Cairns Airport

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Cairns Airport
Cairns Airport logo.svg
Cairns airport aerial view.jpg
Airport typePublic
OperatorNorth Queensland Airports Group
ServesCairns, Queensland, Australia
LocationAeroglen, Queensland, Australia
Hub for
Focus city forJetstar
Elevation AMSL10 ft / 3 m
Coordinates16°53′09″S 145°45′19″E / 16.88583°S 145.75528°E / -16.88583; 145.75528Coordinates: 16°53′09″S 145°45′19″E / 16.88583°S 145.75528°E / -16.88583; 145.75528
YBCS is located in Queensland
Location in Queensland
Direction Length Surface
m ft
15/33 3,156 10,354 Asphalt
Statistics (2016/17)
Passenger MovementsIncrease 5,075,887
Aircraft MovementsIncrease 56,526
Source: AIP[1] Enroute Supplement[2]
passenger and aircraft movements from the Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics (BITRE)[3]

Cairns Airport (IATA: CNS, ICAO: YBCS) is an international airport in Cairns, Queensland, Australia. Formerly operated by the Cairns Port Authority, the airport was sold by the Queensland Government in December 2008 to a private consortium. It is the seventh busiest airport in Australia. The airport is located 2.3 nautical miles (4.3 km; 2.6 mi) north northwest[2] of Cairns or 7 kilometres (4.3 mi) north of the Cairns central business district, in the suburb of Aeroglen. The airport lies between Mount Whitfield to the west and Trinity Bay to the east.

The airport has direct flights to 10 international and 35 domestic destinations and many general aviation flights including a number of helicopter operators. Flights are operated to all major Australian cities and tourist destinations, regional communities in Far North Queensland, and a number of international destinations in the Asia-Pacific region with connections to the rest of the world. The airport formed the main base for Australian Airlines prior to its ceasing of operations in June 2006 (the airport remains a major port for parent company Qantas). It is also a base for the Royal Flying Doctor Service of Australia and the search and rescue helicopters of the Queensland Government.[4] In the 12 months ending 30 June 2019 Cairns Airport had just over 5 million passengers.


Apron view of the international terminal in 2010.

Cairns Airport goes back to 1928 when Tom McDonald started flying his de Havilland Gipsy Moth off a sand ridge near the present airport. He could only land and take off between high tides. During one emergency, Tom was forced to take off from beer barrels.[citation needed]

During World War II the Australian Government bought the airport for use by the Royal Australian Air Force. In 1943, the main runway was hard surfaced and lengthened to handle military aircraft. It was also used by the United States Army Air Forces as a transport base, with the 33d Troop Carrier Squadron (374th Troop Carrier Group) operating from the base during 1942. In 1949, the main runway was lengthened to 1,730 m (5,680 ft) to accommodate larger aircraft. During the mid-1960s, the airport was upgraded and the runway further lengthened to 2,020 m (6,630 ft) and strengthened so jets could land.

During the 1970s, Australia's two domestic airlines Trans Australia Airlines and Ansett provided regular scheduled services to most Australian capital cities and also Papua New Guinea, while in 1975 Air Niugini became the first international airline to commence flights out of Cairns, to Port Moresby in Papua New Guinea. In 1982, redevelopment of the airport commenced. This involved further lengthening of the runway to 2,600 m (8,500 ft) (making it the longest runway in Queensland) and construction of a new terminal building. The first stage of the redevelopment was finished in 1984 and a dual International and Domestic Terminal was opened. At the end of the decade the second stage of redevelopment was completed. This included a new separate International Terminal, associated aprons and taxiways, costing an estimated $80 million. The main runway was again extended, to 3,196 m (10,486 ft). In 1997, the third stage of redevelopment was completed, during which a three-storey Airport Administration Centre was constructed providing 4,000 m2 (43,000 sq ft) of office space.[5]

A$200 million redevelopment of the Domestic terminal started in August 2007 and was completed in 2010.[6] Check-in facilities were expanded into a common-user facility for all airlines, and the building enlarged. Five new jet bridges replaced the existing three old bridges. In January 2010, Auckland International Airport Limited announced that it had purchased 24.6 per cent of North Queensland Airports (NQA), operator of the airports at Cairns and Mackay, for about $132 million.[7]

