Sofia Airport

Infobox Airport
name = Sofia International Airport
nativename = Летище София (Враждебна)
Letishte Sofiya (Vrazhdebna)
nativename-a =
nativename-r =

image-width =
caption =
type = Public
owner =
operator = Sofia Airport EAD
city-served =
location = Sofia
elevation-f = 1,742
elevation-m = 531
coordinates = Coord|42|41|42|N|023|24|30|E|type:airport
website = []
metric-elev = yes
metric-rwy = yes
r1-number = 09/27
r1-length-f = 11,811
r1-length-m = 3,600
r1-surface = Asphalt
stat-year =
stat1-header =
stat1-data =
stat2-header =
stat2-data =
footnotes =

Sofia Airport airport codes|SOF|LBSF ( _bg. Летище София, "Letishte Sofiya"), also known as Vrazhdebna ("Враждебна") after the village located to the north is the main airport in Sofia, Bulgaria. It handled 2.2 million passengers in 2006 and 2.7 million passengers in 2007. [ [ Sofia Airport news site] ]


The airport was initially built in the late 1930s on a site 6.3 kilometres/3.8 miles (7.5km/4.5m by road then; later 9km/5.5m by road and today 10.2km/6.1m and up to 11.4km/6.8m) distant from the geographical centre of Sofia as a replacement of that city's small civil airport at Bozhurishte. Sofia then had under 250,000 inhabitants. The airport continues to serve the same city, which in 2006 passed the two million inhabitant mark.

During the Second World War, the facilities were used by the military. Mail, perishable freight and passenger operations begain in 1947 from buildings on the north side of the airport. The passenger terminal (now Terminal 1) on the south side of the airport was completed during the Second World War in the manner of a then-modern European railway terminus to designs by the architect Ivan Marangozov. It opened after several years of delay in 1947. The structure comprised a government wing to the west, an international handling area in the middle, and a domestic handling area to the east. At that time, it was planned that the airport would eventually have two intesecting runways orientated at a 30-degree angle to each other.

The terminal had substantially reached its capacity of some 600,000 passengers a year by the later 1960s and was subjected to a number of refurbishments and extensions beginning in the spring of 1968. In 1975, a new international arrivals handling extension was opened to the west of the building, the domestic area to the east was enlarged, the government handling area was removed to a dedicated terminal some distance to the west, a VIP handling area opened in the old terminal, , apron area was extended to the east and new taxiways opened. A bonded warehouse opened to the east of the terminal square in 1969 and several new hangars followed to the east of the first maintenance base in the 1970s. A new checked baggage handling system opened to the north of the building in the early 1980s, cosmetic and traffic reorganising refurbishments were carried out in 1990, with a substantial landside extension following in 2000.

By the late 1970s, the terminal was handling in the region of three million passengers a year, a million of them on domestic routes. Passenger numbers fell off sharply after the 1979 CMEA ("Comecon") oil price shock and recovered to just over a million a year by the late 1980s. In the early and mid-1990s, domestic traffic practically ceased, while foreign traffic reduced significantly. The latter began growing apace in the late 1990s and early 2000s to reach its current levels. The terminal was last refurbished partially in 1990. In 2000 it underwent a wholesale update in which the international arrivals area was moved to the east wing where domestic handling had been, the former international arrivals area to the west was closed, and the layout of the central international departures area was changed in line with world developments. Despite the works to the old terminal, the airport was becoming overwhelmed with passenger traffic.

Options for different airport developments began to be examined in the mid-1960s. One option was to relocate the facility to a new site, with candidate locations up to 70 km from Sofia). Another option involved extending the airport's area radically to the north-east and gradually removing the focus of the airport there. A third option was to develop substantially the same site. By the later 1980s the authorities had settled on the last option. Project design, involving a new terminal to the east of the old facility, a new runway to the north of (and parallel to) the existing runway, and taxiways, was completed by the mid-1990s. A finance package involving very significant European and Kuwaiti investment was initially agreed in 1998 and was in place by 2000. Works began in 2001. The new runway and some taxiways were completed in mid-2006. Terminal 2 was formally inaugurated on 27 December 2006. [ [ Bulgarian National radio news on opening of terminal 2] ]

Design and construction of a new control tower was mooted in 2006 but this project appeared to be in abeyance by 2008. Over the years, Sofia Airport has been criticised for its lack of world class air freight facilities and for some access problems. Passengers to and from the Bulgarian interior have to access or egress the airport through crowded rail and coach facilities in central Sofia. A rail link has been mooted on several occasions since the 1960s but no moves have been documented to its implementation. The airport is occasionally criticised as a source of environmental noise and pollution and strict noise abatement procedures have been enforced for departing traffic since the mid-1970s, while arriving traffic is generally routed to approach the field from the east, clear of Sofia.

