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History

Past and Present

The Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport (FLL) is currently one of the fastest-recovering U.S. airports, with passenger traffic at 90 percent of pre-pandemic 2019 levels. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, FLL generated $37.5 billion in economic activity annually and nearly 18,000 direct, local jobs. 

Despite the impact of COVID-19 on the aviation industry in 2020, FLL ranked 7th in total passenger traffic recovery and 4th in international traffic recovery amongst U.S. airports. In 2020, the airport served 16.5 million passengers. 

In 2019, FLL served 36.7 million passengers. It ranked 18th in the U.S. for total passenger traffic and 10th for international passengers, according to Airports Council International-North America (ACI-NA) data.  In 2018,  FLL welcomed 35.9 million passengers.  At peak travel activity, the airport averages about 350 departures a day and offers nonstop service to 84 U.S. cities and global connectivity to 66 international destinations in 33 countries.

FLL was originally established as the Merle Fogg Field on May 1, 1929.  Passenger traffic reached 134,733 in 1959 and topped one million travelers a decade later in 1969.  The airport was named for a World War I aviator who moved to Fort Lauderdale in the 1920s to begin his own flying service. The airfield became Fort Lauderdale Naval Air Station (NAS) in 1942. The U.S. Navy constructed three main runways and built a control tower as a training facility during World War II.

Fort Lauderdale Daily News front page of Avenger flight 

Fort Lauderdale Daily News December 1945

TBN Avenger Planes Circa 1945

TBN Avengers circa 1945

In 1943, Ensign George H. W. Bush, arrived at NAS Fort Lauderdale to train as a pilot. He would become the Navy’s youngest pilot and later the nation's 41st President.

In January of 1948, Broward County assumed control of the facility, and in 1953, the county formally took ownership. Three years later, Mackey Airlines would introduce FLL's first scheduled airline service.

Read more history.

FLL's Notable Figures

Timeline of Important FLL Events

  • May 1, 1929 - Merle Fogg Airport dedicated.
  • June 3, 1942 - U.S. Navy commences construction on Naval Air Station (NAS) Fort Lauderdale.
  • October 7, 1942 - First Navy flight operations begin with the arrival of 17 TBN Avengers from Norfolk, VA.
  • June 1943 - George H. W. Bush begins training at the air station.
  • December 5, 1945 - Flight 19 disappears in the Atlantic Ocean - five aircraft and 14 crew members.
  • June 1, 1946 - NAS Fort Lauderdale decommissioned.
  • January 1948 - Broward County assumes control of the facility from the U.S. Navy. View more important events in FLL's history.

Historic Milestones

75 years of bringing you closer to your world. Read an overview of important historical milestones (PDF) in the history of FLL.