On 16 September, Bulgaria’s largest international airport celebrates its 85th anniversary. It has become a symbol of the capital, preserving the aviation traditions from the dawning of Bulgarian aviation, through periods of development, difficulties and changes, to the successes and many occasions for pride.
“85 years oblige us to remember the pioneers of civil aviation, to know the history and the glorious traditions of aviation in Bulgaria, giving our best to move forward confidently,” this is what Jesús Caballero said on the occasion of the celebration.
The history of Sofia Airport begins on 16 September 1937, when a decree of Tsar Boris III designated the site near the village of Vrazhdebna for the construction of the capital’s airport. A few years later, the construction of the airport’s passenger terminal, impressive for its architecture and scale, has begun. As an initial step in the development of the capital’s airport was the construction of the first airfield with an unpaved runway, replaced in 1943 by a concrete one. In 1949 from today’s Terminal 1 international flights started and the airport became a full-fledged transport centre for passengers and cargo.
Having witnessed many historical and economic upheavals over the years, Sofia Airport’s infrastructure has been repeatedly upgraded and expanded to meet the rapid pace of development of the sector and to provide a modern standard of service in a safe and secure flight environment.
The airport’s modern history includes the construction of a new runway and Terminal 2 – opened on the eve of Bulgaria’s accession to the EU in 2006. Soon after, the new runway was categorised for operation in adverse weather conditions and the new terminal building was expanded. With the environment and nearby communities in mind, the noise protection screen for aircraft engine testing was built in 2009, and since 2012 the new airport control tower has been part of the modern landscape of the current Sofia Airport.
Before the pandemic permanently reshaped the aviation industry, the number of passengers served by Sofia Airport exceeded 7 million. Owned by the state over the years, in April 2021 the airport was leased through a 35-year concession to SOF Connect AD. The company belongs to the investment fund Meridiam and benefits from the expertise of Munich Airport – the respected professionals of Munich International Airport are an indispensable part of SOF Connect’s management team with unquestionable input in strategic decision-making.
Recently, the operator of the capital airport announced a large-scale investment programme for the development of Sofia Airport worth over BGN 1.2 billion, of which nearly BGN 140 million are for the first 5 years. The transformation of the capital airport is already underway – Sofia Airport welcomes its birthday with a new corporate website. Imminent are a major redevelopment of the commercial area, an infrastructure reorganisation that will significantly increase passenger and baggage handling capacity, and a major renovation of the covered public car park.
Today from Sofia Airport’s two passenger terminals 27 airlines operate direct flights to more than 80 international destinations. Competitive airport charges and an attractive incentive marketing programme are part of the drivers to improve Sofia Airport’s air connectivity and increase the destination’s popularity. These, together with active measures aimed at reducing carbon emissions, guarantee sustainable development of the capital airport and deliver economic and social benefits to the community and the region.
Sofia Airport will celebrate its 85th anniversary with a cocktail reception in the presence of official guests, including ministers, ambassadors in Bulgaria and representatives of the aviation industry.
A documentary telling the history of the airport was also dedicated to the celebration.