Palma Airport History
From the 20th century onwards, the Spanish Balearic island of Mallorca rapidly become a major destination for tourists from around the world. It’s easy to see why it became so popular at such a quick pace, because its position in the Mediterranean Sea means the weather year-round is sunny and inviting, it has a rich heritage and an almost endless list of attractions.
One of the reasons why Mallorca went from a relatively quiet island to a booming international hotspot for visitors was the opening of Palma de Mallorca Airport, which is also known as Son Sant Joan Airport or just by its International Air Transport Association code of PMI.
The origins and development of Palma Airport
Before there was a dedicated airport near Palma, which is Mallorca’s capital city, in the early 1900s the government of Spain first experimented with the possibility of conducting flights between the mainland and the Balearic Islands in order to deliver mail. Because Mallorca did not have an airport, these airmail fights used seaplanes that landed in Palma’s port.
A few years later, in 1934, an aerodrome – a small airfield – was built on the island at Son Sant Joan, and then in 1935 a similar aerodrome was built in the area of San Bonet. This allowed for some small-scale tourism flights to take place between the island and Spain.
The aerodrome at San Bonet was actually the first to be developed more for civilian flights in the 1930s, because Son Sant Joan at the time was mostly used by military aircraft. However, it soon became clear that it would be easier to expand the flight capacity at the Son Sant Joan aerodrome, because of limitations with what could be done using the land around the San Bonet location, which led to the plans for building today’s Palma Airport at the Son Sant Joan site.
Opening and expanding Palma Airport
What is now known as Palma Airport officially opening on July 7, 1960, with the capacity for domestic flights throughout Spain and international flights to global destinations. At that time, the airport had one terminal to handle all flights, and it also had a single runway.
Demand was so high that the runway was expanded just one year later in 1961, and then additional facilities were soon added to the airport, such as a fire station and power plant.
By 1962 the airport had already processed more than 1 million travelers per year. This led to plans for building a second terminal, which was launched in 1972 and was designed to be smaller than the original terminal, and a second runway that was completed in 1974.
Demand for flights to Mallorca did not slow down during those years, which led to the next stage of planning, which included building a brand new terminal. Work on this facility began in 1993 and took several years before it was able to open to passengers in 1997. This terminal is now the main building through which all domestic and international flights are now processed.
Palma Airport in the 21st century
Most airports throughout the world saw a decline in the number of travelers immediately after the 9/11 attacks in the United States in 2001, and this includes Palma Airport. It saw a significant drop in people flying to the airport soon after, but soon saw a rebound from 2002 onward.
In 2007, the airport set a record at the time for handling more than 23 million travelers, but this has continued to rise and is now estimated to be almost 30 million fliers every year. Many passengers are from Germany, Spain and the United Kingdom, but also several other countries.