The existing airport, Kotoka International Airport, was originally a military airport used by the British Royal Air Force during World War II in 1946. The facility was handed over to civilian authority after a successful pull-out by the military. In response to globalization and the growing demand for air travel at the time, a development project was launched to reconfigure the structure into a terminal building in 1956.
The completion of the project set the stage for Ghana Airways to use the airport as its base in 1958. The airport was originally designed and commissioned to accommodate a maximum of five hundred thousand (500,000) passengers annually. In 1969, the Accra International Airport was renamed Kotoka International Airport in memory of the late Lt. General E.K. Kotoka. The airport has since witnessed significant improvements in infrastructure and facilities to meet the growing demand.
In the year 1990, a phased programme to develop the Kotoka International Airport was launched. The first phase began from 1991 -1993 and included the rehabilitation and asphalting of the runway, refurbishment of passenger terminal and control tower block, construction of Arrivals/Immigration Hall, construction of Transit Hall, construction of dedicated freight terminal and installation of new navigational aids and updating of the Master plan for KIA.
The second phase began from 1997-2005 and involved the expansion and refurbishment of the arrivals/baggage reclaim hall, extension of the freight terminal by 60% capacity, remodelling of duty – free shops to international standards, extension of runway by 550 metres, construction of a dedicated apron for freight aircraft, refurbishment and expansion of the departure check-in area, installation of baggage handling & screening system, improvement of departure/immigration area, construction of terminal forecourt (now Airport Square) to separate arrival and departure areas (different levels) and provide a sheltered facility for meeters and greeters/general public.
In November 2004, a new civil aviation law, the Civil Aviation Act, 2004 (Act 678) was enacted. The law mandated the separation of the airports management functions of the Ghana Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA) to a new entity. The Ghana Airports Company Limited (GACL) was eventually set up for that purpose. The objective was for GCAA to focus on its role as the Regulator of the air transport industry and provider of air navigation services. In line with the Act, GACL was incorporated in January 2006 but commenced operations in January 2007 with the responsibility for planning, developing, managing and maintaining all airports in Ghana.
After the decoupling of the GCAA, GACL continued with the development programme for Kotoka International Airport. In 2009, the third phase commenced and included the rehabilitation of taxiways, main passenger apron, drainage systems, runway 21 touch down zone, rehabilitation and extension of fuel mains, installation of aeronautical ground lighting systems, provision of pavement management systems and the construction of a fire station.
Until the last quarter of 2010, Kotoka International Airport (KIA) had only two boarding gates. GACL in partnership with the United Airlines and Star Alliance constructed three additional boarding gates to improve facilitation. Three more gates have subsequently been constructed bringing to eight (8) the number of boarding gates at KIA.