The basis for the airport was an agricultural airbase built in 1932. From 1933 it started handling passengers and cargo traffic. In 1963 Shymkent airport was relocated to its current location; construction of both the runway and the passenger terminal were finished in 1967. In 2014, passenger traffic reached 440,000 passengers.
After a protocol signed in November 2012 by the governments of Kazakhstan and France, French forces withdrawing from Afghanistan received authorisation to use Shymkent Airport. Military hardware arriving on French aircraft will then be transported by rail to Europe. France has to fund the creation of the infrastructure necessary for the temporary bond storage and the area needed for higher customs control to ensure the trans-shipment operations in Shymkent Airport. It will also finance the acquisition or the rent of loading vehicles to accelerate wagon loading, construction of 400 m (1,300 ft)[clarification needed] of hard surface road, protection of freight in temporary storage and en route on Kazakhstan's railroad.