A significant and recurring operational criticism of Sofia Airport has concerned its historical lack of all-weather operations capability. Though the new runway was designed for ICAO Category 3 operations, in 2007 it emerged that radio interference from security fencing, and most significantly from a large newly-built lorry park, prevented certification (and hence use) of the associated radio navigational aids. During the winter months, the airport, located on a high alluvial plain surrounded by mountains, suffers from very significant and frequent fog precipitation. In such circumstances, flights are redirected to diversion airports in Bulgaria or neighbouring countries, lengthening journeys by many hours.

Airport reconstruction

According to the plan a new Sofia Airport terminal was built to the east of the current terminal, and a second runway was constructed alongside the existing one. The existing runway has been turned into a taxiway parallel to the newly constructed runway. Both cross the Iskar river. The new runway was opened in August 2006, while the new terminal opened in December, 2006.

Total cost of the project was planned at 200 million euro. Finance was secured in 1997-98 from the European Investment Bank (60 million euro), Kuwait Fund for Arab Economic Development (12.3 million Kuwaiti dinars, approx. 41.5 million euro), and the European Union PHARE Programme (7.6 million euro). In August 2000 an ISPA grant of 50 million euro was allocated and in December the Financing Memorandum was signed. ref|1-financing

The construction works were in two lots: the new terminal with its surrounding infrastructure, and the new runway. The first lot was allocated to the German branch of Austrian company Strabag [ [ Terminal could be ready by 20 December 2006] ] , while the second lot was won by a consortium of Kuwaiti company Mohamed Abdulmohsin al-Kharafi & Sons and UAE-based Admak General Contracting Company.

Delays to terminal construction

The initial completion deadline for the new terminal was 15 December 2004 to a total budget of 112.2 million euro. Immediately after works started, Strabag contested the geological surveys by Dutch consutants NACO B.V. and demanded additional funding for unexpected additional works. The delay was ten months, and construction resumed after the Bulgarian government agreed to augment the project's value by 4.8 million euro and extend the deadline to 31 August 2005. ref|2-geology

In 2004 Strabag demanded an additional 6 million euro due to rising steel prices ref|3-steel. The Ministry of Transportation rejected the claim, backed by a report from NACO. In May 2005 the contractor threatened to take the case to international arbitration. ref|4-steel In August 2005, it became clear that Strabag would not be able to meet the changed deadline, slippage being put at six to eight weeks ref|5-extend2005. In November 2005 Strabag asked for eight months' further extension. ref|6-extend2005

Transport links


Two bus routes connect the airport to the Sofia University [] area of Sofia city centre. Travel time is some 20 minutes depending on traffic conditions. From/to Terminal 1 the link is by bus No84 and from/to Terminal 2 the bus line is No284. Ticket prices per trip in July 2008 were lev 1 (the equivalent of 50 euro cents), with pre-purchased tickets from kiosks or newsagents.

huttle bus

A small shuttle bus (No30) connects the two terminals with the city centre and Sofia's biggest residential area of Lyulin. Ticket price in April 2008 was leva 1.50 (some €0.75).


Taxis are available at the landside of the arrivals areas of Terminals 1 and 2. The taxi fare to central Sofia is between leva 5 and 8 depending on traffic. Average daytime fares per kilometre started at leva 0.70 in April 2008.Tourists and visitors from outside Bulgaria should pay attention when looking for a taxi. They should look for the assistance of taxi companies whose front offices are located INSIDE the airport terminal. Any price higher than 1 leva/km for night-time is fraud.Sofia International Airport is well connected to both the Trakiya and Hemus motorways.

