History of Bonaire ‘Flamingo’ Airport

1935 – The construction of the runway

Construction work started on September 23, 1935. The main road between Kralendijk and Rincon crossed the runway in the middle. The intention was to construct a runway that was 475 meters long. It was not possible to extend it because the eastern part of the land was quite low. It was necessary to condition some of this area, especially where the plane would land during landing and take-off. This area was 100 meters from the runway that had to be paved with grit and natural stone from the island for compaction operations.

1936 – The first flight with Oriol on Bonaire

KLM decided to take the risk and complete the first flight to Bonaire on May 9, 1936. For this test flight, the Oriol aircraft was chosen, with the registration PJ A10, which was a sister aircraft to the Snip. The airport station in this case was a vehicle of a model known at the time as a ‘panel body’. This first experimental landing was indeed a historic moment and was very successful. That is why KLM took the decision to make the first official scheduled flight with passengers days later, on May 31, 1936. In the second half of 1943, American soldiers arrived on Bonaire and their commander insisted on building a new airport. In December 1943 the construction of this airport started in the area where the current airport is located.

1945 – Flamingo Airport

The new airport, called “FLAMINGO AIRPORT”, became operational in 1945. This was a great improvement. It had a small terminal building which was perfectly adequate for the number of passengers at the time. This airport terminal remained in use until mid-1976.

1953 till 1970 – runway extension

Construction of a new runway started in the last months of 1953 and was completed in 1955. The terminal building was expanded with a terrace where luggage could be delivered. The runway was subsequently extended and widened a number of times. In 1960 the runway had a length of 1430 meters and a width of 30 meters. Hotels and interested parties abroad continued to push for a major runway extension for charter flights from the US, which should be operated with DC8 and B707 aircraft. In 1970 the runway had a length of 1750 meters and a width of 30 meters. As a result, a DC9 could finally land and take off fully loaded.

1976 – A new terminal

On 7 June 1974, the public tender for the construction of a new terminal building took place. This building was inaugurated in 1976. Meanwhile, hotels and foreign investors continued to push for the construction of a longer runway. This was a requirement for the construction of more hotels.

1980 to date – further extension of the runway and expansion of the facilities

In 1980 a runway with a length of 2400 meters and a width of 45 meters was put into use and on April 19, 1980 the first flight Bonaire-Miami took place. In October 2000 the runway was extended to a length of 2880 meters. The current runway is more than 3000 meters, long enough to allow flights with the required maximum takeoff weight to reach Europe. In 2002 KLM started with flights to Peru and later to Ecuador with a refueling stop on Bonaire.

In recent years, the airport’s facilities have been improved and expanded. A new departure lounge was built, along with a new widebody platform and fuel park. Today, Flamingo International Airport provides the required services as an international airport and is a destination for many tourist flights.