Jersey Airport’s history

Images courtesy of the Jersey Evening Post newspaper

Although the first aeroplane to land in Jersey touched down on the beach at West Park in August 1912, it was to take a further 25 years of political wrangling and spiralling construction costs before the Island could boast its very first airport on dry land.

It was, in fact, Jersey’s Chamber of Commerce who were the driving force behind the need for an airport as far back as 1919. It recognised the potential in bringing in the mail, newspapers, passengers, and freight to the Island by air rather than the traditional sea route, whilst also providing a great opportunity to export goods and produce to the UK. Frequent and (at the time) unsuccessful correspondence followed with the UK Government and fledgling airlines in attempts to persuade them of the benefits for setting up routes.

By 1930, Chamber was convinced that the only way in which the Island could achieve these opportunities and persuade airlines to fly to Jersey would be for the Island to have its own airport. So, it set about looking at potential sites and many were considered, including Les Quennevais, Blanches Banques, Les Landes, Les Platons, Mont de La Mare and a site near St Peter’s Barracks.

The choice was narrowed down and the first proposals were presented to the States of Jersey in March 1933 and subsequently referred to the then Piers and Harbours Committee.

Approval for the construction of an airport on fields in St Peter was finally given by the States of Jersey in April 1934; many States members agreeing without argument having come to recognise how important air travel was becoming and how beneficial it could be to the economy of the Island. However, throughout the construction period, concerns were raised over the spiralling costs of the project with additional funds being sought to cover things such as the purchase of additional land and floodlighting, along with items that “had not been contemplated”.


Jersey Airport in 1930s

On Wednesday 10 March 1937, Jersey Airport was officially opened by Ruth Coutanche, wife of then Bailiff, Alexander Coutanche. The land comprised 218 vergées (97 acres), with four grass flightways. The terminal itself was a four-storey building designed by architect Graham Dawbarn, which held the control and wireless rooms on the fourth floor, the meteorological team on the third, a restaurant and terraces created on the second floor with access to a first floor promenade with deck chairs and snack counter directly from the forecourt. The main building on the ground floor was spacious enough for the needs of passengers at the time and ‘wings’ extended to either side of the main control block (which had been built using poured concrete) to allow for future development.

The total cost of the project was £127k

Within a year of opening, an estimated 20,000 visitors had flown to Jersey, many of them holidaying from mainland UK.

As well as travel opportunities, Islanders also enjoyed daily deliveries of mail and national newspapers, speedy access to markets for growers and an improved air-sea rescue service, co-ordinated by Air Traffic Control. Jersey Airport was up and running and much appreciated by the local community.

Key moments of the decade
March 10 1937: Jersey Airport officially opened
June 01 1937: First mail aircraft operated to Jersey


Jersey Airport in 1940s

March 1940 saw an Easter rush of visitors from the UK, which turned out to be their last visit to the Channel Islands for some time. In June 1940 commercial operations into the Channel Islands were suspended and for days the airport was run as a staging post for many of the aircraft getting out of France. In just three days, 400 passengers were evacuated by air before it was revealed that evacuation by boat would be possible. Enemy forces touched down in Jersey in July 1940 to begin five long years of German occupation during World War Two.

However, following the liberation of the Island on 9 May 1945, Jersey Airport came to life again.

In the years immediately following the end of the War, the number of passengers flying to and from Jersey dramatically increased and reached 113,333 in 1947. As a result, money was spent on new telecommunication aids, a new hangar and a longer runway.

Key moments of the decade
June 1940: Commercial operations in Channel Islands suspended following the evacuation by air of up to 400 islanders to nearby France
July 1940: German Occupation of Jersey begins. Despite rumours that it would be used as a base for Luftwaffe aircraft, Jersey Airport saw little or no aircraft activity
May 1945: Flying resumes once again at Jersey Airport following Liberation from five-years of occupying forces
1947: With an increase in the number of people flying post WWII, Jersey Airport recorded 113,330 passengers in the year


Jersey Airport in 1950s

Jersey’s position as a holiday island, close to France but English speaking, with duty free goods and carefully graded hotels and guesthouses, made it a tourist paradise. In 1955, over 383,000 passengers used Jersey Airport, revealing for the first time that air travel had become more popular than sea as a means of getting to the Island.

