A century of operations: the 10 oldest airports in Europe

travelview / Shutterstock

Can you believe that some airports in Europe are significantly older than the grandparents of those who work there? 

AeroTime has compiled a list of the oldest airports in Europe, all of which are still in operation. 

10. Copenhagen Airport (CPH) in Denmark 

Copenhagen Airport (CPH) opens the list of the ten oldest airports in Europe. Located on the island of Amager, approximately eight kilometers (five miles) away from Copenhagen in Denmark, it was inaugurated in 1925.  

The airport was originally called Kastrup Airport as it is in the small town of Kastrup. The area of CPH airport covers up to 11.8 square kilometers (around 4.6 square miles), and this makes it the second largest airport in the Nordic countries. 

Featuring the dual parallel runway system, two passenger terminals and a total of 108 jet bridges and remote parking stands, CPH airport currently supports operations of 54 passenger and four cargo airlines, and is able to serve both narrow and wide-body jets.  

Copenhagen Airport (CPH) in Denmark Thue C. Leibrandt / Wikimedia Commons

9. Geneva Airport (GVA) in Switzerland 

Locals call it ‘Cointrin Airport’ but officially the airport, which is located four kilometers (2.5 miles) away from Geneve and can be accessed from both sides of the Swiss-French border, is known as Geneva Airport (GVA). The unique location of this airport makes Geneva a European Union freight hub even though Switzerland is not a member of the EU. 

GVA airport started operations in 1919 when the Grand Council of Geneva gave a green light for a small airfield project at Meyrin, a municipality of the Canton of Geneve. Initially, the airfield had an area of 54 hectares (130 acres) and was mainly serving scarce passenger traffic on German flag carrier’s Lufthansa (LHAB) (LHA) flights, which used to connect Berlin and Barcelona with a stop in Geneve. However, 11 years after the official launch, in 1930 some six airlines began their services to the airport.  

GVA airport now features a single 3,900 meter-long (12,795 ft) runway, which is considered the longest runway in Switzerland and is one of Europe’s longest runways. Currently, it serves a total of 57 airlines and is the main hub for the country’s flag carrier Swiss International Air Lines as well as for easyJet subsidiary easyJet Switzerland, which operates under an easyJet franchisee from Geneva Airport. 

With the capability to serve up to 15 million passengers yearly, GVA airport’s goal is to increase its annual capacity to support 25 million travelers by 2030. 

Geneva Airport (GVA) in Switzerland EQRoy / Shutterstock

8. Paris–Le Bourget Airport (LBG) in France 

Having begun commercial operations in 1919, Paris–Le Bourget Airport (LBG) was the only operating airport in Paris, France, until the opening of Orly Airport in 1932.  

Located approximately 11 kilometers (6.9 miles) away from Paris, LBG airport is recognized as the destination for the historic solo transatlantic flight of American aviator and aerospace inventor, Charles Lindbergh. It was also at this airport where the American carrier’s Pan Am Airways Boeing 707 aircraft landed after its first jet-powered transcontinental flight from New York, US. 

Due to capacity constraints, in 1977 the airport stopped serving both international and domestic commercial passenger air traffic. However, from 1980 until the present day, it has been an active airport for domestic and international flights of business aviation. It also hosts air shows, notably the Paris Air Show. 

The double-deck Boeing 747, the world's second largest passenger Alexandra Lande / Shutterstock

7. Lappeenranta Airport (LPP) in Finland 

About 2.5 kilometers away from Lappeenranta city in Finland is where you can find the country’s oldest airport, which continues to serve commercial passenger flights.  

After opening in 1918, Lappeenranta Airport (LPP) served as a minor airfield for rare passenger flights but, during World War II, it was turned into a military air base. However, when the war finished, the airport resumed passenger operations.  

As the demand for air travel increased, in 1960 the local government began the airport’s expansion, which included the construction work of the current terminal and the extension of the existing runway. Nowadays, the airport features a 2,500-meter-long and 60-meter-wide runway, which accommodates flights from low-cost carriers. 

Lappeenranta AirportElmA / Wikimedia Commons

6. Amsterdam Airport Schiphol (AMS) in the Netherlands 

Is it possible that one of Europe’s oldest airports was also the world’s third busiest airport in terms of international passenger traffic in 2021?   

Both titles are held by the main international airport of the Netherlands, Amsterdam Airport Schiphol (AMS), which is located around nine kilometers (5.6 miles) away from the country’s capital. 

Launched in 1916 as a military base, in 1949 it became the primary airport of the country. However, the local government decided to sacrifice a small town called Rijk in order to implement the airport’s expansion plan. At the time, the town was completely demolished so the area was available for further airport growth. 

Opened as a single-terminal concept, AMS airport currently features a single large terminal, which is split into three large departure halls. It covers an area of 6,887 acres (around 10.3 square miles) and is equipped with a total of six runways as well as approximately 223 boarding gates, including 18 double jetway gates, which are used for serving wide-body jets only.  

AMS airport is the main hub for many local airlines, including Dutch carrier KLM, Corendon Dutch Airlines, TUI, Transavia, easyJet and others, and operates flights for a total of 76 passenger and 28 cargo airlines. 

