In 1934, the Ministry of Communications authorised the construction of an airport in Zalburu, one kilometre to the east of the city of Vitoria, between the towns of Elorriaga and Betoño, by the main road to Irún. It was declared of general interest and public service and opened on 29 September 1935 under the name José Martínez Aragón. After the Civil War it was named General Mola Airport, although it did not have any air traffic; after a decree of the 12 July 1946, it was reopened to civil air traffic, both national and international, mainly for tourists, and to commercial traffic technical stopovers. Six months later it was again closed to traffic. It was not opened again until 1948, once the provincial council of Araba/Álava and the town hall of Vitoria donated it to the Air Ministry. In 1957 it was again closed to air traffic but in 1966 it was again reopened only for private and leisure flights.

In 1970, as a consequence of the financial development of the region, the Araba/Álava Chamber of Commerce and Industry asked for the contribution of the regional council for the establishment of regular routes that would connect Vitoria with the main Spanish and European cities. The first studies that were carried out show it was impossible to use the existing airport. New studies revealed that the best economic and technical solution was to use the land by the town of Foronda on the plains of Álava. In the summer of 1972 the construction of the new aerodrome was authorised.

In 1976, the Civil Aviation under-secretary authorised the first stage of the airport, which involved building a 2,200 by 45 meters runway, installing an ILS category II, VASIS, runway visual range meter, RVR and a system to measure the cloud height. The runway was later extended to 3,500 meters. In 1978 construction works on the fire station, control tower and access begun.

The 30 January 1980 a ministerial order that opened Vitoria Airport to national and international passenger traffic was published, allowing it 24 hours a day operation and giving it the classification of special first category. On the 16 February, regional council transferred the ownership of the land, buildings and facilities to the Ministry of Transport, and signed the devolution of the lands of the General Mola Airport to Vitoria Town Hall and the regional council. The 6 April, Iberia opened the Madrid-Vitoria route.

In 1981 the customs facilities of Vitoria Airport were enlarged for the dispatch of freight, so the airport specialised in air freight and developed its role as the merchandise distribution centre of the north of Spain. To encourage this activity, the society VIA was created by Aena, the town hall of Vitoria, the Araba/Álava Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the regional council and the Basque Country Government in 1994.