Birmingham Airport looks to the future as industry recovers

Birmingham Airport
Birmingham Airport

The pandemic, which has left the aviation industry deeply scarred, is still fresh in mind.

In fact, it was only in January that the Birmingham-based airline Flybe went out of business with all flights cancelled, the victim of a difficult few years.

But while bosses were talking about a £40m investment in security, the airport was packed with excited tourists heading off for the Easter holidays.

Passenger numbers dropped sharply to one million in 2020-21, down from 12 million before the pandemic.

The numbers only increased to three million the following year, but last year, the numbers rose back to 10.5 million and are expected to return to pre-pandemic levels of over 12 million in 2023-24.

By 2033, the number of passengers in Birmingham is expected to reach 18 million per year, hence the current work on a state-of-the-art security screening area, which will be operational by June next year.

What the security lanes will look like at Birmingham airport. The work is expected to be ready by next summer, bosses say.

It seems the industry has started to pick up and the latest investment from Birmingham Airport highlights the fact.

Nick Barton, chief executive of BHX, believes that can only be a good thing for the West Midlands economy.

“I always felt that the industry would recover quickly,” he said. “Historically, since the 1960s, there have been significant impacts on international aviation.

“It really had an effect and every time it happened we bounced back strongly as an industry.

“And while the pandemic had a particularly significant impact over three years, I think a lot of resilience has been shown.

“We did see some predicting a change in aviation forever with people not wanting to get on a plane again, but there has been no evidence of that, thank goodness.

“The number of people who are returning means that the investment we are making, which is substantial, is something that we know passengers want and will continue to travel.

“And of course this investment is not only good news for the airport and passengers, but also for the West Midlands.”


“The airport has enormous economic value for the region. It generates a Gross Value Added of £1.5 billion per year or £3,000 per minute, making it a very important economic engine.

“About 31,000 people have jobs that are directly or indirectly related to the airport, so it’s like small town employment. As we grow, that employment will too.”

“It is difficult to overstate the importance of airports and the impact they have.

“We know it and we take it as a responsibility, but it also makes us proud.”

The new security area is being designed to make things faster and easier for customers, improving efficiencies to help increase the annual number of customers from 12 million to 18 million by 2033.

It is a 15-month construction program to ensure that the Airport reaches the required date in a timely manner.

Airport visitors will see that walking routes and queuing spaces, including on the ground floor, will change this summer as work progresses and they are urged to show patience and arrive at the airport on time, two hours before a flight.

“In addition to meeting regulatory requirements, the customer experience will be dramatically improved with the new facilities and new security screening machines,” Barton said.

“They’re fundamentally different than we’ve had before, so once we get past the build phase, our customers will see a significant improvement in the way they can get through the airport screening process to get to their plane.”

Chris Wilson, head of terminal and capacity planning, added: “This is a really exciting time and our customers will see big changes by 2024.”

Chris Wilson

“In the next 18 months we will have developed a completely new search area to fundamentally change the way we support passengers and continue to have a safe airport.”

“It’s been a challenge for our teams and our infrastructure in recent years as we’ve tried to adapt to downsizing, making sure we were fit for that size of airport, but equally to improve and make sure that members of the team still had the skills to get the job done right as we rebuild to return to a 12 million passenger airport.

“It’s also been a torrid time for many of the airlines, with Flybe leaving Birmingham airport, but others are taking up the challenge.

“Agents like EasyJet, Ryanair and Jet2 have filled some of the markets left behind by those who unfortunately couldn’t make it through the pandemic. We have new airlines joining us this year, such as the return of Qatar.

“There is a positive vibe at the airport again and we are working towards a target of 18 million passengers by 2033, which will be upon us before we know it.

“We have to adapt to changes in customer behavior and make the airport as seamless as possible as we see growth in numbers.”


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