East Midlands airport was formerly an Air Force base, RAF Castle Donington, but was re-opened by Prince Philip in 1965 as a public airport. Initially it was not commercially successful, but as freight traffic through the airport increased this changed. In 1970, a new freight complex was developed and the runway and terminal were extended. The runway was extended again in the late 1970s and in 1986 Princess Anne opened a £3 million terminal extension. The airport became a plc in 1987.

As a result of the local authorities inability to pay for further terminal extension in 1992, the local authority shareholders decided to enter the private sector. East Midlands Airport was the first regional airport to do so.

The airport was then bought by the National Express Group for £24.3 million, and they injected £77 million into the airport over the next eight years. The runway was again extended, allowing the airport to introduce long-haul flights.

A new business park, which hosts hotels, office blocks and business headquarters, was opened in 1999, and the following year DHL opened a £35 million purpose-built cargo facility on the site. The airport is now the largest cargo carrier in the UK after Heathrow.

In 2001 the airport was sold to the Manchester Airport Group for £241 million, and the airport has continued to grow: the 2001 passenger figures (2.38 million) have been doubled in recent years.

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