During the 1950s, a tarmac runway was built and as the airport grew so did the strict legislation controlling civil aviation tighten up, with any house or outbuilding on the main runway approach classified as potential hazards.

This era also saw the construction of a new road from Jersey Airport to Beaumont – known commonly as the Airport Approach Road. By the end of the 1950s, it was revealed that Jersey Airport contributed more than £5 million a year to the Island’s economy.

Key moments of the decade
1950: Jersey Aero Club was formed
1952: A 4,200ft tarmac runway was built to replace the original grass strips
17 July 1952: The inaugural Jersey Air Display was held to celebrate the opening of the new tarmac runway. Another air display was organised the following year to mark the 1953 Coronation of Her Majesty the Queen
1954: First International Air Rally held
1955: With over 383,000 passengers using Jersey Airport, it was revealed that air travel had become more popular now than sea as a way of travelling to the Island
1956: £125k expansion of the terminal building


Jersey Airport in 1960s

Air arrivals continued to increase during the 1960s with visitors now arriving from further afield. Freight services were also improved, with Jersey cattle flown out of the Island to establish new herds overseas and produce, including flowers, sent direct to market in huge quantities.

Jersey Airport continued to develop and expand throughout the decade and, following an extension of the runway, by 1965 jets were now able to land.

The Jersey Aero Club continued to prosper and by 1964 more than 40 local pilots had obtained their licences.

Two new wings were built onto the existing administration block in 1968, providing amongst other facilities, a new 175-seater restaurant and bar.

Key moments of the decade
1965: The extension of the existing runway now enabled jets to land, further increasing travel opportunities to/from the Island
1968: Two new ‘wings’ were built onto the existing building, providing additional facilities, including a new 175-seater restaurant and bar


Jersey Airport in 1970s

By the 1970s, Jersey Airport had become the sixth busiest airport in Europe! The look of the airport was also changing with new building work, including the opening of a new air traffic control radar room and control tower, as well as a meteorological station. Passengers also had access to a shop on the ground floor.

By early 1976 and following a £1 million safety plan presented to the States of Jersey, the Airport had a 6,000ft runway with a 500ft safety area at the western area. The number of passengers using Jersey Airport in August 1975 was 104,085. In 1978 a mini-price war raged with cut-price fares encouraging people to come to Jersey. Improvements continued with plans to build a new passenger pier.

Key moments of the decade
August 1975: The number of passengers using Jersey Airport this month was recorded at 103,085, with Jersey having already been recognised in the early 1970s as the sixth busiest airport in Europe
1976: The airfield area was once again extended with a 6,000ft concrete runway and 500ft safety area at the western area of the airfield built
1978: A new passenger pier is opened during a time when a mini-price war raged offering cut-price air fares encouraging people to visit Jersey


Jersey Airport in 1980s

In the 1980s, the problem of jet aircraft was tempered by new developments in aircraft technology, meaning jet aircraft nowadays did not need to be noisy.

In 1986, it was announced that the Channel Islands should have a special position at the Civil Aviation Authority when they considered new air services for Island routes.

On 21 December 1988, the Lockerbie disaster brought the issue of airport security to the fore.

Key moments of the decade
1986: It was announced that the Channel Islands should have a special position at the Civil Aviation Authority when they considered new air services for Island routes. This led to the creation of a Director of Civil Aviation (DCA) for the Channel Islands
21 December 1988: The Lockerbie air disaster would bring about the future issue of airport security


Jersey Airport in 1990s

Plans to build an up-to-date and larger airport to accommodate the increasingly growing number of arriving passengers, continued to dominate the 1990s. In 1994 figures revealed that between £15 million and £17 million was needed to redevelop the airport site. The requirement for new security measurements following the Lockerbie disaster, as well as passengers having to wait in a large marquee erected outside the building when planes were delayed by fog, supported the argument for new enlarged facilities.