Amsterdam Airport Schiphol (AMS) in the Netherlands Aerovista Luchtfotografie / Shutterstock

5. Ciampino International Airport (CIA) in Italy 

Another airport which opened at the beginning of the last century but remains operative is Ciampino International Airport (CIA) in Italy. 

Opened in 1916, the CIA airport is Italy’s second international airport and a military airport. The airport has witnessed many historical aviation events, including the flight of Italian pilot Umberto Nobile to the North Pole in April 1926, as well as the first flight of a helicopter prototype designed by Corradino D’Ascanio in 1930. 

CIA airport was the main airport of the capital of Italy until 1960 when Leonardo da Vinci–Fiumicino Airport (FCO) was opened. Currently, the airport mainly serves low-cost carriers (LCCs) and is capable of handling up to six million passengers a year. 

Ciampino International Airport (CIA) in Italy Bestravelvideo / Shutterstock

4. Poznan–Lawica Henryk Wieniawski Airport (POZ) in Poland  

Launched in 1913, Poznan–Lawica Henryk Wieniawski Airport (POZ) operated military flights for nearly a century until, in 2009, its southern area was selected for civilian flights. Close to the commercial flight terminal there is also a military air base.  

Nowadays, the POZ airport is capable of handling up to 3.5 million passengers each year. 

Poznan–Lawica Henryk Wieniawski Airport (POZ) in Poland  Shevchenko Andrey / Shutterstock

3. Bremen Airport (BRE) in Germany  

Having started its initial operations as a local aerospace club in 1910, Bremen Airport (BRE) in Germany, is the third oldest Europe airport.  

With the support of Bremen Senate in the development process, BRE airport officially received its airport status in 1913. Until World War I, it was a civilian airfield connecting Bremen and the growing airship route network. But once the war started and civilian airship flights ceased, it became an airfield for military operations.  

However, in 1920, the BRE airport reopened for civilian passenger flights and started running the scheduled operations of Dutch air carrier KLM aircraft. 

The BRE airport currently consists of a single terminal building. According to the airport’s website, it serves approximately 2.5 million passengers and up to 40,000 aircraft take-offs and landings per year.  

Bremen Airport (BRE) in Germany  Arkadij Schell / Shutterstock

2. Aurel Vlaicu International Airport (BBU) in Romania 

Named after Aurel Vlaicu, a Romanian pilot who built the country’s first two counter-rotating propellers-powered planes, Aurel Vlaicu International Airport (BBU) is considered the second-oldest airport in Europe.  

After launch in 1912, the airport was the first flight school in the country. But in 1920, it officially became the main hub for the CFRNA, the predecessor of the current Romanian national airline and flag carrier TAROM. 

When Romanian low-cost carrier (LCC) Blue Air selected BBU airport as its main hub in 2004, it became the main country’s airport for many other European LCCs, including Wizz Air and easyJet as well as the now-defunct Germanwings and Sky Europe Airlines.  

However, the pace of the airport’s development was not fast enough for some airlines. And so, in 2012, LCCs moved passenger traffic to the larger rival – Bucharest Henri Coanda International Airport (OTP) – a nearby airport.  

Since this transition, BBU airport has become a hub for corporate aviation.

Aurel Vlaicu International Airport (BBU) in Romania Mircea Moira / Shutterstock

1. Hamburg Airport (HAM) in Germany 

Established in Germany in 1911, Hamburg Airport (HAM) holds the honored title of one of the world’s oldest commercial airports and the oldest airport in Europe. 

The history of HAM airport begins with large rigid German-invented dirigible airships, also known as Zeppelins. In its early days, Hamburg Airport was primarily used as the main base in Germany for Zeppelin flights. But, two years after it opened, a section of the airport was also used for fixed-wing aircraft operations. The airport also played a significant role during the Berlin Blockade during the Cold War between 1948 and 1949, when it became a staging area for aircraft flying between Hamburg and West Berlin. 

1959 marks the year when the airport started running commercial passenger flights. At the time, the US’s principal airline, Pan American World Airways Boeing 707, launched scheduled services between New York, London, and Hamburg. Various other air carriers followed the example of Pan American and started operating routes through Hamburg.  

Located 8.5 kilometers (around 5.3 miles) north of Hamburg, the second-largest city in Germany, HAM airport originally covered an area of 440,000 square meters (4,700,000 square feet). But over time its territory has expanded more than ten times to 5.7 square kilometers (or around 2.2 square miles).  

Equipped with two runways, 17 jet bridges, and 54 parking spaces for aircraft, the airport is capable of serving both narrow-body and wide-body jets, such as Boeing 777 and Airbus A380. So far, it supports both regular and charter flights of 52 airlines, including major European carriers such as Air France, British Airways, Wizz Air, KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, easyJet, Lufthansa (LHAB) (LHA), and many more.  

Even though 111 years have passed since the launch, the airport remains a busy hub for both European and non-European travelers. According to the Airports Council International, by the end of 2021 HAM airport had served 5.32 million passengers compared to a record-breaking 17.3 million travelers pre-pandemic in 2019. 

HAM airport in Germanytravelview / Shutterstock


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