF and Royal Navy as a flying school. The airport was not given back over to the city’s control until 1960. Operations at the airport, however, continued to function regularly once the war ended and on July 8, 1946, civilian flights resumed. In 1961, Birmingham Airport expanded to include international flights and continues to extend its capabilities and reach further in the international arena.
During the lifetime of the Concorde, Birmingham Airport was lucky enough to be an occasional destination. Showing up from time to time, the Concorde was present for many of the airport’s special occasions, such as the opening of the new terminal in 1984.
Birmingham Airport Growth
The growth of the airport through the 1990s and 2000s was 7.8%, which outpaced UK averages. In 2006, the airport had 9 million passengers, more than Glasgow or Edinburgh. Projections for passenger counts show growth to 27.2 million by 2030, in part due to the expanding reach of direct international flights. This growth led to the construction of a new air traffic control tower to increase visibility and safety and the extension of the runway.
The airport has a long term plan to handle the growth of their system. In the Airport Master Plan, titled “Towards 2030: Planning a Sustainable Future for Air Transport in the Midlands,” they outline the plan to handle the increasing traffic, which includes the growing noise for the surrounding neighborhoods and developing environmental sustainability. The airport has implemented programs like the Sound Insulation Scheme, in which the airport provided 7,000 homes with sound proofing to reduce noise.
The airport is relatively small. It has only two adjacent terminals, which are connected by a building, making moving through the airport convenient. To have enough for check-in and security, international passengers should arrive approximately 2-3 hours prior to departure. European passengers should arrive 2 hours prior to departure and passengers traveling within the United Kingdom should arrive 1 hour prior to departure. Passengers should always check security rules before arriving at the airport, as they do change from time to time.
Birmingham has several parking options available. For the short to medium stay area, the parking structure is a brief 1-minute walk to the terminal. The long stay structure is a 5-10 minute walk to the terminal. If this is inconvenient, the airport offers an official valet service, which will park and return your car for you. This is a 1-minute walk to the terminal. Booking parking reservations can be done online ahead of your trip to the airport, making parking more convenient. Birmingham Airport also offers motorcycle parking within a 1-minute walk to the terminal.