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The Leeds Bradford International Airport (LBA) has been operating as a commercial airport since it was first opened in 1931. In the early days the field was known as Yeadon Aerodrome, with the predominant activities being club flying and training flights. By the 1950s the airport was running commercial flights to the Isle of Man, Liverpool, Belfast, Jersey, Ostend, Southend, the Isle of Wight and Dusseldorf.
In 1965 a new terminal building was opened, and in 1982 as part of an infrastructure improvement project the main runway 14/32 was extended to 2,250m (7,382ft) – runway lighting had been added in the 1950s.
In 1953 Yeadon Aviation Ltd was set up to run the flying school and commercial airfield operation but the ownership was transferred to five local councils in 1987 (Airports Act 1986) and the LBA was converted into a limited company with Leeds and Bradford councils each owning 40% and Wakefield, Calderdale and Kirklees sharing the 20% remainder.
The airport then remained in public ownership until May 2007, when it was sold for £145.5m to the preferred bidder Bridgepoint Capital (this was thought to be the best plan for continued development of the airport).
Bridgepoint Capital now owns the airport 100% but the councils hold a ‘special share’ interest in the airport, to protect the name and continued operation as the major air transport gateway for Yorkshire.
Passenger traffic increased in the ten years from 1997 to 2007 from 1.25 million to 2.88 million passengers a year and infrastructure had to be improved to keep this expansion up.
Bridgeport announced a £70m capital expenditure plan just after the purchase was completed. The improvements will focus on improving passenger and retail infrastructure, doubling passenger numbers to seven million a year and adding 20 new scheduled destinations by 2015.
Passengers traffic at the airport in 2009 was 2.57 million. 53,817 aircraft movements were recorded during the year.
Leeds-Bradford master plan
Since 2004, the airport has had a master plan of improvements in place (for a ten-year period. The master plan will include a number of important projects including:
- Terminal expansion including new gates with air bridges
- Additional aircraft apron standings (increased from 19 to 31)
- Changes to the runway setup including a new parallel taxiway allowing increase of movements from 16 to 25 an hour
- New aircraft hangars, new flight catering facilities and a new fuel farm
- Hotel and office space and new car park
- A railway station from Horsworth
- A new link road from the A65 to the airport
Current LBA projects
Bridgepoint Capital announced their new plans for the LBA terminal building on 4 November 2008. The £28m project plans were submitted to Leeds City Council planning department in November 2008 and permission was granted in July 2009. The expansion works are expected to be completed in 2010-2011.
The plans outline significant changes in the terminal and the initial construction involves building an extension in front of the present terminal building, so that the crescent-shaped building is converted into a semi-circular shape.
The present terminal building that was opened in 1968 has undergone a number of improvements and extensions over the last forty years and now needs improvements to its layout for better passenger services and throughput.
The extension will occur over two storeys of of 4,600m² and will mean new departure and arrival facilities. The ground floor will have new check in halls, on the first floor there will be a large departure lounge with an atrium glass roof. Arrival and departure facilities will see new retail facilities as this is an area that the new management has earmarked as inadequate.
Recent Leeds-Bradford improvements
The airport had already seen significant improvements made before its sale in 2007. These included a virtual doubling of the terminal building size since 1996 including:
- New lounges and two air bridges
- 16 new check-in desks in the new check-in hall B (total 42)
- Refurbished arrivals areas
- New baggage facilities
- A new hold baggage screening X-ray machine
- Transfer carousels and a new baggage make up area
- New bus parking area
- New Travelodge
A £5m refurbishment in 2006 included a new food court (Yates Bar and Burger King franchise). There was also an £8m development on the south end of the airport with two new hangars, maintenance facilities and executive aviation terminal.
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