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AIRPORT PROFILES Last modified on July 24, 2016

Happy Birthday!

Picture perfect: Modern day Edinburgh Airport (top left) and a blast from the past from Heathrow. Picture perfect: Modern day Edinburgh Airport (top left) and a blast from the past from Heathrow.

Airport World pays tribute to some of the airports celebrating milestone birthdays this year.

ACI isn’t the only one celebrating reaching a major milestone this year as a number of airports across the globe are notching up significant anniversaries of their own.

They include Auckland in New Zealand, Montréal-Trudeau in Canada, and Gatwick, Heathrow and Edinburgh in the UK, which turn 50, 75, 80, 70 and 100 years old respectively in 2016.


Heathrow Airport

Heathrow has pledged to celebrate its 70th birthday as a commercial airport throughout 2016. Built for the military during WWII, the site became London Airport on January 1, 1946, when it was handed over to the UK’s Minister of Civil Aviation by the Air Ministry.

The first commercial flight to depart that day was a British South American Airlines service to Buenos Aires operated by an Avro Lancastrian ‘Star Light’.

Since its opening, the UK’s only hub airport has grown significantly to handle over 73 million passengers annually and is now one of the best known airports in the world.

Back in 1946 its passenger terminals were made from ex-military marquees that formed a ‘tented village’ along the Bath Road. Each was equipped with floral-patterned armchairs, settees and small tables containing vases of fresh flowers. 

To reach aircraft parked on the apron, passengers walked over wooden duckboards to protect their footwear from the muddy airfield.

A total of 63,000 passengers used London’s new gateway in its first full year of operations and the numbers continued to grow annually, although it wasn’t until 1951 when it handled close to 800,000 passengers that British architect, Frederick Gibberd, was appointed to design permanent buildings for the airport.

Since 2003, Heathrow has invested over £12 billion in transforming its facilities. As a result, the gateway says that over 60% of its passengers now experience “modern, world class facilities in Terminal 5 and Terminal 2.”

Heathrow CEO, John Holland Kaye, said: “This is a significant milestone which marks the incredible transformation of Heathrow.

“Heathrow has come a long way from being a military airfield to a national asset which is now a globally recognised brand. I am very proud to be a part of ‘Team Heathrow’ and the 75,000 colleagues helping to make every passenger’s journey better.”


Montréal Trudeau International Airport

What would the odds have been on Montréal–Trudeau becoming the gateway it is today back in 1941 when it was built on the site of Dorval Race Track?

Initially serving as a base to ferry US-made aircraft to Britain during WW2, it quickly switched to commercial operations at the end of hostilities and by 1945 was served by four airlines operating 22 daily flights and handling around 500 passengers per day.

A year later, BOAC (now British Airways) established the first transatlantic passenger service between Montréal and the UK and passenger numbers jumped to 250,000 a year.

Air France started services in 1950 and was joined a year later by Trans-Canada Airlines, which will later become Air Canada, when it launched flights to Paris. By 1952 Dorval was serving 590,000 passengers per annum. Its increasing popularity meant that two of its three runways were lengthened to meet demand and, in 1955, it became Canada’s biggest airport welcoming with one million passengers annually.

Construction of Canada’s first cargo terminal began two years later, allowing it to become the main Canadian entry point for cargo from Europe. In 1960 the airport was renamed Montréal-Dorval International Airport and Canada’s Minister of Transport inaugurated a new $30 million terminal. At the time it was the largest terminal in Canada and one of the biggest in
the world.

In 1987 the Canadian government decided to divest itself of the country’s major airports and this led to the formation of Aéroports de Montréal (ADM), which on August 1, 1992, signed a 60-year lease with Transport Canada to manage, operate and develop the airport.

Dorval was officially renamed Montréal–Trudeau in 2004 in honour of former Canadian Prime Minister, Pierre Elliot Trudeau.

ADM’s president and CEO, James Cherry, enthuses: “I am proud of the airport’s many accomplishments, which would not have been possible without the contributions of our dedicated employees, our airlines and our numerous public and private sector partners. I’d like to thank each one of them for their continued support and wish Montréal-Trudeau a very happy birthday!”


Auckland, Montréal-Trudeau and Gatwick airports.
Auckland, Montréal-Trudeau and Gatwick airports.


Auckland International Airport

New Zealand’s gateway to the world is celebrating its half century this year after officially turning 50 in January.

The airport’s chief executive, Adrian Littlewood, enthuses: “Fifty years is a long time and an important milestone worthy of celebration.

“New Zealand was very different back in 1966. It was a country still finding its own independence, shifting its primary focus away from Europe. Keith Holyoake was Prime Minister; we still had pounds, shillings and pence; we had visits by both the United States’ Vice-President and President in the same year and for followers of popular culture, the very first episode of Country  Calendar screened.

“On the 29th January 1966, there was a three day air pageant to commemorate the official opening of Auckland Airport, attended by more than 100,000 Aucklanders or 20% of our city’s residents. 

“The airport’s official opening marked the start of the international jet age for New Zealanders – with new destinations and faster and bigger aircraft.”

Looking to the future, he notes: “Our 30-year vision for the airport of the future, announced in 2014, suggests we have the capacity to process 40 million passengers in 2044 with room to continue growing.

“Whatever our future holds, we will be guided by our past experience and the importance of remaining flexible to meet the ever changing needs of our city, our customers and the aviation industry.”


London Gatwick

May 17 was a very special day for London Gatwick as it marked the 80th anniversary of its very first commercial flight. 

The flight was to Paris with the single fare costing £4 pounds and five shillings (the equivalent today is approximately £160), including the first class train fare from London Victoria. 

Paris was one of just five scheduled routes served from the airport in its first year of operation, the others being Malmö, Amsterdam, Hamburg and Copenhagen. 

Today it serves 200 destinations in 90 countries and handles around 41 million passengers per annum.

Over the course of the last 80 years, Gatwick has played host to many prominent figures including Queen Elizabeth II, Princess Diana and John F Kennedy plus key aviation milestones including the first ever Virgin Atlantic flight taking off from the airport on June 22, 1984.



How time flies. Clockwise from left to right: A young Queen Elizabeth II at Gatwick in 1958; Wartime at Montréal-Trudeau; US President, John Fitzgerald Kennedy, and British Prime Minister, Harold Macmillan, at Gatwick in June 1963; and Auckland International Airport under construction in February 1965.

Edinburgh Airport

The grandaddy of them all in terms of age anyway, is Scotland’s capital city gateway, which turned 100 years old on March 2 and celebrated the occasion with limited edition giveaways and competitions for local school children.

On Thursday, March 2, 1916, Edinburgh Airport began life as a Royal Flying Corps aerodrome named Turnhouse and was a key military base for the remainder of World War One.

The British Airports Authority (BAA) took over ownership of the airport on April 1, 1971. Initial stages of the redevelopment began two years later and the terminal building, designed by Sir Robert Matthew, was officially opened by Her Majesty the Queen on 27 May 1977.

BAA sold Edinburgh Airport to Global Infrastructure Partners in April 2012 and the airport has since experienced significant growth, with passenger traffic at the gateway hitting an all-time high of 11.1 million in 2015.

Gordon Dewar, Edinburgh Airport’s chief executive, said: “How time flies when you’re having fun! Although clearly focused on delivering future growth at Edinburgh Airport we have a rich and long history here, nd we aim to involve as many people as possible in celebrating this great centenary story.”

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