From the beginning of the 1910s, the province of Gipuzkoa had two airfields – Ondarreta and Lasarte – apart from the bay of San Sebastián, suitable for use by seaplanes. In 1920, a group of enthusiasts from the town of Irún put forward a proposal to the Ministry of Public Works for the construction of an airport in their town. The site chosen was known as Playaundi, in the mouth of the river Bidasoa, measuring around 800 by 400 metres.
During the 1920s, the Ministry of Public Works authorised several air routes: in 1922, between San Sebastián and Madrid; in 1924, between San Sebastián and the Canary Islands; and, in 1926, between San Sebastián and Tenerife.
The National Airports Plan of 1929 recognised the convenience of having an aerodrome near the border, close to Irún and San Sebastián. The Town Halls of Irún and San Sebastián and the Provincial Council offered the lands of Playaundi for the site of the airport, as well as economic assistance to carry out the works. In December 1931, due to the technical and economic difficulties in building the airport, it lost the classification of national airport. The process was halted and, in September 1934 the Irún Airport Council was dissolved.
In the 1950s, with the development of air transport in Spain, the need for an airport in Gipuzkoa was reconsidered. In 1952, with the necessary plans drawn up, the works for constructing an airport on the Bidasoa estuary, in the municipality of Fuenterrabia, were given urgent priority.
Inauguration and opening for traffic
The airport was inaugurated on 22 August 1955 and, on 29 August, it was officially opened to full national and international tourist traffic, as well as for technical stopovers. Aviaco began its scheduled flights four days later. It had one runway, 05/23, with a length of 1,200 metres. However, the operations for runway 23 obliged planes to fly over French territory, causing immediate protest from the French government. Moreover, the lack of facilities at the airport made it necessary to refurbish a nearby canning factory for use as a terminal.
In July 1957, French and Spanish delegations met to agree the limitations for the use of the airport at Fuenterrabia. Under the agreement, aeronautical easements were established in June 1959, but the use of the airport by recreational aircraft was not allowed.
In July 1961, works were completed to extend the runway to 1,500 metres. In May 1963, the airport was classified as a customs airport. Between 1964 and 1965, the control tower was built, the aircraft parking extended, and it became officially named San Sebastián Airport. In 1967, the works for the terminal building and its infrastructure began. These were inaugurated in 1968. In December 1969, the airport was closed to traffic to extend the runway to its current length of 1,754 metres.
On 18 March 1992, Spain and France signed a new agreement regulating the use of San Sebastián Airport, which lifted the ban on jet-engine aircraft using the airport. A maximum daily amount of movements was established, outside night time hours, for twelve MD-88 aircraft and twelve type BAE-146 movements.
In July 1996, the VOR/DME, situated 5.07 kilometres from threshold 04 and with identifier SSN, came into service. A new NDB/DME came into service in August 1997, situated in heading 355, 2.7 kilometres from threshold 22, with identifier HIG.