Cairns Airport is the fifth-busiest airport in Australia (largest regional airport in the country) and forms the gateway to the tropical area of North Queensland and the Barrier Reef (shores of the Coral Sea).

The airport is situated around 7km (four miles) north of Cairns and serves the area between Mount Whitfield and Trinity Bay with international, domestic and general aviation services (including helicopter operators and the Royal Flying Doctor service).

"Cairns Airport is the fifth-busiest airport in Australia."

The airport, which operates 24 hours a day, is managed and operated by Cairns Airport Pty Ltd, which has committed A$250m towards development of the airport. Cairns, a major hub for Qantas, operates flights to the main Australian cities (major tourist destinations) and international destinations in the Asian-Pacific region. Virgin Blue and Jetstar also operate from the airport.

There are two terminal buildings on the east side of the airport in separate buildings and also an air traffic control tower. The airport has two runways the north-south runway is 3,196m (10,486ft) and the smaller runway for general aviation is 925m (3,035ft).

Cairns terminal redevelopment

The airport began an extensive domestic terminal redevelopment project in August 2007. The project was completed on 29 September 2010 at a cost of A$200m.

The project included: new security and passenger handling technology, new baggage screening technology, expansion of baggage handling, self-service check-in terminals and common check-in areas for all the airlines based at the airport, new retail outlets and refurbishment of others, five new aerobridges for all aircraft and new access roads, car parks and pedestrian walkways. The redevelopment resulted in a fully refurbished facility with state-of-the-art facilities.

The refurbishment of the international terminal departure lounge began in November 2011. The A$15m refurbishment project will include a new walk-through duty free store, food and beverage outlets, security screening and processing areas.

Contractors

The major contractor for the terminal redevelopment project is Hansen Yuncken who were awarded the A$148m contract for the project in 2007. Airport operations were not inconvenienced by the construction activity.

"Cairns began an extensive terminal redevelopment project in August 2007."

The Nuance Group has extended an agreement with the Cairns Port Authority to develop a new concept duty free shop in the new retail area in the domestic terminal (there is also a new lease to 2011).

The international terminal departure lounge refurbishment contract was awarded to Hansen Yuncken in August 2011.

Cairns Airport security

In 2005-2006 a project was awarded to Connell Wagner for an upgrade project at Cairns Airport. The contract worth A$50m brought the airport up to required Australian Government standards for 100% checked bag screening of all international baggage.

This involved a complete baggage handling upgrade and a major western extension to the international terminal. Additional projects included a new international terminal building loading dock, a second water supply to the airport, and fire and electrical services upgrades.

The eastern concourse of the international terminal building was also extended. It serves gate one and introduced new aerobridge facilities.

Recent developments

The domestic terminal redevelopment brought online the first 14 counters. The combined check-in area for all departing domestic flights operates with 36 counters.

The first half of the new baggage handling facility behind the check-in area is now operational as a new passenger screening point.

The terminal building includes a new first floor which contains airline and administration offices and new airline lounges. Two new aerobridges have been installed and three more were replaced. Covered walkways were also constructed.

The first half of the new baggage handling facility behind the check-in area is now operational as a new passenger screening point.

The terminal building includes a new first floor which contains airline and administration offices and will eventually house new airline lounges. Two new aerobridges have been installed and three more are to be replaced. Covered walkways are under construction.

The first of the redeveloped departure lounge retail stores, Newslink, incorporating a Hub convenience store, and Discover souvenirs, also opened late in 2008.

As a result of the domestic terminal redevelopment Cairns Airport became the first Australian airport with a terminal fully equipped for barcoded boarding passes making departure through the airport simpler for both passengers and airlines.

"Cairns Airport was the first Australian airport with a terminal fully equipped for barcoded boarding passes."

Outside the terminal, car park works were completed in 2010 and a new bank of parking spaces for people with a disability is located in front of the car park.

Construction work

Construction work on the second half of the baggage handling facility and the departures lounge with more updated retail stores began with Beach Culture and Purely Merino.

The final stage of the redevelopment focused on construction of a combined arrivals hall, including baggage claim.

Upon completion in late 2010, the Cairns Airport domestic terminal redevelopment delivered:

  • Extension and reconfiguration of the existing terminal to accommodate new and expanded facilities, providing a new state of the art building double the size of the current terminal with 20,000m² more floor space. A 133% increase in overall size from 18,400m² to 42,900m².
  • Expansion of the departures area including more retail variety. Departure lounge area has been increased from 3,439m² to 6,614m². Retail outlets were increased from 13 to 21 and the retail space was increased by 31%.
  • A common-user check-in area with 36 counters. Area increased by 78% to 2,281m² and common baggage handling and baggage claim areas
  • New airline and administration office facilities and airline lounges as well as enhanced retail and commercial opportunities for airport tenancies.

Three aerobridges and ramps were replaced and two new aerobridges were added. In addition, the aircraft parking aprons were widened and the airside roadways relocated.

Public art displays feature works by locally based artists that represent the diverse geographical and cultural mix present in Tropical North Queensland.

Ecologically sustainable development features incorporated into the redevelopment include the selection of materials that are energy efficient and require minimal ongoing maintenance. The airport is working with a sustainable design retail fit-out guideline with minimum requirements for material selection to avoid the use of rainforest timbers and ensure use of energy-efficient lighting and water-reduction fittings.