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.
Due to the political will of the Region of Lombardy and the Italian Government to increase the use of Malpensa Airport, despite Linate's closer proximity to the centre of Milan – only 7 km (4 mi) east of the city centre, compared with Malpensa, which is 49 km (30 mi) northwest of the city centre – its capacity has been reduced by law from 32 slots per hour (technical capacity) down to 22 slots per hour (politically decided capacity) and only domestic or international flights within the EU have been allowed since 2001.
Linate Airport features one three-storey passenger terminal building. The ground level contains the check-in and separate baggage reclaim facilities as well as service counters and a secondary departure gate area for bus-boarding. The first floor features the main departure area with several shops, restaurants and service facilities. The second floor is used for office space. The terminal building features five aircraft stands, all of which are equipped with jet-bridges. Several more parking positions are available on the apron which are reached from several bus-boarding gates.
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.