The site was first used as an airfield in 1910 where a local pilot built and flew his aircraft, the Moonbeam 2. In 1917 the site was acquired by the War Office initially as an Aircraft Acceptance Park but then as a staging area for US forces. A year later it was then set up as a site for a civil air transport system that would transport passengers by air to a number of locations along the south coast as well as one location in northern France.
In 1932 Southampton Corporation purchased the site and renamed it Southampton Municipal Airport. Within a year the Hampshire Aeroplane Club moved to the site, including a particular member called R.J. Mitchell. 3 years later an aircraft he designed would make its first test flight at the aerodrome, the start of the life of one of the most famous fighters of the war. The Supermarine Spitfire. Supermarine were based in Southampton and the Spitfire was assembled at the airport for the first test flight.
When war broke out in 1939 the site was taken over by the Royal Navy as HMS Raven. Its primary role was for training Royal Navy pilots. The Germans attempted to destroy the airfield to disrupt Spitfire productions, and subsequently reported HMS Raven had been sunk, but this was in fact not true and Spitfire production continued. Once the war was over the aerodrome was returned to civil status and regular flights to and from the channel islands were resumed.
In the 1960s the airport was bought from Southampton Corporation and a number of changes were made, including the construction of a new concrete runway. The changes gave the airport a 4 times increase in the number of passengers handled that year over the previous year. However, when the \\\'70s hit the number of passengers decreased again, despite the construction of a new control tower and radar facilities.
In the 1980s the airport was handed over to Airports UK Ltd, a subsidiary of BAA, and planning permission was sought to redevelop the airport. In 1990 BAA purchased the site an begun redevelopment. By 2003, the redevelopment had led to the achievement of 1,000,000 passengers handled on a single year. In 2008 it was named European winner of the ACI Airport People Award 2008 and in continued redevelopment efforts the baggage and check-in facilities were nearly doubled in capacity that same year.
Although technically situated in Eastleigh, the airport is referred to as Southampton airport since that is the largest city nearby. Currently the largest aircraft the airport can take is a Boeing 757 due to the runway length, which is unable to be lengthened due to the presence of the M27 to the south and a bird sanctuary to the north. At the south end of the runway is a soft tarmac bed that is designed to stop aircraft much quicker then aircraft normally can. To date it has never been used. The airport is currently largest hub to British regional airline FlyBe, who is also the main operator at the airport.