The plans are due to be completed by summer 2014 and will be the first developments following a loan from the Welsh government.
The first phase of the initiatives includes a new, expanded security area and new technology throughout the terminal.
A new taxi booking and reception facility will be introduced to the arrivals area, while drop-off and pick-up spots outside the terminal will also see changes.
The airport plans the refurbishment and redecoration of its facilities.
Jon Horne, chief executive, said: “Progress is still about growing the number of flights and destinations and ensuring the airport is easy to get to; making the airport a more pleasant and enjoyable experience is also now in hand.
“We’ve listened to what the people of Wales want from their airport and we’ve been working to deliver this and drive standards up.”
Horne continued: “One aspect our customers have asked us to improve is the process for dropping off and picking people up from the airport.
“From spring 2014, with the use of new technology, it will be a lot easier and free of charge.”
Cardiff Airport has reversed the decline in passenger traffic in recent years, and achieved 9% year-on-year growth this summer.