Gibraltar Airport or North Front Airport (IATA: GIB, ICAO: LXGB) is the civilian airport that serves the British overseas territory of Gibraltar. It is owned by the Ministry of Defence for use by the Royal Air Force as RAF Gibraltar. Civilian operators use the airport; currently the only scheduled flights operate to the United Kingdom and Spain. Passengers depart and arrive through the civilian operated terminal.
Gibraltar Airport has the distinction of being the closest airport to the city that it serves, being only 500 metres from Gibraltar's city centre. In 2004 the airport handled 314,375 passengers and 380 tonnes of cargo. Gibraltar Airport is one of the few Class A airports in the world. Winston Churchill Avenue (the main road heading towards the land border with Spain) intersects the airport runway, so consequently has to be closed every time a plane lands or departs. The History Channel program Most Extreme Airports, ranks it as the 5th most dangerous airport in the world.
EasyJet is the only one currently flying to London Gatwick with 7 weekly flights. Monarch Airlines currently operates seven flights weekly to London Luton and three flights weekly to Manchester Airport. British Airways also flies seven times weekly into Gibraltar from London Heathrow.
Although located in Gibraltar, the airport is increasingly being used by people from or visiting neighbouring Spanish areas such as the Costa del Sol or the Campo de Gibraltar.
The airport was constructed during World War II upon the territory's race course (introduced by the Maltese), when Gibraltar was an important naval base for the British. Originally opened in 1939, it was only an emergency airfield for the Royal Navy's Fleet Air Arm. However, the runway was later extended by reclaiming some land from the Bay of Gibraltar using rock blasted from the Rock of Gibraltar while carrying out works on military tunnels. This last major extension of the runway allowed larger aircraft to land at Gibraltar.
Spain’s continuing sovereignty dispute with the United Kingdom over the territory where the airport stands (different from the generic one on Gibraltar itself) has seriously affected the airport’s operations. In December 2, 1987, an agreement was signed between the governments of the United Kingdom and Spain to allow the joint civil use of the airport The agreement foresaw the building of a new terminal in the neighbouring Spanish municipality of La Línea de la Concepción adjacent to the northern side of the existing frontier. However, the agreement was blocked by the Government of Gibraltar, led from 1988 by Joe Bossano. As a result, the agreement was never implemented.
Since then, Spain successfully excluded Gibraltar from European wide de-regulation initiatives, preventing direct links from Gibraltar to the rest of the European Union (except the United Kingdom), on the grounds that no regulation that somehow recognises the sovereignty of the United Kingdom over the isthmus may be implemented without a previous agreement on the airport.
By late 2005 and early 2006, the implementation of a new agreement was one of the main topics of the Gibraltar Trilateral Forum being held between the Governments of Gibraltar, Spain and the United Kingdom. As a result, the Córdoba Accord was signed on 18 September 2006 by all parties. This ended all discriminatory restrictions on civilian flights to Gibraltar Airport, including the prohibition of flights over Spanish soil, and exclusion of Gibraltar from all EU agreements on air transport, allowing civilian flights from all nations into Gibraltar Airport.
On 17 November 2006 Iberia announced that it would start flights from Madrid to Gibraltar using Airbus A319 aircraft. This was a landmark move as no Spanish airline had flown to Gibraltar since 1979, because of its disputed status.
Iberia began flights to Gibraltar Airport on 16 December 2006 with a flight from Madrid that included some members of the Spanish Government on board. GB Airways flew a one-off flight in the other direction with a group of children from the Gibraltar area making up the passengers. In May 2007 GB Airways (flying as a British Airways franchisee) also began operating the route between Madrid and Gibraltar, however, this was discontinued on 30 September (leaving Iberia to work the route alone).
On 12 September 2008 Monarch Airlines resumed services from Gibraltar to Manchester Airport three times a week every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. No other airline has operated services from Manchester into Gibraltar since Monarch withdrew the route in July 2006.
On 22 September 2008 Iberia announced that it would cease its flights to Madrid by 28 September due to "economic reasons", namely, lack of demand. This left Gibraltar, once again, without any air links with Spain.
In April 2009 Ándalus Líneas Aéreas restored Gibraltar's airlinks with the Spanish capital. In July 2009 Ándalus also began scheduled flights to Barcelona, increasing the destinations in Spain to two. However, the airline ceased to serve this route in September 2009 due to a lack of demand. In April 2010 it was confirmed that Ándalus flights to and from Gibraltar had been indefinitely suspended. And now yet again, Gibraltar has no direct air links to Spain.Panoramic photograph of Gibraltar Airport.
The existing terminal at Gibraltar Airport has been, for many years, too small and the road across the runway is even more constraining to operations at the airport, especially with the increase in operations since the Córdoba Accord. Prior to this agreement, only three flights operated daily to Gatwick and Luton, and three flights a week to Manchester. On busy days at present some 7 flights now arrive and depart. If the average time the road is closed for an aircraft to land or depart is 10 minutes, then on certain days the road can be closed for over two hours.
The new expansion includes:
Construction of the new terminal was due to begin late in 2007 and be finished by 2008. However, this has been delayed. Construction of the 4 lane diversion road and tunnel section was due to begin in January 2008 and be completed by the beginning of 2009. However, due to the delays, it is now expected to open in 2011. There will be no disruption to operations during construction as they are not built on the same site. The new terminal will allow a large increase of capacity, and the runway tunnel will reduce delays and tailbacks caused by aircraft taking off and landing.
Gibraltar Airport - New airport nearing completion in 2011
Gibraltar Airport - Panoramic photograph of Gibraltar International Airport, with time-lapse showing an aircraft take-off.
Gibraltar Airport - A Monarch Airbus A320 taxiing to the gate.
Gibraltar Airport - Security barrier at the intersection of Gibraltar International Airport runway and Winston Churchill Avenue
Gibraltar Airport - United States Army Air Forces men in a Spitfire at Gibraltar Airport observing the performance of another one in flight (1942)
Gibraltar Airport - A bulldozer and steamroller being used during the construction of a new aerodrome on Gibraltar, November 1941
Airlines and destinations
There is also growing private jet traffic.
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