A further upgrade of the Domestic terminal was begun in 2019 and completed in August 2020, at a total cost of $55 million.[8][9][10] The purpose of the upgrade was to prepare the terminal to handle the domestic portion of the airport's projected 6 million passengers annually from 2027.[8] The floor area of the departure hall was increased to 10,000 m2 (110,000 sq ft), and an additional 2,000 m2 (22,000 sq ft) of dining and retail facilities were added.[8] The upgrade also included expanded seating areas, a new interactive children's play screen, an upgraded Parenting Room, and a new Quiet Room.[9]

Prior to February 2020 and the coronavirus pandemic, Cairns Airport's chief aviation officer Luis Perez told the Cairns Post that he was in talks with 22 airlines to connect Cairns to destinations such as North America, Korea, Taipei, Malaysia, the Middle East, India, Vietnam and the Philippines.[11]

In February 2022, Bonza announced that the airport would become one of its 17 destinations with the airline planning to fly to the Sunshine Coast, Rockhampton and Mackay from Cairns [12]

In early 2023 it was announced that the International Terminal (Terminal 1) would undergo its first major upgrade in April 2023 to a value of AUD$40-50 million.[13] The announced upgrades would be rolled out in stages to 'minimise passenger disruptions', the first of which would feature the installation of four new glass air-bridges and the re-cladding of the exterior of the building.[14]



International Terminal

The airport has two passenger terminals on the eastern side of the airport on reclaimed mangrove swamp. They are approximately 6 km (3.7 mi) north of the Cairns Central Shopping Centre and situated on Airport Avenue off Sheridan Street (Captain Cook Highway). The terminals are in two separate buildings 200 m (660 ft) from one another. The Domestic terminal is number 2 and it has five jet bridges and 17 gates, while the International Terminal is number 1 and it currently has six jet bridges and ten gates in total.[15]


The airport has a single runway which is 3,156 m (10,354 ft) long. The flight path to the north of the main runway is located directly overhead Cairns' northern beach suburbs. The flight path to the south is located directly over central Cairns. A smaller (925 m (3,035 ft)) runway 12/30 that was used for general aviation lies to the east; its final approach crossed the main runway. As of April 2011 this runway is closed and has been converted to a helipad area.

Airlines and destinations[edit]


Air New Zealand Seasonal: Auckland[16][17][18]
Air Niugini Moro, Port Moresby
Airnorth Darwin, Gove
Alliance Airlines Groote Eylandt, Weipa[19]
Charter: Century Mine, Cloncurry, Trepell
Asia Pacific Airlines Charter: Tabubil
Bonza Mackay (begins 29 March 2023), Rockhampton (begins 31 March 2023), Sunshine Coast (begins 27 March 2023)[20]
Hinterland Aviation Cooktown, Kowanyama, Pormpuraaw
Jetstar Adelaide, Brisbane, Darwin, Denpasar,[21] Gold Coast, Melbourne, Osaka–Kansai,[22] Perth, Sydney, Tokyo–Narita[22]
Seasonal: Newcastle (resumes 24 June 2023)
PNG Air Charter: Lihir Island, Port Moresby[23]
Qantas Ayers Rock, Brisbane, Melbourne, Sydney
QantasLink Adelaide, Ayers Rock, Brisbane, Canberra,[24] Darwin,[25] Horn Island, Mackay, Moranbah, Rockhampton, Townsville, Weipa
Rex Airlines Bamaga,[26] Burketown, Doomadgee, Mornington Island, Mount Isa, Normanton, Townsville
Singapore Airlines Singapore[27]
Skytrans Aurukun, Horn Island, Kowanyama, Lockhart River, Pormpuraaw, Proserpine
Virgin Australia Adelaide,[28] Brisbane, Melbourne, Perth, Sydney, Tokyo–Haneda (begins 28 June 2023)[29]


Qantas Freight[30] Brisbane, Melbourne, Sydney, Hong Kong
Toll Aviation[citation needed] Brisbane, Darwin, Sydney
Virgin Australia Cargo[31] Brisbane, Melbourne, Sydney, Townsville

Other tennants[edit]

There are operators of emergency medical retrieval and rescue services based at the airport, including Emergency Management Queensland and the Royal Flying Doctor Service.


