El Altet opened on 4 May 1967, replacing the older La Rabassa aerodrome that had served Alicante since 1936. It took its name after the El Altet area (a part of Elche's countryside) where it was built. The first commercial flight that landed in the airport was a Convair Metropolitan by Aviaco.
Iberia established regular connections between Alicante-Madrid and Alicante-Barcelona in November 1969. In the early 1970s passengers' traffic reached 1 million, which prompted a construction of a new passenger terminal. In 1980 the runway was extended to three kilometres
In 2010, Alicante Airport handled 9,382,935 passengers, 74,474 flight operations and 3,113 tonnes of cargo, making it the sixth busiest airport by passenger numbers in Spain, and one of the 50 busiest in Europe. Furthermore, it is the busiest airport in the Valencian Community.
The existing terminals were struggling to cope with that volume of traffic and so work started on a new terminal which was inaugurated by Aena and Public Works Minister Jose Blanco this Wednesday and opened for passengers on Thursday. It replaces both of the existing terminals 1 and 2 for all incoming and outgoing flights.
The new terminal covers an area of 333,500 square metres, six times the size of the previous Terminal 1 and Terminal 2 buildings together. It has 98 check-in desks (compared to 53 in the old terminals), 26 boarding gates (compared to 16 in Terminal 1 and 2 together) and 16 luggage carrousels. Passengers can also enjoy a choice of 20 shops and 16 food and drink outlets.
Special technology incorporated in the terminal includes the Automatic System for Luggage Management, which has capacity to deal with 7,880 bags per hour, and uses a radio-frequency chip to track the luggage and minimise the number of lost bags.
The new terminal is part of a € 628 million expansion project for El Altet, which also includes a new six-storey car park, the improvement of road access to the airport, and a power station to supply electricity for the airport.
Our eldest daughter arrives at El Altet on Monday morning so we will get a good look at the new terminal then.