The history of Malaga-Costa del Sol Airport began on 9 March 1919, when a Salmson 2A plane that was flying over the city looking for a place to land touched down on a plot of land known as “El Rompedizo”.
Travelling in the aeroplane was Pierre Latécoère, who at that time was looking for locations in Spain to set up various aerodromes. Latécoère's aim was to establish a commercial airline to link France with its African colonies through Spain and, later, to reach South America.
After several test flights, Didier Daurat, future manager of the Malaga aerodrome, began scheduled service between Toulouse, Barcelona, Alicante, Malaga, Tangiers and Casablanca on 1 September 1919.
In 1937, Malaga-Costa del Sol Airport became an air base and the Air Force Crew Members, Observers and Specialists schools were set up there.
On 12 July 1946, the airport was opened to domestic and international traffic and classified as a customs post. All passenger services were conducted in the air station offices, since the civil passenger station was not opened until 1948.
Throughout 1960 the design of the airport was changed radically as, apart from extending the runway and building a parallel taxiway, a new terminal area was laid out at the geometric centre of the airfield. This area was located 1.5 km to the north of the existing terminal, where a new aircraft parking area, the control tower, a power plant and a passenger terminal were to be built. This work also included the installation of different navigational aids: a VASIS and a VOR in 1965, an ILS system in 1966 and a radar system in 1970.
The airport, which has at different times been known as “El Rompedizo” or “García Morato”, became officially known as Malaga Airport by a Ministerial Order issued in September 1965. A ministerial order of 18 May 2011 changed its official name to Malaga-Costa del Sol Airport.
The new passenger terminal was opened on 29 January 1968, and both the domestic services, which were handled at the civil station, and the international services, handled at the provisional station, were immediately transferred there.
The growing increase in traffic, mainly of non-scheduled flights (about thirty companies operated in Malaga with this type of traffic in 1965) meant a specific terminal had to built, known as a Modular Station for non-scheduled traffic. The new building was identical to those built in Palma, Girona, Alicante and Ibiza; it was opened on 30 June 1972.
Ruiz Picasso Terminal
The persistent growth in traffic meant that construction of a new terminal had to be considered. It was finally opened on 30 November 1991 with the name of Pablo Ruiz Picasso. The terminal, designed by the architect Ricardo Bofill, is on two independent floors, separating arriving and departing passengers. The building is joined to the old international terminal and is combined operationally with it.
To complete the terminal, a vehicle car park building was constructed, which came into service in the summer of 1995. It is connected to the basement of the passenger terminal by means of a tunnel and was remodelled to house car hire services.
In 1995, restructuring and restoration began on the old 1940s passenger building, which became the general aviation terminal. In the northern part of the airport, a hangar was built for large aircraft maintenance, and next to it, a cargo terminal. Both went into service in 1996.
In 1997, a new extension to the aircraft parking area was carried out and, at the same time, it was fitted with a fuel supply system by means of pumps to all the positions connected to the airbridges.
In November 2002, the airport took a further step in its development with the opening of a modern control tower with the latest technology, incorporating, for the first time in a tower, the VICTOR system. This system allows the visual presentation of all necessary data on a single console table, thereby facilitating the work and the operational agility of the controller.
Terminal T3 and the new airfield
The Malaga Plan was an ambitious project which included building a new terminal and a new car park, and enlarging the airfield, in response to a sharp upturn in passenger numbers, mainly due to rapidly growing tourism on the Costa del Sol.
The new Terminal T3 joins the existing T1 and T2 to form a single passenger terminal area which can handle more than 9,000 passengers an hour at peak times. Opened in March 2010, its most important elements include 12 airbridges for direct boarding, 84 check-in desks, 2 desks for special baggage and 11 baggage reclaim carousels, plus one carousel for special baggage.
Attached to the new Terminal area, there is a car park with capacity for more than 2,500 vehicles, and a bus parking lot in the basement of Terminal T3 for 50 buses; and a new railway station was also built to link the airport to the Málaga-Fuengirola line.
The new airfield consists of a 3,090-metre maximum length runway for take-offs; a parallel taxiway; four rapid exit taxiways; and more than 150,000 square metres of aircraft parking, enabling a total of 125 positions.
For more information, you might like to buy the book by Luis Utrilla, Historia del Aeropuerto de Málaga Ventana nueva.