The airport had an inauspicious beginning in 1927, when Lieut Colonel Alistair Miller asked the East London town council to help establish a municipal aerodrome at Woodbrook, west of the city.

Passenger flights were undertaken by two de Havilland Moth planes on Saturday afternoons and all day on Sundays, weather permitting. Flights could also be booked for weekdays, but only by special arrangement. In 1931 it took 11 hours to fly from Windhoek in Namibia to King Phalo Airport.

In 1944 a new airport was built at Collondale, about 2 km west of the present terminal building.

In 1965 the airport was again moved, this time to its present site, 9 km west of the city centre. Construction of the terminal buildings finished in 1966, and the airport was named after Ben Schoeman, the minister of transport at the time.

The airport was renamed in 1994. Since then, major alterations to the terminal building have been completed and a new first-floor office development for the airport management team has been added.


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