George Best City Airport should be geared up for foggy days

Consumer alert!  The 3.05 p.m. BA flight from Belfast City to Heathrow took off from Aldergrove at 8. 15 and arrived an hour later, five hours late.

Fog was the culprit- no one’s fault.

Except that the BA captain told us that they diverted to Aldergrove because International has the right gear to allow planes to land automatically in fog and City hasn’t.

Surely this would be a worthwhile investment for City to make as it competes to be the premier shuttle airport for the province.

BA also rebooked quite a number of onward passengers who had missed connecting flights while we were in the air. My neighbour was an Indian mother with a seven year old son and a mountain of luggage. She had spent Christmas and New Year in Belfast for the birth of a nephew and must have been mightily relieved. This may be standard in the circumstances but the whole situation  should be monitored to create the best possible impression with overseas visitors.

Pity the poor Flybe passengers. One lot  booked for Southampton were driven to Dublin. They were the lucky ones. Four of their afternoon flights from City to other regional airports were cancelled.

One quibble with Aldergrove. They accommodated BA right enough,  but our plane was “back of the queue” for the refuelling truck. The wait took about an hour. Fair enough if absolutely necessary,  but Aldergrove looked near-empty except for one Easyjet flight  to Stansted. It would surely be good business for Aldergrove’s refuelling company to get their finger out faster too. As well as keeping that fog equipment in the best of nick.



  • Mimi Balguerie

    Is this honestly a post about you having a delayed flight, Mr Walker?
    “Premier shuttle airport” is something of a misnomer as well.

    The City is okay for what it does. Aldergrove’s pretension at being a “premier” or “international” airport doesn’t bear further scrutiny. And I had a terrible experience getting horribly lost in the night fog around Greenmount, which would not have been a problem if Aldergrove had the public transport links you’d expect at any other “international” airport in Europe.

    The waits are pretty standard for anywhere in the UK. Was waiting almost an hour for my bags to come off the plane at Manchester last week. I wouldn’t pass notice normally, but it was stowed hand baggage anyway. The UK is, in general, rubbish at this stuff. So it is, so it is.

  • “five hours late.”

    You should count yourself lucky, Brian.

    My flight back at Christmas, from Luton to Belfast International (Antrim) on 27 Dec, was cancelled because no planes were able to land at Luton due to ice. Stansted was similarly affected, but not other London airports – because they had the appropriate equipment to deal with the weather.

    I had to queue for 4 hours to speak to Easyjet customer services, only to be told that the next available flight was the next day from Gatwick.

  • Cory Kelly

    Passengers in the North East should just forget about the local airports and book their flights from Dublin. It is a fantastic Airport with far better facilities serving hundreds more destinations. Arriving in Aldergrove or Bel City is like landing in a deserted housing estate.

  • Cory Kelly

    No doubt you charmed them into delivering their highest standard of customer service. 😉

  • Idiot.

  • Idiot, again.

  • Roger

    I can only speak to my own preferences…But a deserted housing estate type airport sounds fine. I want to use it as an airport…not a shopping experience. Smaller airports with smaller crowds sounds fine.

  • Mimi Balguerie

    We’re honestly blessed to have Dublin. It’s international connectivity is just phenomenal, especially as an airport primarily serving the geographical periphery of Europe. It’s almost absurdly well connected. I’ve never had a problem flying from Dublin, even long-haul. Pre-clearance to the States is a blessing no-one else in Europe has, either.

    We’re also fortunate in the north-east that it’s on the north side of the city, although it’s a tedious journey. It’s much easier to reach by public transport and only marginally longer by car from Omagh than either Aldergrove or the City.

  • Roger

    But the Irish have to concede that their passports don’t permit them to join the US “Global Entry” fast through regime. The Brits are one up on that…

    Even if it’s handy having US pre-clearance.

  • Cory Kelly

    Actually i agree with u in a sense but i also like the experience of a cosmopolitan airport too sometimes. Of all major Irish airports the North’s of course serve a small unexplored corner with minor in/out flow as a result of its neglected regional status, could be better.

  • Cory Kelly

    With a one hundred dollar fee and a long application process that has to be renewed every five years, its no wonder so few countries bother to be included in tge scheme. Give me a quick five minute check for free at Shannon meaning i sail through in New York anytime of the day.

