Due to its closer proximity to Milan – 4.2 NM (7.8 km; 4.8 mi) east southeast of the city, compared with Malpensa, which is 21.58 NM (39.97 km; 24.83 mi) northwest of the city – it is mainly used for domestic and short-haul international flights to metropolitan destinations within Europe.
The airport was built next to Idroscalo of Milan in the 1930s when Taliedo Airport (located 1 km (0.62 mi) from the southern border of Milan, and one of the world's first aerodromes and airports, became too small for commercial traffic.
Linate was completely rebuilt in the 1950s and again in the 1980s.
Its name comes from the small village where it is located in the town of Peschiera Borromeo. Its official name is Airport Enrico Forlanini, after the Italian inventor and aeronautical pioneer born in Milan. Linate airport buildings are located in the Segrate Municipality, and the field is located for a large part in the Peschiera Borromeo Municipality.
Linate Airport was the site of the Linate Airport disaster on 8 October 2001, when Scandinavian Airlines Flight 686, which was bound for Copenhagen Airport, collided with a business jet that, in fog, had inadvertently taxied onto the runway already in use. This collision later resulted in criminal legal proceedings against 11 staff including an air traffic controller, flight safety officials and management officials from the airport.
On 15 June 2005, a light aircraft safely landed on taxiway 'T' after its pilot had mistaken it for runway 36R. Following that incident, a safety recommendation was issued. It suggested the use of different numbers to help differentiate between runways. This change was enacted at the beginning of July 2007, when 18R/36L became 17/35 and 18L/36R became 18/36.