Lufthansa Technik-Sofia

Lufthansa Technik Sofia was founded in late 2007 as a joint venture between Lufthansa Technik (80%) and the Bulgarian Aviation Group (20%). With the foundation of Lufthansa Technik Sofia, the Lufthansa Technik Group has created a fifth platform for the overhaul and maintenance of narrowbody aircraft in Europe. The Bulgarian facility serves customers in Europe, the Middle East and North Africa. Currently, the facility is undergoing a major reconstruction & upgrading. Meanwhile the more than 350 staff are trained in Bulgaria and at other Lufthansa Technik facilities. Base Maintenance operations will commence in the fourth quarter of 2008

Runway System

On 31st August 2006, Sofia Airport set its new runway system to operation, replacing the old and out-of-date facilities. The new runway is offset at 210 m to the north of the old runway, with the eastern end of its 3600 m long strip crossing over the Iskar river bed on a specially constructed bridge. New rapid and connecting taxiways are built additionally to open way for 200 aircraft movements per hour at a high level of safety. The navigational aids installed on the new runway enable landing operations under low visibility conditions at category III of the ICAO standards.Two de-icing platforms are constructed to allow centralised de-icing procedures in winter, They are just an element of the overall strategy of Sofia Airport for environmental protection and reduction of the harmful effects resulting from the airport operations.

New Control Tower

The director of RVD (Administration of Air Traffic) Emanuil Radev announced that the new control tower of Sofia airport must be ready by 2010 or at latest 2011.On August 4 a jury of 15 members has chosen a project for the flight tower at an open anonymous competition. First place takes the project of "Arhitektonika studio" OOD which will receive the sum of 20,000 levs.The choice of consultant and executors is forthcoming. The contract with the consultant is expected to be signed by the end of August. The executors must selected by the beginning of 2009.The engineering execution of the project will cost 177,000 levs, while the construction, according to preliminary calculations - at least 5-6 million levs. Taxes for the aero-navigational service are expected to decrease by 4-4,5 percent, the director of RVD informs.The process will continue stage by stage till 2011 and is run according to the partner agreement for cooperation with National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA). The agreement in question is conducted on free will and Bulgaria is the third country that is conducting such an agreement.One of the goals is to unburden the plight of the transporters, after the drastic increase of the price of fuels.

Terminal 1

This terminal, which is well known to the inbound/ outbound passengers in Sofia, now has a new name - Terminal 1. It was built in the first half of XXth century, extended and improved many times, fundamentally renovated in 2000, still making, though, curious allusions to the latest history of the continent. Terminal 1 offers easy access, simple procedures and efficient services up to the modern airport standard.

Terminal 2

The new Terminal 2 was officially opened on 27 December 2006 with the symbolic arrival of Bulgaria Air flight FB 408 from Brussels. It was one of the biggest projects in Bulgaria to receive funds from the EU ISPA programme. The price includes the new terminal, new aircraft parking aprons, upgrading the existing aircraft parking aprons and the construction of connecting taxiways. The terminal has 7 air-bridges, 38 check-in desks and covers an area of 50,000 sq m and has a car park for 820 vehicles.

The new terminal is located to the east of Terminal 1 and is significantly bigger than the old one which continues to serve low-cost and charter airlines.

The new passenger terminal building is designed with a capacity of 2,000 peak hour passengers or up to 2.6 million passengers a year, plus 26,000 tonnes of luggage. For the first time in Bulgaria, a terminal has airbridge-equipped gates instead of relying on airside busses.

The new Sofia Airport Centre, a premiere corporate office, hospitality and logistics centre in Bulgaria is being constructed in the vicinity.

The infrastructure surrounding the building was expected to be completed in 2007. It includes a new dual carriageway road connecting the terminal to the existing airport road, and landscaping including an artificial lake and a fountain.The airlines ticketing offices, tourist and car hire desks, banks, post office, and cafeterias in Terminal 2 are located in the public area. The travel retail shops, Bulgarian wine and spirits shop and Business lounges are located airside beyond the area of border control. Terminal 2 is designed with special attention to disabled passengers. Their access to the different terminal levels and the multi-storey car park is facilitated via lifts and escalators. []

Airlines and destinations

cheduled flights

Terminal 1

*Airlift Service (Ohrid)
*easyJet (London-Gatwick, Madrid [begins 27 October] , Manchester [begins 11 December] , Milan-Malpensa)
*Flybaboo (Geneva)
*Germanwings (Cologne/Bonn)
*MyAir (Milan-Bergamo)
**MyAir operated by Darwin Airline (Venice)
*Rossiya (St. Petersburg) "seasonal"
*SkyEurope (Vienna)
*Wizz Air (Barcelona-Girona, Brussels-Charleroi, Dortmund, London-Luton, Milan-Bergamo, Rome-Fiumicino, Valencia)
*Wizz Air Bulgaria (Varna)

