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.
Airlines Serving Birmingham Airport
Serving as an important gateway into the West Midlands region of England, Birmingham Airport proudly hosts several major British airlines. The airport consists of a single terminal building, so all of the check in desks and ticket counters for all the airlines are located in one building.
Thomson Airways operates the most extensive schedule at Birmingham Airport, which is considered the seventh busiest airport in the United Kingdom. The world’s biggest charter airline company connects the city of Birmingham to popular resorts in Europe, the Middle East, North Africa, and North America. Thomson Airways takes its customers to Spain’s tourist hot spots such as Alicante, Balearic Islands, Canary Islands and Malaga. This major charter carrier also goes to Egypt’s Red Sea resort cities of Hurghada and Sharm el Sheikh. Turkish resort cities of Antalya and Izmir are easily accessible via Thomson Airways. The diverse list of resorts accessible via the world’s largest charter carrier also includes Barbados, Marrakech, Naples, Orlando, and Rhodes.
There’s no doubt that passengers at Birmingham Airport love to fly to vacation hot spots because Thomas Cook Airlines also serves the airport. This major British charter carrier also takes Birmingham’s passengers to world famous resorts. In fact, Thomas Cook Airlines offers a very similar lineup of flights to those offered by Thomson Airways. The majority of the charter flights by these two busy companies are available during peak seasons such as the holidays. The British company Monarch Airlines also operates a schedule that primarily focuses on vacation destinations in Europe and the Mediterranean.
Birmingham Airport is connected to some of the biggest cities in Ireland thanks to Aer Lingus service. Ireland’s official flag carrier provides flights to Cork, Connacht, Dublin, and Shannon. Ireland’s low cost carrier Ryanair offers a schedule featuring more than 20 destinations. Ryanair operates direct routes between Birmingham and major European cities such as Bratislava, Budapest, Barcelona, Krakow, Milan, Kaunas, and Gdansk. The Canary Islands and several resorts in the Mediterranean region are also offered through the Irish low cost carrier.
Major European airline companies that operate at Birmingham Airport include flag carriers such as Air France, Austrian Airlines, Brussels Airlines, KLM, Lufthansa, Scandinavian Airlines, Turkish Airlines and Swiss International Airlines. The Middle East is accessible to Birmingham passengers using Emirates, Pakistan International Airlines, and Turkmenistan Airlines.
Only two North American airlines serve Birmingham Airport. Air Transat offers seasonal flights to Toronto and United Airlines provides year-long service to Newark Liberty International Airport near New York City.