A modern extension to complement the original 1937 main building was opened in 1997, providing more space and better facilities for departing passengers. Amongst the airlines making use of the new facilities was British Airways, which has long been associated with flights to and from Jersey.

In the 90s, as well as serving both Gatwick and Heathrow, British Airways was able to offer passengers direct flights to other UK cities, as well as introducing a Jersey to Paris service in 1994. Air UK was flying to the south coast as well as to other airports further north, while Jersey European (later to become Flybe) was offering direct flights between Jersey and Ireland.

Key moments of the decade
June 1997: The biggest extension to the airport building was officially opened by HRH the Princess Royal. The new building provided more space and better facilities for departing passengers


Airport passengers

Entering a new century and looking to the future, a dynamic route development programme was implemented at Jersey Airport in 2006, which, despite the difficult times facing the global aviation industry, saw significant growth with the introduction of new routes and airlines, including low cost carriers such as easyJet, and Air Berlin.

Since 2007, a major programme of capital works was undertaken, including the resurfacing and re-profiling of the airport’s runway (2008/2009). A major redevelopment of the airside departures lounge was completed during the summer 2009, enhancing the passenger journey experience, whilst at the same time offering a more positive lasting impression of the Island for departing passengers.

Key moments of the decade
2006: Despite the difficult times facing the global aviation authority, Jersey Airport implemented a dedicated route development programme, which would go on to achieve great success, including the introduction of low-cost carriers, including easyJet, Jet2 and Air Berlin, steadily increasing air passenger numbers year on year
2008/2009: A major capital works project to resurface and reprofile the airport’s runway was successfully carried out. So as not to impact operations, most of the work had to take place overnight when the runway was closed
2009: A major refurbishment of the airside departures lounge was completed, enhancing the overall passenger experience with larger seating areas and improvements to the retail and catering offering. This included the arrival into Jersey Airport of the World Duty Free franchise


Air Traffic Control tower

A new Air Traffic Control Building and Tower became fully functional in November 2010.

March 2012 saw the successful completion of an integration programme between Jersey Airport and Jersey Harbours, to be known as Ports of Jersey. Led by a Group Chief Executive, integration allowed the combined organisation to reinvigorate and refocus itself, delivering synergies, efficiencies and best practices across every department.

A business case for the incorporation of Ports of Jersey was passed by the States of Jersey (local government) in spring 2015, and came into effect on Thursday 01 October 2015.

Ports of Jersey Ltd remains a key strategic asset and continues to play a significant role in the growth of the Island’s major industries, first tourism and then finance, providing transport links that must be the envy of most other islands measuring just nine miles by five.

Key moments of the decade
2010: Opening of a new air traffic control facility and tower
March 2012: Successful completion of an integration programme between Jersey Airport and Jersey Harbours into one company, known as Ports of Jersey, which also included the services provided by Jersey Marinas and Jersey Coastguard
01 October 2015: Following approval earlier that same year by the States of Jersey, Ports of Jersey PLC became a fully incorporated business. Although still owned by the States of Jersey, the decision allowed the company to become more commercially focused and pursue further opportunities without the strain of Government restrictions
2019: With the number of passengers travelling through Jersey Airport having risen for the sixth consecutive year, a total of 1,715,952 passengers was recorded this year, making it the highest level since 1995


Having survived the an unprecedented two-years, it’s now time for us to look forward to the years ahead with a number of exciting initiatives already planned and ready to launch over the coming years. These include an upgrade to our airport security and passenger piers, the launch of our Future Airport project, along with the opportunities afforded to us by our Sustainability Strategy

This is just the beginning as we embark on another exciting journey – building and maintaining an airport we can all be proud of.

Key moments of the decade – so far….
March 2020: The arrival of a global pandemic forced Jersey Airport to suspended commercial operations, only operating for essential services only