The airport was first launched in the period of 1927–1928. It was originally envisioned as a stop for British planes on their way to British India. The current main airport structure, designed by Kenzo Tange and opened in 1979, was executed and completed by Al Hani Construction in a joint venture with Ballast Nedam of The Netherlands.
The airport underwent a large renovation and expansion project from 1999–2001, in which the former parking lot was cleared and a terminal expansion was built. This incorporated new check-in areas, a new entrance to the airport, the construction of a multi-story parking structure and an airport mall.
A portion of the airport complex is designated as Abdullah Al-Mubarak Air Base, which contains the headquarters of the Kuwait Air Force, as well as the Kuwait Air Force Museum.