  • Mimi Balguerie

    I’ve no idea what “Global Entry” is, but a quick Google shows that both Dublin and Shannon participate in it. I don’t see any UK locations on the list.
    I’ve never heard of any issues entering the US on an Irish passport – quite the contrary – but if it becomes difficult to do so on an Irish passport it wouldn’t be difficult for most northern citizens to obtain one. What has this got to do with Dublin airport?

  • Cory Kelly

    Its just an attempt at one -upmanship. silly really.

  • Cory Kelly

    That man playing rule thingy obviously doesnt apply to you. Peace.

  • Roger

    Nothing to do with the airport indeed.

    Global Entry. Next time you visit US, you’ll see what it’s about. Irish citizens aren’t eligible but UK citizens are.

  • mickfealty

    This isnt Sinn Fein. We don’t deal in false punishments for the optics. Pete is as subject to the rules as much as anyone else. He’s suspended until further notice. Not happy about it either way: either the infringement or our loss.

    As someone who sails very close to wind himself, take note the rules are not a parlour game. You seriously need to up yours from trolling to serious commenting.

  • Gopher

    To be fair to the City it is only one every few years you get a bad fog like yesterday. The city airport’s schedule is dependant on the conditions and specification of every other airport so the investment is not as clear cut as you suggest. Landing planes in fog is no use if your aircraft is delayed at another airport.

    Aldergrove despite being a dump is blessed that the MOD use it as it gets all the latest gadgets. If Passenger duty gets removed you will see greater private investment in Northern Irelands Airports as growth will be at less risk as it is presently.

  • aquifer

    Wife beating alchoholic George Best’s airport should be shut, and a fast train line built to a real airport like they have in Dublin.

  • murdockp

    In the world of common sense Aldergrove is closed and either city is expanded of a new airport site chosen (maze?) and a single world class airport built.

    Sadly we live in a world which is all about vested interests and keeping jobs, removing duplication and efficiency is just not allowed.

    Sadly we do not live in such a words, but thank god we do have Dublin which such common sense has been allowed to flourish and surprise, surprise they have a world class airport.

  • Returnee

    Yeah, super idea. Spend longer traveling to the airport than it takes you to travel to your destination.

    Besides, even Dublin is hopeless for proper world travel so we need good links to the international airports in England, which Aldergrove does admirably.

  • Returnee

    No, in the world of common sense Aldergrove is given decent transport links and expanded.

    City is always going to have problems with space for parking, space for runway expansion, never mind the issues of noise and traffic! You need to pick someone up at an airport between five and half five in the evening, if it’s Aldergrove it’s fine, if it’s City it’s hell!

    The idea of expansion at City is a fallacy, it just will not happen, nor should it as Aldergrove has none of these problems nor is it ever likely to given it’s position and the size of Northern Ireland.

    City should be flogged off like St Angelo and if someone can make a go of it as a private airport catering for the great and the good or other purposes then good luck to them. But Aldergrove is the place for Northern Ireland’s public carriers, it really is a total no-brainer.

  • murdockp

    Aldergrove is poorly located. The airport needs to be close to it’s major city.

    The passenger numbers prove this.

    I made 30 business flights to the UK last year. None from aldergrove. One from Belfast city. 29 from Dublin. I live in Newry.

  • Cory Kelly

    Its cerrtainly not my intention to troll, just engage with opinions and ideas. I will do better.

  • Brian Walker

    Lucky under the circumstances Pete!

  • Returnee

    My son travels extensively throughout the world, he hasn’t used the city airport for several years.

    From Newry your City flights could just as easily been catered for by Aldergrove with no difference to your travel, it just proves my point about the harm being caused by splitting the volume of business.

    As regards Dublin, very different for you as it’s nearly as handy as Belfast, very different situation again if you live in Mid or North Antrim. And yes, some of us do travel to other parts of the world from here!

    The fact is that Aldergrove can expand as much as necessary in every way, and City can’t.

    It’s really not hard to figure out!

  • M Agnew

    Dublin Airport is, farcically, one of the only major European airports not to have to have any rail service connecting it to the city centre.

    If they ever got that off the ground (€2.4bn cost was the stopper last I heard) it might shame us into doing the same for Aldergrove.