Terminal 2

*Aegean Airlines (Athens)
*Aer Lingus (Dublin [begins 28 October] )
*Aerosvit Airlines (Kiev-Boryspil)
*Aeroflot (Moscow-Sheremetyevo)
*Air France (Paris-Charles de Gaulle)
*Air Malta (Malta)
*Alitalia (Rome-Fiumicino)
**Alitalia operated by Alitalia Express (Milan-Malpensa)
*Austrian Airlines (Vienna)
**Austrian Arrows operated by Tyrolean Airways (Vienna)
*British Airways (London-Heathrow)
*Bulgaria Air
**Domestic: (Burgas, Varna)
**International: (Alicante, Amsterdam, Athens, Barcelona, Beirut, Berlin-Tegel, Brussels, Bucharest-Otopeni, Dubai, Frankfurt, Istanbul-Atatürk, Larnaca, London-Gatwick, London-Heathrow, Madrid, Málaga, Manchester, Moscow-Sheremetyevo, Palma de Mallorca, Paphos, Paris-Charles de Gaulle, Prague [ends 22 October] , Rome-Fiumicino, Skopje, Tel Aviv, Tirana, Tripoli, Valencia, Vienna, Zürich)
*Cyprus Airways (Larnaca)
*Czech Airlines (Prague)
*El Al (Tel Aviv)
*LOT Polish Airlines (Warsaw)
*Lufthansa (Frankfurt, Munich)
**Lufthansa Regional operated by Eurowings (Düsseldorf)
**Lufthansa Regional operated by Lufthansa CityLine (Munich)
*Malév Hungarian Airlines (Budapest)
*Olympic Airlines (Athens)
*Swiss International Air Lines (Zürich)
*TAROM (Bucharest-Otopeni)
*Turkish Airlines (Istanbul-Atatürk)

Charter flights

"All charter flights operate from Terminal 1"
*AtlasJet (Antalya, Dalaman)
*BH Air (Antalya, Belfast-International, Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, Dubai, London-Gatwick, Manchester, Sharm El Sheikh)
*First Choice Airways (Birmingham, Bristol)
*Karthago Airlines (Monastir)
*Monarch Airlines (London-Luton, Birmingham, Manchester)
*Nouvelair (Monastir)
*Pegasus Airlines (Antalya, Izmir, Bodrum)
*S7 Airlines (Moscow)
*Thomas Cook Airlines (London-Gatwick, Manchester)
*Thomsonfly (London-Gatwick, Birmingham, Manchester)

Cargo airlines

*DHL Aviation (Leipzig/Halle Airport)
*TNT Airways (Liège)
* Farnair

Business airlines

*Air Lazur []
*Air Vb []
*Alexandrov Air []
*Avio Delta []

Former airlines and destinations

* Air Italy (Verona)
* Air Koryo (Pyongyang)
* Air Sofia (Dubai)
* Balkan
**Domestic: (Burgas, Rousse, Silistra, Sliven, Targovishte, Varna, Vidin etc)
**International: (Bangkok, London, Paris, Johannesburg, Moscow, New York-JFK etc)
* Bulgaria Air (Copenhagen, Dublin, Lisbon, Stockholm-Arlanda)
* Germania (Berlin)
* Helios Airways (Larnaca)
* Hemus Air (Bratislava, Cairo, Cologne, Leipzig, Oslo, Priština etc)
* Jat Airways (Belgrade)
* Jes Air (New York-JFK, Singapore, Sydney, Toronto etc)
* KD Avia (Kaliningrad)
* Middle East Airlines (Beirut)
* MyAir (Bologna, Rome-Ciampino)
* SkyEurope (Bratislava, Prague)
* Syrian Arab Airlines (Damascus)
* SN Brussels Airlines (Brussels)
* Transavia (Amsterdam)
* Viaggio Air (Istanbul, Vienna)
* Wizz Air (Budapest)

Traffic figures

Picture Gallery


# [ Sofia Echo — Plans on the runway]
# [ Standard — Niki Vassilev Leaves Sofia without New Airport]
# [ Dnevnik — Strabag seeks new revision, arbitration looms]
# [ Ministry of transportation Minister Mutafchiev met Strabag representatives] (in Bulgarian)
# [ Winter charter traffic at Sofia airport]
# [ Sofia Echo — New demands for completion of Sofia Airport project]
# [ Lufthansa Technik-Sofia]

See also

* List of airports in Bulgaria
* List of the busiest airports in Europe by passenger traffic

External links

* [ Sofia Airport Homepage]
* [ Strabag — Sofia Airport project]

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