The airport is classified as an airport of entry by NAV CANADA and is staffed by the Canada Border Services Agency. CBSA officers at this airport can currently handle aircraft with no more than 200 passengers, however they can handle up to 300 if the aircraft is unloaded in stages.
In 2001, traffic in YXE exceeded 800,000 passengers, making YXE the largest airport in the province; by 2005 traffic reached over 900,000 passengers. In 2007 passenger traffic exceeded the 1,000,000 mark. With 99,226 aircraft movements in 2007 it was the 19th busiest airport in Canada.
The airport has five passenger bridges, five ground loading positions, 32 check-in points and a customs/immigration arrivals area. Some bridges can handle aircraft as large as the Boeing 747. The airport has designs ready for two additional apron expansions that will be constructed when required to meet demand.
In 1940 the city leased the airport to the Royal Canadian Air Force. The airport became RCAF Station Saskatoon. During the war years this was part of the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan, with the Canadian Forces No. 4 Flight Training School established at the airport. To support these operations four large hangars were built as well as support buildings including a hospital and control tower.
After the war (1947) the airport was transferred to the Canadian Department of Transport for civilian use. That year Trans-Canada Air Lines, now known as Air Canada, started providing passenger service using DC-3 aircraft.
Air Canada in 1950 began operating the Canadair North Star at the airport, followed by the Vickers Viscount in 1955. A new terminal building was also constructed in 1955. The primary runway (09/27) was lengthened in 1954 and again in 1960 to 8,300 feet. While the secondary runway (15/33) was lengthened in 1963 to 6,200 feet.
In 1964 the RCAF training program at the airport came to an end. In 1967 the jet age arrived at the airport, with Air Canada introducing DC-9 service, followed in the same year by Wardair introducing Boeing 707 service to the city.
Due to larger aircraft and more frequent flights, in 1972 plans were drafted for a new terminal building. The new terminal was completed and opened on November 29 1975. The former terminal was renovated in 1977. From 1977 to 1984 Boeing 747 charter flights were operated by Wardair to Europe until Wardair was bought by Canadian Airlines International.
In 1993 the name of the airport was changed to recognize Canada's 13th Prime Minister John G. Diefenbaker. In 1995 under the Canada-US Open Skies agreement Northwest Airlines started service to Minneapolis-St. Paul. In 1996 WestJet began Boeing 737-200 service. In 1999 the airport was turned over to the Saskatoon Airport Authority, as part of the National Airports Policy.
In 2000 NAV CANADA constructed a new control tower and the airport authority began renovations and expansions to the terminal building. In October 2002 the first two phases of renovations to the air terminal building was completed at a cost of $18 Million. The updated terminal facilities are designed to handle 1.4 million passengers annually.
In 2005 additional renovations were completed to the check-in area and baggage screening as well as the addition of a fifth bridge. The new baggage screening system is flawed, however, in that the original design to have the main belt accessible on all sides was amended to allow access from only one side. This was done so that the Saskatoon Airport Authority's President, whose office is on the extreme south end of the airport's second floor, could be afforded an unrestricted view of the entire main concourse; all-sided access to the belt would have moved a wall into the President's line-of-sight. The belt's limited access has caused considerable problems for baggage handlers from different airlines, who must compete for space at the belt's only accessible side. In October, 2005, Air Canada ended "mainline" Airbus A320 and A319 service into Saskatoon, turning over the Toronto route to Air Canada Jazz using the CRJ-705. Mainline service to Toronto returned in May 2008, using Embraer E-190 aircraft. In 2006 the airport also expanded public parking to 500 stalls, Pronto Airways started operating at the airport. In 2006 Transwest Air introduced service to Fort McMurray, Alberta. For a short period of time between 2006 and April of 2007 Northwestern Air also operated flights to Fort McMurray.
In March 2008 work started on the rehabilitation of runway 09/27, taxiway Foxtrot and Alpha at a cost of $16M.
The Canadian Airport Council (CAC) which represents 180 airports across Canada has invested $9.5 billion in infrastructure upgrades over the past 15 years, and will continue with an additional $7 billion over the next dozen years. Between 2009 and 2018, The Saskatoon Airport Authority says that new runways terminal renovations and expansions to the tune of $70 million will be spent. 1.04 million passengers annually use the Saskatoon airport facility and this is expected to climb to 1.2 million by 2011.
The airport contains a small historical display on both the main floor and observation area on the second floor. Retail outlets include a Relay outlet (including Duty Free), and a Prairie Unique Gifts outlet. Food services consist of a Tim Hortons, the Crossroads Grill and The Prairie Elevator Restaurant & Lounge. Past security a To Go outlet offers refreshments and magazines during peak periods.
A SaskTel business centre is located across from the check-in counters. The Saskatoon Airport does not offer any business class lounges.
Taxi service is provided from the airport. Currently United Cabs Ltd. is the licensed provider of both taxi and limousine services. Several hotels near the airport provide shuttle services.
In addition to the main terminal the airport also contains a variety of additional buildings. These include the International Aviation Terminal (used by Air Canada Cargo, Anderson Aviation, Dryden Air-services, Karl's Air Services, and Anderson Aviation), a Fire hall, Saskatoon Aerocentre (operated by WestWind), Purolator cargo facility and a variety of hangers used by various airlines .