  • Brian Walker

    I’ve actually enjoyed this thread. I quite like the local airports, having watched them grow. My first flight in the wood lined cabin of a BEA Vanguard as a child was from Nutt’s Corner ( don’t all rush) and I’ve taken Short’s Skyvans ( slightly modified as I think SD330s and designed to land at an upward angle in places such as Katmandu), from Manchester to the Short’s runway and arriving at Nissan huts on the edge of the tarmac. Pioneering stuff. Aldergrove is a small
    but ominously growing supermarket of airport tat, with gates to the planes like a condemned man’s passage to the hangman – and usually in my case in open air driving wind and/or rain. City should surely have a train halt instead of Sydenham. For the poor or the perverse they supply a courtesy bus to and from the station which I took once as a test.. I was torn between feeling like a pioneer all over again and finding it utterly bizarre for C21. But then that’s Northern Ireland all over!

  • murdockp

    A modern airport should have a mass transit rail system linking the air port to the main city it primarily serves. As well as serving the local community it should be a hub for business growth through construction of offices, hotels, etc surrounding the airport.

    Altergrove can serve the local community, but it cannot support business. A mass transit railway system would cost hundreds of millions to serve the airport, Luton’s will cost £100m for a 1.5 mile link.

    You cannot serve the airport solely using busses.

    On that basis Aldergrove is the wrong choice, and it is the wrong choice, it will never function properly, nor will city for that matter too.

    Aldergrove’s future is as a cargo hub.

  • DOUG

    Put really simply it’s a bit like the self check in kiosks, but for customs & immigration. Really depends on the airport you fly into though. It’s useless in Las Vegas for example, but handy at JFK or Chicago.

  • DOUG

    If it was a world class airport we’d be able to get a sandwich at 4 in the morning.
    It may have changed since my honeymoon ( which was 4 years ago to be fair ) but I’ll never forget sitting there with my wife, at 4 am with nothing open.

  • DOUG

    Does Dublin have this? I’ve been bussing / driving to Dublin everytime I use it.
    If I could get there by rail my ridiculous bladder would appreciate it.

  • Paul Robinson

    My family use both Belfast City (15 mins from where I live) and less frequently Aldergrove – my son now lives in Nottingham, my daughter in Southhampton. Plane links to both are generally excellent. Both airports are, I understand, privately owned unlike, for example, Derry City Airport. Occasionally I use Dublin but almost always as a last resort. I agree Belfast City should have a decent train link (there is no real excuse for the current arrangement) as well as Aldergrove (Belfast International) although the latter would be expensive (at least the have the land needed for the link).
    If you think Belfast City or the international is like landing at a deserted housing estate, try Cardiff especially on a Sunday.
    Bottom line, I am very happy that (a) there is competition between the two privately owned airports and (b) both survive or not on their own merits.

  • Returnee

    Oh I get it now, you’re in the “this little failed little statelet shouldn’t have an airport” camp.

    Well it should, but only one.

    And that one can only ever be Aldergrove for the reasons I detailed previously.

  • Returnee

    No it has none of the things that Aldergrove gets derided for not having.

    But that’s different,…………….because it’s Dublin.

    Get it?????

  • Mimi Balguerie

    Not yet. Part of the eternally delayed Metro North scheme that was part of a tranche of infrastructure projects postponed during the economic crash.

    Apparently it’s rolling again, but won’t be delivered until 2027 in the revised plans.
    Typical of the Irish government, they ignored and ignore the calls of people in the area and throughout the country for this investment, but when multinationals start ask why they should move to Dublin over Paris or Frankfurt, their ears prick up again.

  • DOUG

    Dundee was a particular eye opener for me. I have some photos on my phone, but it was smaller than Laganside bus station. There’s no security checkpoint. They literally pick people at random from the departure area ( which is also the arrival area ) and bring them into a wee office ( with a kettle in it ) to check their bags.

  • DOUG

    I can’t hold it for 10 years….

  • Returnee

    Both airports suffer from being in a continuous tug-of-war with each other.

    City cannot ever cater for all the public aviation requirements of Northern Ireland, whereas Aldergrove could. And with a bit of rail work and a couple of road upgrades (which are needed anyway!) could do it really well.

  • Returnee

    Actually, there IS a train line to Aldergrove.

    They just need to link it to the terminal.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Of course it runs along one side of the airfield!

  • Returnee

    Indeed, just makes the lack of action regarding it even more ridiculous.

    You can’t help but wonder that if Aldergrove was closer to Stormont things would be different.

  • mickfealty

    See that you do. People don’t have time or bandwidth for people who refuse to engage in realistic conversation.