Annual passenger traffic at CNS airport. See Wikidata query.
Cairns Airport statistics[32]
Year[33] Total passengers
2019–Feb 2020 3,343,543
2018–19 5,075,887
2017–18 5,275,335
2016–17 5,230,658
2015–16 5,011,079
2014–15 4,658,240
2013–14 4,556,271
2012–13 4,441,594
2011–12 4,256,085
2010–11 4,120,489
2009–10 3,785,547
2008–09 3,976,005
2007–08 4,185,160
2006–07 4,187,770
2005–06 4,162,457
2004–05 4,070,395
1999–2000 2,718,378
1994–95 2,418,847
1989–90 840,392
1985–86 578,294
Domestic aviation activity into and out of Cairns Airport 2019[34]
Rank Airport Number of Passengers % change
1 Queensland, Brisbane 1,292,703 Decrease 2.1
2 New South Wales, Sydney 1,078,060 Decrease 4.8
3 Victoria, Melbourne 855,876 Increase 0.2
3 Queensland, Townsville 143,233 Decrease 5.4
Busiest international routes – Cairns Airport (2019) (* route suspended)[35]
Rank Airport Passengers handled % change
1  Japan, Tokyo-Narita 163,961 Decrease 7.7
2  Japan, Osaka-Kansai 132,466 Decrease 9
3  Singapore, Singapore 70,245 Increase 20
4  Papua New Guinea, Port Moresby 68,527 Increase 8.8
5  Indonesia, Denpasar 66,491 Increase 6.3
6*  Hong Kong, Hong Kong 44,403 Decrease 55
7  New Zealand, Auckland 33,686 Decrease 15
8*  China, Guangzhou 24,015 Increase 31
Busiest international freight routes into and out of Cairns Airport (* route suspended) (FY 2011)[33][36]
Rank Airport Freight handled % change
1*  Hong Kong, Hong Kong 1,679.2 Decrease 49
2  Japan, Tokyo-Narita 1,155 Decrease 54
3  Japan, Osaka-Kansai 270.1 Decrease 60
4  Papua New Guinea, Port Moresby 252.3 Decrease 15
5  China, Shenzhen 145.4 Increase 60
6*  China, Guangzhou 108.2 Increase 60
7  New Zealand, Auckland 67.9 Decrease 20
8  Singapore, Singapore-Changi 33.4 Increase 100

Ground transport[edit]


Ranks are located near both the International and Domestic Terminals. Cairns Taxis taxi ranks are located immediately outside the International and Domestic Terminals.


Airport shuttle bus services to hotels, city centre, Northern Beaches, Palm Cove, Port Douglas and Cape Tribulation are available.


Short-term and long-term parking, including a covered car park and parking for people with a disability are located within the public carparks adjacent to both the Domestic and International Terminals.

See also[edit]


Public Domain This article incorporates public domain material from the Air Force Historical Research Agency.

