Glasgow International Airport located in Renfrewshire, 8 miles west of Glasgow, near the towns of Paisley and Renfrew, is currently the busiest airport in Scotland, and seventh busiest in the UK in terms of annual passenger throughput. Glasgow International Airport was the first airport in Scotland to handle over one million passengers in one month.
Glasgow International Airport is owned by BAA plc, which also owns London Heathrow, London Gatwick, London Stansted, Edinburgh, Aberdeen and Southampton airports.
The history of Glasgow International Airport goes back to 1932, when the current site at Abbotsinch was used as an overspill airfield for the adjacent RAF base. The original site of Glasgow’s “main” airport was 3 km (2 miles) east, in what is now the Dean Park area of Renfrew. The original Art Deco terminal building of Renfrew Airport has not survived, the site now being occupied by a Tesco supermarket and theM8 motorway.
In the 1960s, Glasgow Corporation decided that a new airport for the city be constructed at nearby Abbotsinch. It was a controversial plan as central 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 8am on May 2, 1966. Glasgow International Airport was officially opened on June 27, 1966 by Queen Elizabeth II.
The political rows over Glasgow and Prestwick airports continued, with Prestwick enjoying a monopoly over transatlantic traffic, while Glasgow was only allowed to handle UK and intra-European traffic.
In 1975, the BAA took ownership of Glasgow International Airport, and when BAA was privatized in the late 1980s, it consolidated its airport portfolio. Conveniently, the restrictions on Glasgow were lifted, and the transatlantic operators immediately moved from Prestwick. BAA then sold Prestwick off, and embarked on a massive redevelopment plan in 1989.
An extended terminal building was created by building the new structure so that the original Basil Spence building is actually inside it. The original concrete arches which once looked onto Caledonia Road now form the facade of the check-in area. Glasgow Airport now has 33 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), in order to provide a dedicated check-in facility for low-cost airlines.
Glasgow International Airport is hampered against future growth by its 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 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 its old adversary at Prestwick, which has reinvented itself as a low-cost hub for budget airlines and which has a direct rail link to Central Glasgow. However, the Scottish Executive announced in 2002 that a rail link from Glasgow Central Station would be built to Glasgow International Airport. The rail link known as Glasgow Airport Rail Link (GARL) is expected to open late 2008 and provide the airport with a service of four trains per hour to Glasgow Central.
Currently, Glasgow International Airport is easily accessed by road due to the adjoining M8 motorway and is served by a frequent dedicated express bus from the city centre, although this can suffer due to congestion in the centre of Glasgow during peak periods.
Glasgow International Airport is home to the Scottish regional airline Loganair, currently a British Airways franchise operator, who have hangar facilities as well as their head office located on site. British Airways itself 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. Glasgow International Airport is also one of two main bases for Flyglobespan though this carrier does not have major facilities on the airfield.