The airline was first established in December 1990 under the name of OceanAir and in 1991 was authorized to operate air transport services as a non-scheduled carrier. SATA Air Açores became the major shareholder when OceanAir suspended flying in 1994 and later became the sole owner. On 20 February 1998 it was renamed SATA International and started operations on 8 April 1998.
The airline is 100% owned by SATA Air Açores. Following its bid by public tender, SATA International was awarded scheduled routes from Ponta Delgada to Lisbon, Madeira Island and Porto. Today SATA operates a number of transatlantic routes such as Faro to Toronto nonstop.
SATA owns two tour operators in North America: SATA Express in Canada and Azores Express in the United States.
The airline's original livery consisted of an all white fuselage with the name SATA Internacional in ocean blue over the front windows, and a dark blue tail with the company logo. Before this the livery had an idealized logo featuring the bands of crashing waves, superimposed by a sun-disk, with the calligraphic lettering "Fly Azores" below. This tourist-friendly logo was retired at the end of the 20th century, to be replaced by the more corporate image.
After May 2009 SATA adopted a new image and a new logo which was applied to its first brand new A320-214 registered CS-TKO, named "Diáspora". The symbol, called BIA (for "Blue Islands Açor"), consists of nine geometrical shapes, representing the nine islands of the Azores assembled to form the mythical Açor of Portuguese legend. The "açor" or goshawk was thought to have been the bird found circling the islands of the Azores when Portuguese sailors first discovered the archipelago. This form appears on the tail fin, in addition to a portion located just ahead of the wings on the fuselage. The new scheme was adopted by both SATA International and SATA Air Açores during the fleet upgrades beginning at the end of the 20th century.
On 4 August 2009, a SATA Airbus A320-200 operating flight S4-129 from Lisbon to Ponta Delgada bounced off the runway then subsequently experienced a severe hard landing of 4.86G, causing damage to the landing gear. Nothing was written in the aircraft's technical maintenance log, both flight crew and maintenance staff were unable to interpret the hard landing report and despite the damage, the aircraft was not removed from service and flew back to Lisbon in customer service as well as flying an additional 6 sectors. SATA said in a statement  that the hard landing/load reports are not a mandatory requirement for the aircraft type and drew attention to the amount of time Airbus took to confirm to them the interpretation of the load report. Both landing gear legs subsequently had to be replaced. In their final report the Portuguese accident investigation authority the GPIAA determined that the primary cause of the incident was the ground spoilers deploying in flight after the aircraft had bounced 12 ft off the runway. Contributing factors were the failure of the pilot to go-around after the bounce, the failure of the pilot to retard the thrust levers before the first touchdown (which inhibited the ground spoilers deploying) and the pilot providing insufficient flare input. Airbus subsequently introduced a new software standard for the A320 in July 2010 to modify the ground spoiler deployment logic.
^"The Atlantic and You" (Company Brochure) (Archive). SATA International. Retrieved on August 29, 2014. p. 19/19. "GRUPO SATA Sede | Headoffice: Av. Infante D. Henrique nº55 9504-528 Ponta Delgada S.Miguel – Açores"
^"Press Kit 2010." SATA. Retrieved on 7 July 2010. "The SATA Group comprises air transport companies whose decision centre is located in the city of Ponta Delgada, on the island of São Miguel, in the archipelago of Azores."