Birmingham Airport Is Alabama's Biggest — Here's How to Navigate It With Ease

Everything you need to know about BHM — including where to find the best pre-flight barbecue — according to an Alabama-based travel editor.

Birmingham Airport
Photo: Courtesy of BHM

Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport (BHM) is not only an easy to navigate and recently modernized airport that’s just 10 minutes from downtown Birmingham, it also smells enticingly of barbecue from before sunrise to long after sunset (thanks to a beloved local barbecue restaurant just on the departures side of security).

Serving the thriving tourism, business, and healthcare hub of Birmingham, Alabama, as well as offering access to University of Alabama and other university campuses and vacation destinations including the Gulf Coast, Alabama’s largest airport is just the right size for easy use. Airport parking is steps from the single terminal, and its one security area serves three small concourses with decent shopping, eating, and drinking. Five major airlines fly in and out of BHM with more than 100 flights daily, to 23 cities.

Thanks to its $201.6 million modernization in 2014, the Birmingham airport features amenities that include dependable (and free) Wi-Fi, play spaces for children, private nursing and meditation rooms, and several striking pieces of public art including a long wall mural of native plants and a moving photographic tribute to deceased civil rights pioneer Reverend Fred Shuttlesworth (for whom the airport was named in 2008).

Where is Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport?

Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport (BHM) is located at 5900 Messer Airport Highway, in Birmingham, Alabama. Generally a 10-minute drive from downtown Birmingham, the airport is located near Interstates 59 and 20 east of the city. (Note: Expect significant traffic delays and rerouting through March 2020 at the 59/20 interchange in downtown Birmingham because of highway construction. This will most affect eastbound travelers coming to the airport. Go here for updates.) The airport is about 140 miles west of Atlanta, 105 miles south of Huntsville, AL, and just less than 300 miles north of the Alabama Gulf Coast.

How do I get to Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport?

Birmingham Airport
Courtesy of BHM

Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport (BHM) is reached by car using major interstate highways (get directions here). Ground transportation options include limousine and shuttle services, taxi service, and Uber (rates from downtown start at $11). One mass transit bus route does include the Birmingham airport, but there are no dedicated public transportation services to the airport.

How many terminals are at Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport?

Birmingham Airport
Courtesy of BHM

Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport (BHM) is the largest airport in Alabama in terms of passenger traffic, but it’s still wonderfully small and easy to navigate with just one terminal of three concourses (A, B, and C). Baggage claim and ground transportation are on the lower level; airline desks, shops and restaurants, a single security checkpoint, and concourses and departure gates are all contained on the upper level.

Which airlines fly in and out of Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport?

Birmingham Airport
Courtesy of BHM

Five major airlines — American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Frontier Airlines, Southwest Airlines, and United Airlines — fly to and from BHM to 23 cities. BHM has more than 100 flights daily, and processes more than 2.6 million passengers per year.

Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport Food and Facilities

The food and facilities at Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport (BHM) suit its small size. Four baggage carousels, vending machines, ATMs, a service animal relief area and a small Starbucks are on the lower level. (The lower level also features a fascinating photographic exhibit on the life and times of civil rights pioneer, the Reverend Fred Shuttlesworth, for whom the airport was named in 2008.)

On the departure level, the pre-security area has ticketing and check-in facilities for five airlines, plus a Barber Motorsports-themed store that sells gifts, travel accessories, and brand merchandise from Barber. Also on the pre-security side of the airport, Starbucks sells coffee, pastries and snacks, and The Local Rustic Market features grab-and-go options.

When it comes to facilities, each of three concourses has a small but appropriate number of shops and restaurants, plus child play areas, nursing and meditation rooms, one ATM, and several major pieces of public art that feature Alabama’s history and natural environment.

One security area processes all users of the airport. On the departures side of security as part of Concourse B, an airy observation rotunda features floor-to-ceiling windows, rocking chairs and small tables and chairs. Directly across from security, Jim ‘N Nick’s Bar-B-Q, a popular Birmingham-based chain, offers a menu of Southern dishes along with more traditional fare for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and bar service. A small grab-and-go outlet sits adjacent.

At the Concourse A/B intersection, a Hudson News (themed for Birmingham’s Alabama Theatre) sells the typical mix of gifts, snacks, travel accessories, and Alabama souvenirs (Roll Tide!). A small food-court-style area features Chick-Fil-A (a well-known Southern chain known for its chicken sandwiches and which is closed on Sundays) and The Great American Bagel, which offers bagels, sandwiches, and salads. This is also the location of the sole ATM on the departures level.

Concourse A features a CNN Newsstand outlet, a Starbucks, and Birmingham Brewhouse, which has a pub-style menu and features its own craft beers.

On Concourse B/C intersection, the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame shop sells collegiate merchandise so popular in this land of SEC football. A small food court area features Starbucks and Grounded in Birmingham, offering burgers, sandwiches, and salads.

On Concourse C, Ebony Newsstand sells gifts, travel accessories, and Ebony Magazine merchandise, and Talladega Grille offers tailgate-style food options and bar service in a NASCAR-themed environment.

The entire airport features free Wi-Fi (TheAuthorityLAN).

Car rentals at Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport

Car rental facilities at Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport are located on the ground level of the parking deck, which is also the same location for picking up and dropping off rental cars. The rental car facility features the following companies: Alamo, Avis, Budget, Dollar, Enterprise, Hertz, National, Payless, and Thrifty.

Parking at Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport

Parking at Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport (BHM) is very accessible to the terminal entrances, ample (5,000 spaces), easy to navigate, and affordable. Hourly parking is on Level 3 of the sole parking area—a covered deck—and costs $1/hour or $24/day. Daily parking is on Levels 2, and 4-7 of the same parking deck (some sections of certain levels are not covered) and costs $1/hour and $12/day. (Parking for oversized vehicles is available on Level 1.) An Economy Lot offers 700 spaces and the most affordable rate ($1/hour and $10/day) and features complimentary shuttle service to the terminal. Valet Parking services are located curbside at the upper level and cost $16.95 per day and should be reserved online in advance.

Hotels near Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport

The hotels closest to Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport are the Ramada by Wyndham Birmingham Airport and Holiday Inn Birmingham-Airport (1.5 miles away, with complimentary shuttle service from 4:20 a.m. through midnight daily). The Holiday Inn has been recently upgraded and is the best bet for an “airport location,” although the hotel’s immediate neighborhood does not provide much to do outside of the use of the hotel (rates start at $103.55).

Downtown Birmingham, just 10 minutes away (although note traffic delays and detours while Interstates 20/59 are under construction), has a broad variety of hotels that also allow for access to the city’s thriving arts and dining scene.

Things to do near Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport

The good news about Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport being so close to downtown Birmingham (a 10-minute drive), is that it means a long layover can turn into a visit to a historic peanut seller, a civil rights walk, a few hours in the city’s beautiful museum of art, a platter of BBQ, hanging out at a local craft brewery, or a refreshing stroll through botanical gardens or the zoo. Birmingham is an area rich with smaller enclaves, so consider spending your time exploring areas like trendy Avondale or the boutique and café-rich villages of Mountain Brook (Crestline Village, Mountain Brook Village, and English Village). For a fascinating look at the mining and steel industries that created Birmingham, make a twin visit (if time allows) to Vulcan Park & Museum (which also has a breathtaking ridgetop view of downtown Birmingham) and the Sloss Furnaces National Historic Landmark. (Note that some of these destinations are more than 10 minutes from BHM.)

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