Birmingham Airport looks to the future as industry bounces back

There's an air of optimism amongst bosses at Birmingham Airport.

Birmingham Airport
Birmingham Airport

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

Indeed, it was only in January that Birmingham-based airline Flybe ceased trading with all flights cancelled, a victim of a challenging few years.

But as bosses spoke of a £40 million investment in security, the airport was bristling with holiday-makers excitedly heading off for an Easter break.

Passenger numbers slipped dramatically to one million in 2020-21, down from 12 million pre-pandemic.

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

By 2033, passenger numbers at Birmingham are expected to reach 18 million per year, hence current work on a state-of-the-art security screening area, which is set to be operational by June of next year.

How security lanes will look at Birmingham Airport. The work is expected to be ready by next summer, say bosses.

The industry has, it appears, started bouncing back 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 the industry would bounce back quickly," he said. "Historically, going back to the 1960s, there were significant impacts on international aviation.

"It really did have an effect and every time that happened we recovered strongly as an industry.

"And while the pandemic caused a particularly significant impact for three years, I think a lot of resilience has been on show.

"We saw some predicting a change of aviation forever with people not wanting to get back on an aircraft but there's been no evidence of that, thank heavens.

"The number of people who are returning means the investment we are making, which is substantial, is something we know passengers want and they will carry on travelling.

"And, of course, this investment is not just good news for the Airport and passengers but the West Midlands."


"The airport has a huge economic value to the region. It generates Gross Value Added of £1.5bn a year or £3,000 a minute, so it's a very significant economic driver.

"Some 31,000 people have jobs which are directly or indirectly related to the airport, so that's like a small town's worth of employment. As we grow, that employment will as well.

"It's difficult to overstate how important airports are and how much impact they have.

"We know that and take it as a responsibility but we also take pride in it."

The new security area is being designed to make things quicker and easier for customers, improving efficiency to help grow the annual customer numbers from 12m to 18m by 2033.

It is a 15-month programme of construction to make sure the Airport hits the required date in a timely fashion.

Visitors to the airport will see walking routes and queuing spaces, including on the ground floor, change this summer as work progresses and are being urged to show patience as well as arriving at the airport in good time – two hours before a flight.

"As well as meeting regulatory requirements, the customer experience will be improving dramatically with the new facilities and new security screening machines," Mr Barton said.

"They are fundamentally different to what we have had before so once we get through the construction phase, our customers will see a significant enhancement in the way they are able to get through the airport screening process to get to their airplane."

Chris Wilson, head of terminal and capacity planning, added: "It 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 whole new search area to fundamentally change the way we support passengers and continue to have a safe and secure airport."

"It's been a challenge for our teams and our infrastructure over the last few years as we have tried to adapt to downsizing – making sure we were fit for that size of airport – but equally to upskill and make sure the team members still had the skills to do the job well as we built back to returning 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 rising the the challenge.

"The likes of EasyJet, Ryanair and Jet2 have filled some of the markets left behind by those who sadly couldn't make it through the pandemic. We have new airlines joining us this year such as Qatar returning.

"There's a positive vibe to the airport again and we are working towards an 18 million passenger target in 2033, which will be on us before we know it.

"We have to adapt to the changes in customer behaviours and make the airport as seamless as we can as we see growth in numbers."

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