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Reaching New Heights

Cairns Airport’s upgrade of its Domestic Terminal and new flights recently announced from Silk Air and Qantas have kick-started the year on a high note for one of the busiest regional airports in Australia.

The $55 million domestic terminal upgrade project, awarded to local builder Hutchinson Builders, will generate more than 350 jobs during the construction phase and another 150 permanent jobs on completion at the end of 2020.

“The upgrade contributes to the strength of the local economy,” says Cairns Airport CEO Norris Carter, who says the project would future-proof the terminal for many years to come.

“Traffic through the Cairns Airport Domestic Terminal is expected to grow by 40 per cent to six million passengers a year by 2027.”
The Airport, the second busiest regional centre behind the Gold Coast, reports that 75 per cent of international travellers coming to Far North Queensland arrive and depart on domestic flights. The upgrade will provide passengers with a state-of-the-art terminal, a modern layout with more natural light and extra seating.

“It will also provide an additional 2000 square metres of high-quality shopping and dining and will showcase the best of Tropical North Queensland to the world,” says Norris. “The upgrade will focus on ‘sense of place’ and will feature a lot of local produce and products.”
Qantas has recently announced a boost in seats and frequencies to Cairns Airport. From March 31, the national carrier will add 11 additional return flights between Brisbane and Cairns, extend the use of larger Airbus A330s on selected flights between Cairns and Sydney and Melbourne, and resume daily flights between Cairns and Port Moresby.

Cairns Airport CEO Norris Carter welcomed the additional capacity.

“We’ve seen strong demand for more domestic seats from visitors and locals alike,” he says. “These additional flights and larger aircraft provide 1366 more seats per week for visitors from Australia to come to Cairns. We’re also delighted to welcome Qantas back on the Cairns to Port Moresby route with 1036 seats per week. Qantas operated this route until 2016, with the flight serving both locals and people using Cairns as a hub to connect to Port Moresby.”

SilkAir will be increasing to a daily flight schedule from June 2019. The airline currently operates five times per week connecting Cairns to the world via Singapore.

The increase to daily services will open a wider range of options for international visitors to conveniently access Cairns and the Great Barrier Reef. The additional flights are well-timed to connect Singapore Airlines’ European flights and will also provide locals with even more choice to fly international direct from Cairns, as opposed to travelling south from Cairns to fly north.

SilkAir is the regional wing of Singapore Airlines and their combined networks offer 102 destinations in 34 countries. Including other airlines, locals can now fly direct to airports in Singapore, Hong Kong, China, Japan, Indonesia, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea.
The Cairns Airport is also a vital key to providing fresh produce and seafood to overseas markets.

“Over several decades, airline access has been central in transforming the economy of Cairns, headlined by the opening of the International Airport in 1984,” says Advance Cairns CEO Nick Trompf. “This milestone was the catalyst for a period of unprecedented investment in the region, particularly from Japan. In the 35 years since, the fortunes of the local economy have closely tracked visitation through the airport.

“Although international access is vital to the region’s economy, two thirds of our holiday makers come from within Australia, so the domestic market is paramount. As well as the tourists, domestic airline access is crucial for business travel for major conventions and seminars at places such as the Cairns Convention Centre.”

Tourism Tropical North Queensland Chief Executive Officer Pip Close says Cairns Airport is a critical part of the region’s economy.

“The majority of Tropical North Queensland’s 2.9 million visitors arrive via air and inject $3.4 billion annually into the local economy,” she says. “The strength of our tourism destination is why international airlines choose to fly here, which provides benefits for other sectors, especially the agriculture industry as it allows their produce to be exported.

“The redevelopment of the domestic terminal will add to the tourism experience by ensuring visitors are comfortable with exciting food and shopping options while they are waiting for their flight.

“Growing tourism is the key to further developing the region’s economy and tourism cannot grow unless more direct flights are lured in Cairns.”

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