The History of Dresden Airport

Dresden Airport has existed since 11 July 1935. The airport has changed and developed markedly since that time. Here is a summary of the most important historical events and periods of time at the airport.

The former Terminal 1 (Hansahaus) at Dresden Airport in 1997


The newly built Dresden Airport opened on 11 July, after air traffic had been launched at smaller airfields in the region during the 1920s. The crucial factor behind the new construction work was the rearmament of Germany after 1933; as a result of this, the Reich administration bodies pressed ahead with the construction of a new military and commercial airport in the region.


The Luftwaffe (German Air Force) started training pilots and officers at the aerial warfare training centre, which was also newly constructed.


7,913 passengers took off from Dresden during the whole year – the highest figure before the outbreak of the Second World War. The most important routes included those from Berlin to Prague and Vienna, which the airlines operated with a stopover in Dresden.


Civil aviation came to a halt in the spring for the time being when the Second World War started. The Luftwaffe used Dresden Airport as an air base for training troops and task forces until the end of the war.


Soviet troops occupied the air base and the aerial warfare training centre on the last day of the Second World War. The Soviet Union then used the facilities for pilot training too.


East Germany planned to build its own commercial airport at the start of the 1950s. Dresden-Klotzsche quickly emerged as the site for the development work.


Following lengthy negotiations with the Soviet Union, the conversion work at the airport started and was one of the largest investment projects in the history of East Germany. A runway that was 2,500 metres long and 80 metres wide was built on the site of the airfield and aerial warfare training centre – as well as two large assembly hangars.


VEB Flugzeugwerke (aircraft production state combine) started to operate. The assembly personnel had built 80 Il-14P passenger planes by 1959.


Civil aviation returned to Dresden when the first scheduled flight operated by Deutsche Lufthansa (DDR) landed on 16 June. As the buildings at the airport then belonged to the aircraft factories, employees checked in the luggage in the centre of Dresden.


The “152“, which was developed and built in Dresden, made its maiden flight as the first German jet airliner on 4 December. The prototype crashed during its second flight one year later and the crew lost their lives.


An international commercial airliner landed at Dresden Airport on 22 May for the first time since the resumption of air traffic: a charter plane operated by Malév in Hungary transported tourists from Budapest to Saxony.


Aircraft construction in East Germany came to a halt. The East German National People’s Army took over the airport. The aircraft production centre became the Dresden aircraft hangar and it concentrated on repairing military planes. Lufthansa (DDR), later called Interflug, continued operating domestic flights with check-in facilities at the airport; the number of passengers totalled about 54,000 during the whole year.


The East German National People’s Army stationed a transport aircraft at Dresden for the first time. Alongside its civil operations, the airport once again became a military centre.


The first international service was launched to Budapest on 3 May and it developed into the most successful route at Dresden Airport during the following decades.


Interflug expanded its flight services. As domestic services became less important, international flights became increasingly significant. Passengers were able to fly to many foreign cities from Dresden from the end of the 1970s onwards, including Budapest, Moscow, Leningrad, Sofia, as well as to holiday destinations like Varna, Burgas and the Tatra Mountains area.


More and more passengers took off from Dresden. The airport reached the limits of its handling capacity with 390,000 passengers passing through.


The airport was largely closed for conversion and expansion work.


After the completion of the reconstruction work, Interflug relaunched scheduled flights from Dresden on 31 October. After the fall of the Berlin Wall, the airline started its first service to Western Germany (Hamburg) in December.


Air traffic at Dresden quickly grew after the fall of the Berlin Wall because East Germans could travel freely. The airport registered 203,541 passengers in 1990 – but the figure had already reached more than one million in 1992; many of them flew on holiday to the Mediterranean region.


The airport grew to keep up with the passenger numbers: a neighbouring hangar for the aviation industry was turned into a new extension building; the airport’s capacity therefore rose to 2.4 million passenger a year.


The operations centre began its work in the converted “hangar 224”. The foundation stone was laid for the largest expansion work at Dresden Airport since the 1950s on 8 September; the former assembly hangar 219 was turned into what is now the terminal building.


The new terminal building, which is viewed as one of the most attractive in Germany because of its industrial architecture, opened in March. The underground “Dresden Flughafen” suburban railway station, a multi-storey car park and the new apron area also went into service.


The modernisation of the airport continued with the construction of a new fire station. Among other things, Dresden Airport gained a new tower, a new hangar for small aircraft and a logistics centre with warehouses for DB Schenker during the next few years.


Dresden Airport renovated its runway while maintaining flight operations – the first airport in Europe to do so. The runway was extended by 350 metres to become 2,850 metres long.


The airport was given a new official name. The airport in the Saxon state capital was known as “Dresden International” with immediate effect in order to provide even greater support for the global tourist marketing of the Free State of Saxony.


The extension to the multi-storey car park went into service. Instead of 1,300 vehicles, 2,900 cars were then able to park at Dresden Airport.


The airport celebrated its 80th anniversary with more than 10,000 guests on 19 and 20 September. 


Dresden is an important site for German aviation. More than 4,000 people work in and around the airport, many of them in the long-standing aviation industry, which, among other things, converts Airbus passenger planes into cargo aircraft. With many direct flights to cities and international hubs, Dresden Airport connects the region to the global air traffic network very well.