  • Cadogan West

    My wife and I fly Vienna-Dublin by Aer Lingus when we visit and hire a car we generally avoid UK airports like Gatwick and Heathrow especially in the Skiing season and Summer. Our villa in Grinzing is heaven in May.

  • murdockp

    No, you misread. Northern Ireland should have a world class £500m airport with at least 500 acres of lands for business expansion around it. A maximum fifteen minutes by mass transit railway from Belfast city centre and parking for at least 5,000 cars.

    Not a time expired not fit for purpose airports on a former WW2 base or a former aircraft testing site.

    What have two rubbish airports when you can have one world class one?

  • Cory Kelly

    Vienna, beautiful. Its years since I have been there. I have a little place myself south of Naples and its only very recently that flights from Belfast or Dublin have become any way convenient. I often still have to fly out from the UK mainly Gatwick, however it is worth the hassle and the journey. Ya never had pizza until you have been to Napoli 😉

  • murdockp

    2021 at the earlierst

  • Cadogan West

    What is all this fuss about Public Service Cards? Just another thing for hackers to play with I guess.

  • Korhomme

    Try Zürich. Railway in the airport, 10 minutes to the city centre.

  • Cadogan West

    Possible to carry 2 passports UK/Ireland or even 3 (Swiss), then you have real choice!

  • Mimi Balguerie

    You can’t help but wonder that if Aldergrove was closer to Stormont things would be different.

    Sure, if it was somewhere like Sydenham they’d have linked the railway line to the terminal long ago.

    Oh, wait.

  • Roger

    For those who qualify, plenty of choices!

  • Returnee

    OK, I’ll put it another way.

    You can’t help but wonder that if City airport wasn’t so handy to Stormont whether or not it would ever have taken off (excuse the pun) as a hub for public aviation.

    Sure what’s the harm in poisoning a few thousand goose eggs when it saves our esteemed political masters a bit of their precious time.

  • Returnee

    Like Dublin you mean?

  • murdockp

    No, to build Dublin airport today you would need £2bn. The airport would be much smaller, but our population is also smaller. All in proportion.

  • Paul Robinson

    Moving Belfast International from Aldergrove to the maze (14 miles) seems a very expensive way to solve very little. Competition between Belfast City and Belfast International (Aldergrove), I believe, provides more benefits than disadvantages.

  • William Kinmont

    There is a railway siding at the temple patrick park and ride junction of M2 and I understand studies/surveys have been made to take road link arround templepatrick

  • Brian Walker

    When we make comparisons with other airports, shouldn’t we also compare populations? There’s no bar to using Dublin. So haven’t Aldergrove and City not established distinct niches?

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    City airport is no good for people who have to travel through Belfast to get to it unless the flights are very early or very late, otherwise the traffic is nuts.

    I think we need a province wide upgrade (if only we had a billion pounds lying around somewhere….) to make the most of what we have instead of the normal ‘squeaky wheel’ attitude to investment.

    1/ Make the motorways toll roads
    2/ Profit goes to upgrading and expanding the railway line (and more carriages) e.g. first open stations in places like Templepatrick, Muckamore and other places near Belfast.

    Open railway stations at the existing airports (perhaps even subsidise a nice new shiny terminal for Aldergrove right beside a railway line)

    Open railway stations at Park n’ rides in places like Ballymartin (I think that’s what you call it, it’s a park n’ ride just off the motorway near Randalstown/Antrim)

    Have more buses such as the Maiden city flyer drop off people here to link up with the airport bus

    3/ Upgrade that junction in Belfast that is a mess; the one that links the Westlink to the northern motorway

    4/ Build a motorway to Derry via Limavady, Coleraine, Ballymoney etc (with all the dualling it’s half done anyway, saves the building of yet more by-passes for towns on the A6 and connects the major centres of population AND brings people via the industrial area to the west of Derry)

    There, commuting traffic reduced, traffic in Belfast reduced, better links to the airports and thereby making the place a better place for investment and should make NI more accessible to tourists (people in NI don’t seem to realise how many visitors to Ireland have a ‘north or south’ itinerary conundrum as in do they do Dublin, Galway and the south coast or Dublin, Galway and the North coast, so obviously making the north more accessible tilts this in our favour).

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    Ok, perhaps more than a billion poiunds…

  • Timothyhound

    The twin airport thing in Belfast is a bit of a disaster. It means that Dublin will remain the islands only hub. Thus both City and Aldegrrove will remain modest point to point facilities.