What Are The Differences Between Glasgow’s Two Airports?

Readers familiar with the world of air travel in Scotland will likely be aware that the country’s most populous city, Glasgow, is served by two airports. One of these is known simply as Glasgow Airport (GLA), while the city is also served by the more distant Glasgow Prestwick Airport (PIK). But how exactly do these two facilities differ? Let’s find out.

Glasgow Airport
Glasgow Airport is the second busiest in Scotland, behind Edinburgh. Photo: ITS Congresses via Flickr

Location and ground transport options

Let’s start by establishing where exactly Glasgow‘s two airports are situated relative to the city itself. Prestwick is the more distant of the two, and lies approximately 50 km (31 miles) away from Glasgow Central Station by road. Meanwhile, Glasgow Airport is a mere 14.5 km (9 miles) from the city center’s rail hub, making it more convenient in this sense.

In terms of ground transportation options, for passengers who want to travel into the city by public transit, Prestwick is actually unique among Scottish airports. Specifically, it is the only one in the country to have its own dedicated onsite railway station. Situated on the Ayrshire Coast Line, the journey time to Glasgow Central is typically just over 50 minutes.

Meanwhile, as Glasgow Airport does not have its own railway station, public transport users must take the bus into the city. This can take just 15 minutes on services that run directly along the M8 motorway. On-and-off talks regarding a dedicated rail link to the airport have also been a staple of 21st-century infrastructure discourse in Scotland.

Prestwick Airport
Prestwick Airport is situated southwest of Glasgow on the Ayrshire coast. Photo: Thomas Nugent via Wikimedia Commons

Contrasting airline service models

Glasgow’s two airports also differ in the markets that they serve. Owing to its more distant location, Prestwick is well-suited to being a low-cost hub for the city, and indeed the wider area as a whole. Today, it is a key base for Ryanair, which operates year-round and seasonal services to Spanish and Portuguese leisure-based destinations.

Meanwhile, Glasgow Airport attracts a wider range of airline models. While low-cost carriers like Ryanair and easyJet do also have a presence there, you can also find long-haul airlines like Air Transat, Emirates, and WestJet. Glasgow Airport is also a key base for local carrier Loganair, which operates regional services to various Scottish islands from GLA.

Emirates A380 Glasgow Getty
Emirates’ presence at GLA has even led to A380 visits. Photo: Getty Images

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Famous visitors

Both airports have had some notable visitors over the years. As seen in the photograph above, Emirates has deployed the Airbus A380 to Glasgow Airport on a handful of occasions. The first, in 2014, marked 10 years of Dubai-Glasgow services by the airline. Then, in May 2019, it used the superjumbo for around six weeks on its DXB-GLA flights.

Meanwhile, Prestwick was once known as the only place in the UK where Elvis Presley was thought to have set foot. This happened when he made a stopover while traveling home on a USAF plane after a deployment in Germany. Former US President Donald Trump also has a partnership with the airport, owing to its proximity to his Turnberry golf resort.

Have you ever flown to or from either of Glasgow’s airports? If both, which do you prefer? Let us know your thoughts and experiences in the comments!