Bristol Airport main terminal passes a 15 year milestone

Fifteen years after it was officially opened by HRH The Princess Royal, the first major expansion to Bristol Airport’s terminal is nearing completion.

The terminal building welcomed its first flights on 7 March 2000 after a two year build programme costing £27 million. In the first year following its opening the terminal handled just over 2 million passengers, compared to 6.3 million per annum today. Fifteen years on work is underway on an £8.6 million extension to the east of the building which, when it opens this summer, will create additional seating in the departure lounge, as well as extending the range of retail and catering facilities for passengers, including an eye-catching outdoor terrace area.

When it opened on its original site in Whitchurch, Bristol Airport became only the third civil airport in the country. Since moving to its current location in North Somerset in 1957, Bristol has developed into one of the UK’s most successful regional airports, and the country’s fifth largest airport outside London.

Several of the team involved in the transition to the newly built terminal in 2000 are still involved today. Head of Commercial Development, Kate Ridgers, is now working with existing and potential retailers to identify opportunities in the eastern terminal extension, but back in 2000 she was in charge of the transition of airport operations to the new building as New Terminal Logistics Manager.

“My main role was to manage the transfer of the airport operation from the existing terminal, now our Administration and Security Building, to the new terminal,” she recalls.
“This involved working very closely with all of our business partners from ground handling agents to security, immigration and customs. Before we opened the new terminal, I organised a ‘trial flight’ to fully test the building before we opened the doors to passengers.

Friends and family of staff members arrived at the terminal with boarding cards and suitcases and got to experience the new terminal before anyone else, including testing all of the catering outlets.

“The overnight transfer itself was one of my career highlights and a night I will never forget – seeing the last flight of the day depart from one terminal and the first flight on the following day depart from another terminal was very exciting. The transfer was organised with military precision!”

Chris Ware, now Bristol Airport’s in-house Head of Security, was an Inspector in the Avon and Somerset Constabulary back in 2000, responsible for planning major events including royal visits.

“The security challenges were very different then,” remembers Chris. “The main threats were still connected to the troubles in Northern Ireland and as the terminal was a building site until a few days before the visit of Princess Anne, the security operation was particularly challenging.

“As the event was so high profile and media interest was intense, the logistics of the opening ceremony were complex. Coordination was managed between the Police team, the Airport and the Lord Lieutenant’s office on behalf of Buckingham Palace. The striking memory for me was the total pride and excitement all of the staff working at the Airport had in their new building and the opportunities it would open up. The combination of aviation, an exciting new building and inspirational people was infectious but little did I realise that Bristol Airport would feature so much in my future working life.”

Fifteen years later, Chris is focused on planning a new security search area as part of the anticipated next phase of development which will see the terminal extended to the west.

The current development work is part of overall plans to enhance facilities to enable Bristol Airport to serve 10 million passengers a year. Other major components include a new multi-level car park with public transport interchange on its top level, and an on-site hotel which is expected to open in spring 2016.

Beyond the Airport boundary, improvements to the transport system across the West of England, including the construction of a South Bristol Link, are underway and will enhance access from the north, east and west once completed.

Earlier this year, Bristol was named the world’s most punctual Airport in a league table measuring on-time performance compiled by leading global aviation provider OAG based on more than 43 million flight records.