Cairns Airport

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Cairns Airport
Cairns Airport logo.svg
Cairns airport overview Breidenstein.jpg
Airport typePublic
OperatorNorth Queensland Airports Group
ServesCairns, Queensland, Australia
Hub for
Focus city forQantas
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 4,898,189
Aircraft MovementsIncrease 48,828
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 18 international and 30 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 State Emergency Service. In the 12 months ending 30 June 2013 Cairns Airport had 4.1 million passengers, up 263,532 from the previous year.[4]


Aerial View of runway and terminal to the right
View of Cairns international terminal with an Air New Zealand 767, Air Niugini F100, a Jetstar A321 and 2 Jetstar A330s, 11 June 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]



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 it has five jet bridges and 17 gates, while the International Terminal is number 1 it currently has six jet bridges and ten gates in total.[8]


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 not expected to reopen.

Airlines and destinations[edit]


Air New Zealand Seasonal: Auckland[9]
Air Niugini Moro, Port Moresby
Airnorth Darwin, Gove
Asia Pacific Airlines Charter: Tabubil
Hainan Airlines Shenzhen[10]
Hinterland Aviation Cooktown, Kowanyama, Pormpuraaw
Jetstar Airways Adelaide, Brisbane, Darwin, Denpasar,[11] Gold Coast, Melbourne, Osaka–Kansai,[12] Perth, Sydney, Tokyo–Narita
PNG Air Lihir Island, Port Moresby
Qantas Brisbane, Melbourne, Sydney
QantasLink Ayers Rock, Brisbane, Hamilton Island, Horn Island, Mackay, Port Moresby,[13] Rockhampton, Townsville, Weipa
Regional Express Airlines Bamaga,[14] Burketown, Doomadgee, Karumba, Normanton, Mornington Island, Mount Isa, Townsville
SilkAir Singapore
Skytrans Aurukun, Bamaga, Coen, Horn Island, Kowanyama, Lockhart River, Pormpuraaw, Weipa
Tigerair Australia Brisbane,[15] Melbourne,[16] Sydney[17]
Virgin Australia Brisbane, Melbourne, Sydney


Qantas Freight Brisbane, Melbourne, Sydney
Toll Aviation Brisbane, Darwin, Sydney
Virgin Australia Cargo Brisbane, Melbourne, Sydney, Townsville

Emergency service[edit]


Cairns Airport statistics[18]
Year[19] Total passengers
2014 3,859,339
2009–10 3,550,240
2008–09 3,653,544
2007–08 3,777,154
2006–07 3,782,183
2005–06 3,731,178
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 2018[20]
Rank Airport Number of Passengers % change
1 Queensland, Brisbane 1,320,132 Decrease 4.2
2 New South Wales, Sydney 1,133,513 Increase 0.4
3 Victoria, Melbourne 854,481 Increase 1.6
3 Queensland, Townsville 149,404 Increase 5.4
Busiest international routes – Cairns Airport (Financial Year ending 30 June 2018)[21]
Rank Airport Passengers handled % change
1  Japan, Tokyo-Narita 177,398 Increase 4.8
2  Japan, Osaka-Kansai 145,586 Increase 4.6
3  Hong Kong, Hong Kong 81,273 Decrease 1.3
4  Papua New Guinea, Port Moresby 62,994 Decrease 21.0
5  Indonesia, Denpasar 62,510 Increase 7.2
6  Singapore, Singapore 58,917 Increase 33.8
7  New Zealand, Auckland 39,580 Increase 14.8
8  China, Guangzhou 18,364 Increase NA
Busiest international freight routes into and out of Cairns Airport (FY 2011)[19][22]
Rank Airport Freight handled % change
1  Hong Kong, Hong Kong 2,728.3 Decrease 9.6
2  Japan, Tokyo-Narita 2,113.2 Decrease 3.1
3  Japan, Osaka-Kansai 643.4 Increase 687.4
4  Papua New Guinea, Port Moresby 306.6 Increase 6.4
5  New Zealand, Auckland 131.3 Increase 7.5
6  United States, Guam 19.2 Decrease 12.4
7  Singapore, Singapore-Changi 0.0 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]


 This article incorporates public domain material from the Air Force Historical Research Agency website

  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 15 August 2019
  3. ^ Airport traffic data Archived 14 March 2016 at the Wayback Machine
  4. ^ Dalton, Nick (26 July 2013). "Air passenger tally takes off in Cairns". The Cairns Post. Archived from the original on 2 August 2013. Retrieved 26 March 2014.
  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. ^ Cairns Airport terminal information Archived 14 May 2011 at the Wayback Machine retrieved 25 May 2011
  9. ^ "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.
  10. ^ "Hainan Airlines adds Shenzhen – Cairns from Dec 2017". routesonline. Archived from the original on 1 September 2017. Retrieved 1 September 2017.
  11. ^ "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.
  12. ^ "New Jetstar flights between Cairns and Osaka- Local Cairns News". 1 December 2009. Archived from the original on 22 July 2011. Retrieved 30 May 2011.
  13. ^
  14. ^ "Rex announces new Cape York route". Archived from the original on 7 July 2015. Retrieved 7 June 2015.
  15. ^ "Tigerair focuses on Queensland". Travel Weekly. Retrieved 7 June 2015.
  16. ^ "Tiger gets green-light for more flights". Archived from the original on 23 May 2016. Retrieved 13 June 2017.
  17. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 13 May 2013. Retrieved 6 February 2013.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  18. ^ "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"
  19. ^ a b Fiscal year 1 July – 30 June
  20. ^ "Australian Domestic Domestic aviation activity 2017-18". March 2019. Archived from the original on 2 April 2019. Retrieved 22 May 2019.
  21. ^ "International Airline Activity 2017-18". October 2018. Archived from the original on 2 April 2019. Retrieved 22 May 2019.
  22. ^ "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