History of Glasgow Airport

Today, Glasgow Airport takes in millions of passengers and flies you all over the globe with over 30 commercial airlines… but it started life as an RAF base in the 1930s…
Let’s step back in time and look into the history of Glasgow Airport.

Glasgow Airport: 1930-1970s

History of Glasgow Airport 1930-1970s header

Glasgow airport began its life back in 1932 and was originally known as “Abbotsinch”. It was used as an overspill for the RAF base at Renfrew. The airfield then became known as HMS Sanderling in 1943, when the Royal Navy took over and the Royal Auxiliary Air Force 602 was based there.

You might have spotted that the original pub at the airport was named The Sanderling Bar, after the RAF base so you can still pick up a pint and take in some history. It exists today as one of two Wetherspoons’ at the airport. Find more information on the Sanderling Bar by checking out Bars and Restaurants.

Six years after the announcement that Abbotsinch would replace Renfrew as the airport serving Glasgow, Glasgow airport was officially opened in May 1966. It didn’t take long for business to boom, with over 1 million customers recorded by December that year.

Glasgow Airport: 1970-80s

Glasgow Airport history 1970-1980s header

1973 marked the next major development as the runway was extended to cater for larger jets. In 1975 BAA purchased the airport from Glasgow Corporation and began immediate development, expanding the terminal building with a £2 million extension and raising the capacity to 3.5 million by 1986.

Expansion continued during the late 1980s with a £55 million expansion, increasing the terminal size by 70% to now cater for 6 million passengers a year.

1990-00s

Glasgow Airport history 1990-2010s header

Another major change took place in 1990 as Prestwick airport lost its monopoly on transatlantic flights and many airlines could move across to Glasgow’s runway. By 1994 building work was completed and international traffic was able to move to the newly developed pier with 7 air bridges and able to handle any aircraft.

Both international and domestic passenger numbers continued to rise steadily, helped by the increased number of gates, remote parking areas and expansion from low coast operators.

In 1996, Glasgow Airport was announced as the fourth busiest airport in the whole of the UK with 5.5 million annual passengers! Following Heathrow with an eye watering 56 million, Gatwick and then Manchester.

There have been on-going debates about building a rail link from the airport outside Paisley, directly into Glasgow Central Station to improve your passenger journey. 2002 saw The Scottish Executive announce that there was going to be a rail link built. The plan was to have a functional rail system finished in 2012 but in 2009 this plan was cancelled.

2010 and beyond

Glasgow Airport history 2010 and beyond header

2015 proved to be quite an award-winning year for Glasgow Airport. They were announced as the second busiest of Scotland’s three main international airports (the others being Edinburgh, Aberdeen) with record numbers of passengers passing through the terminal each month. Over 7.4 million passengers passed through the airport through the year with over 80,000 air movements recorded.

Then, in October 2015, they were officially given the UK AIrport of the Year at the National Transport Awards and senior members of staff were invited to London for a glamorous ceremony. The award came hand in hand with the ACI Europe announcement that Glasgow Airport had become on of Europe’s fastest growing airports!

2017 saw Glasgow has set a new record. They accomodated 1 million passengers in single month, (August 2017) which measured a 7% increase compared to the previous August in passenger traffic.

Over 30 airlines currently use its runway flying to over 100 destinations but further expansion is planned to increase annual passenger numbers to more than 24 million by 2030. The sky’s the limit!

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