  1. ^ "Aerodrome Chart – Page 1: Cairns, QLD (YBCS)" (PDF). Aeronautical Information Publication. Airservices Australia. 20 August 2015. Archived from the original (PDF) on 25 February 2016. Retrieved 20 February 2016.
  2. ^ a b YBCS – CAIRNS/Cairns INTL (PDF). AIP En Route Supplement from Airservices Australia, effective 2023-03-23
  3. ^ Airport traffic data Archived 14 March 2016 at the Wayback Machine
  4. ^ "RFDS QLD Home Page". Royal Flying Doctor Service. Archived from the original on 29 February 2016. Retrieved 17 April 2021.
  5. ^ "History". Archived from the original on 11 August 2015. Retrieved 7 June 2015.
  6. ^ "Redeveloping 5th Busiest Airport" (PDF). Australian National Construction Review. 9 December 2009. Archived (PDF) from the original on 15 April 2014. Retrieved 26 March 2014.
  7. ^ Howard, Rebecca (11 January 2010). "Auckland Airport buys stake in North Queensland Airports". The Australian. Retrieved 26 March 2014.
  8. ^ a b c "Contract awarded for Cairns terminal upgrade". Infrastructure Magazine. 4 February 2019. Retrieved 28 July 2022.
  9. ^ a b Lane, Mark (3 August 2020). "A taste of Tropical North Queensland: Cairns Airport completes A$55 million domestic terminal upgrade". The Moodie Davitt Report. Retrieved 28 July 2022.
  10. ^ Jagt, Kerry van der (22 July 2022). "Airport review: Tropical Queensland's main hub's $55 million upgrade". Retrieved 28 July 2022.
  11. ^ Calcino, Chris (1 February 2020). "Future Tourism: Cairns Airport needs to decide where to next". The Cairns Post. Retrieved 1 February 2020.
  12. ^ "Bonza Announces New Destinations". Bay939Radio. Bay939. 15 February 2022. Retrieved 16 February 2022.
  13. ^ "Subscribe to the Cairns Post". Retrieved 3 March 2023.
  14. ^ Seet, Charlotte (26 February 2023). "International Terminal At Australia's Cairns Airport Begins Multimillion Dollar Overhaul". Simple Flying. Retrieved 3 March 2023.
  15. ^ Cairns Airport terminal information Archived 14 May 2011 at the Wayback Machine retrieved 25 May 2011
  16. ^ "Air New Zealand Converts Auckland – Cairns to Seasonal Service in 2014". Airline Route. 24 April 2014. Archived from the original on 24 April 2014. Retrieved 24 April 2014.
  17. ^ "Queensland gets year-round flights with Air New Zealand to Gold Coast, Cairns, Sunshine Coast". NZ Herald. Retrieved 25 June 2021.
  18. ^ "Back To Business: Air New Zealand Reboots Its Trans-Tasman Network". 16 April 2022. Retrieved 17 June 2022.
  19. ^ "Alliance launches four new roures". Australian Aviation. 23 February 2021.
  20. ^ "Bonza Outlines Operational Network in 1H23". Aeroroutes. Retrieved 27 January 2023.
  21. ^ "Cheap Flight Specials and Airfare Deals in Australia and Abroad – Jetstar Airlines Australia". Jetstar. Archived from the original on 23 May 2015. Retrieved 7 June 2015.
  22. ^ a b Curran, Andrew (30 May 2022). "Jetstar Eyes Additional Boeing 787-8 Routes". Simple Flying. Retrieved 8 July 2022.
  23. ^ "PNG AIR route map". Retrieved 26 July 2022.
  24. ^ "Qantas adds three new routes from Canberra". Qantas. Archived from the original on 6 November 2020. Retrieved 6 November 2020.
  25. ^[bare URL]
  26. ^ "Rex announces new Cape York route". Archived from the original on 7 July 2015. Retrieved 7 June 2015.
  27. ^ Chris Ashton (23 February 2022). "Singapore Airlines restarts Cairns flights". Executive Traveller. Retrieved 23 February 2022.
  28. ^ "Virgin expands with new routes". ABC news. Retrieved 23 May 2021.
  29. ^ "VIRGIN AUSTRALIA ADDS CAIRNS – TOKYO HANEDA SERVICE FROM JUN 2023". Aeroroutes. 13 December 2022. Retrieved 13 December 2022.
  30. ^ - Freighter schedule retrieved 17 December 2022
  31. ^ - Our cargo services retrieved 17 December 2022
  32. ^ "Airport Traffic Data 1985–86 to 2010–11". Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics (BITRE). May 2012. Archived from the original on 24 March 2012. Retrieved 8 May 2012. Refers to "Regular Public Transport (RPT) operations only"
  33. ^ a b Fiscal year 1 July – 30 June
  34. ^ "Australian Domestic Domestic aviation activity 2017-18". March 2019. Archived from the original on 2 April 2019. Retrieved 22 May 2019.
  35. ^ "International Airline Activity 2017-18". October 2018. Archived from the original on 2 April 2019. Retrieved 22 May 2019.
  36. ^ "International Airline Activity Annual Publications" (PDF). Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics (BITRE). May 2017. Archived (PDF) from the original on 3 August 2017. Retrieved 1 July 2017.

External links[edit]

Media related to Cairns Airport at Wikimedia Commons