The current José Martí Airport in 1930 replaced the Columbia Airfield, which was the first airport to serve Havana. In the 1960s, the airport was bombed by B-26 aircraft from Brigade 2506, a CIA-sponsored group of Cuban exiles attempting to overthrow Fidel Castro.
Because of Cuba's relationship with the Soviet Union, the airport during the 1970s and 1980s enjoyed the presence of many Eastern Bloc airline companies, such as Aeroflot, Czechoslovak Airlines, Interflug, and LOT Polish Airlines. In 1977 an Aeroflot Ilyushin Il-62 operating a scheduled flight from Moscow to Havana via Frankfurt and Lisbon crashed after takeoff from Lisbon, killing 68 of the 70 on board and one person on the ground. In 1989 a second Ilyushin Il-62, operated by Cubana as Cubana de Aviación Flight 9646, crashed after takeoff. All of the 115 passengers and 11 crew members as well as a number persons on the ground were killed.
In 1988, Terminal 2 was constructed in anticipation of future charter flights to the United States. In the 1990s the special charter flights were approved by the US government, to operate from Miami for Cuban citizens living in the United States that have close relatives in Cuba. Today, various airlines operate non-stop scheduled charter service between Havana and Miami. Terminal 2 was remodelled and expanded in 2010.
Private Cuban citizens are not allowed to own aircraft; all aircraft in Cuba belong to state-owned airlines or the military. Only government- and foreign-owned aircraft are allowed to use the facilities. Today, Copa Airlines is the foreign airline with most flights to the airport, operating 34 flights a week (roughly 5 daily flights) from Panama City, Panama and Bogotá, Colombia.