Cairns Airport (IATA: CNSICAO: 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[1] 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.[3]


Aerial View of runway and terminal to the right
View of Cairns international terminal with an Air New Zealand 767, Air Niugini F100 and 3 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.

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 legthened 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 redovelopment 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.[4]

A$200 million redevelopment of the Domestic terminal started in August 2007 and was completed in 2010.[5] 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.[6]


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.[7]


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 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

Airlines Destinations Terminal
Airfast Indonesia Timika International
Air New Zealand Seasonal: Auckland[8] International
Air Niugini Port Moresby, Rabaul International
Airnorth Darwin, Gove[9] Domestic
Alliance Airlines Charter: Cloncurry, Groote Eylandt, Lawn Hill, Mount Isa, Townsville, Trepell Domestic
Asia Pacific Airlines Tabubil International
Cathay Pacific1 Hong Kong International
China Eastern Airlines Seasonal: Shanghai-Pudong[10] International
China Southern Airlines Seasonal: Guangzhou[11] International
Hinterland Aviation Cooktown, Dunk Island, Lizard Island General Aviation
Hinterland Aviation Daru, Kiunga, Tabubil International
Jetstar Airways Adelaide, Brisbane, Darwin, Gold Coast, Melbourne, Perth, Sydney Domestic
Jetstar Airways Denpasar,[12]Melbourne, Osaka-Kansai,[13]Tokyo-Narita, Sydney International
Philippine Airlines Auckland, Manila (both begin 1 December 2015) [14] International
Qantas Brisbane, Melbourne, Sydney Domestic
QantasLink operated by Cobham Alice Springs, Uluru (Ayers Rock), Darwin Domestic
QantasLink operated by Sunstate Airlines Brisbane, Gladstone, Hamilton Island, Horn Island, Mackay, Rockhampton, Townsville, Weipa Domestic
QantasLink operated by Sunstate Airlines Port Moresby International
Regional Express Airlines Bamaga, [15]Normanton, Mornington Island, Burketown, Doomadgee, Mount Isa, Townsville Domestic
SilkAir1 Singapore International
Skytrans Aurukun, Coen, Kowanyama, Lockhart River, Pormpuraaw (Edward river), Weipa Domestic
Tigerair Australia Brisbane,[16]Melbourne,[17]Sydney[18] Domestic
United Airlines Guam (ends 27 September 2015)[19] International
Virgin Australia Brisbane, Melbourne, Sydney Domestic
  • ^1 These flights may make an intermediate stop en route to and/or from their listed final destination; however the airlines have no traffic rights to carry passengers solely between Cairns and the intermediate Australian stop.


Airlines Destinations
Australian air Express Brisbane, Melbourne, Sydney
Toll Aviation Brisbane, Darwin, Sydney

Emergency service


Cairns Airport statistics[20]
Year[21] Total passengers
2010–11 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
Busiest domestic routes into and out of Cairns Airport (YE 2014)[22]
Rank Airport Number of Passengers  % change
1 01 !Queensland, Brisbane 1,256,100 Increase 04 !4.7
2 03 !New South Wales, Sydney 1,000,900 Increase 03 !2.3
3 02 !Victoria, Melbourne 713,200 Increase 01 !5.3
Busiest international routes into and out of Cairns Airport (Financial Year 2012–13)[23]
Rank Airport Passengers handled  % change
1 07 !Japan, Tokyo-Narita 148,878 Increase 06 !1.1
2 04 !Japan, Osaka-Kansai 98,936 Increase 01 !13.6
3 05 !Papua New Guinea, Port Moresby 87,381 Decrease 03 !14.8
4 03 !Hong Kong, Hong Kong 57,143 Decrease 05 !2.0
5 01 !New Zealand, Auckland 39,081 Decrease 02 !16.6
6 02 !Guam, Guam 15,492 Decrease 07 !6.0
7 02 !People's Republic of China, Shanghai 10,045 Decrease 07 !60.7
8 06 !Papua New Guinea, Rabaul 3,606 Decrease 04 !20.5
9 06 !Indonesia, Denpasar 348 Decrease 04 !74.2
Busiest international freight routes into and out of Cairns Airport (FY 2011)[21][23]
Rank Airport Freight handled  % change
1 03 !Hong Kong, Hong Kong 2,728.3 Decrease 05 !9.6
2 07 !Japan, Tokyo-Narita 2,113.2 Decrease 04 !3.1
3 04 !Japan, Osaka-Kansai 643.4 Increase 01 !687.4
4 05 !Papua New Guinea, Port Moresby 306.6 Increase 03 !6.4
5 01 !New Zealand, Auckland 131.3 Increase 02 !7.5
6 02 !Guam, Guam 19.2 Decrease 06 !12.4
7 06 !Singapore, Singapore-Changi 0.0 Decrease 07 !100

Ground transport


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.


 This article incorporates public domain material from websites or documents of the Air Force Historical Research Agency.

  1. ^ a b YBCS – CAIRNS/Cairns INTL (PDF). AIP En Route Supplement from Airservices Australia, effective 29 May 2014
  2. ^ "Airport traffic data". Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics (BITRE). Retrieved 27 September 2013. 
  3. ^ 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. 
  4. ^ "History". Retrieved 7 June 2015. 
  5. ^ "Redeveloping 5th Busiest Airport" (PDF). Australian National Construction Review. 9 December 2009. Retrieved 26 March 2014. 
  6. ^ Howard, Rebecca (11 January 2010). "Auckland Airport buys stake in North Queensland Airports". The Australian. Retrieved 26 March 2014. 
  7. ^ Cairns Airport terminal information retrieved 25 May 2011
  8. ^ "Air New Zealand Converts Auckland – Cairns to Seasonal Service in 2014". Airline Route. 24 April 2014. Retrieved 24 April 2014. 
  9. ^ "Timetable". Retrieved 7 June 2015. 
  10. ^ "China Eastern Suspends Cairns Service from late-Feb 2014". 1 January 2014. 
  11. ^ "China Southern arrives in Cairns". Australian Aviation. 31 January 2013. 
  12. ^ "Cheap Flight Specials and Airfare Deals in Australia and Abroad - Jetstar Airlines Australia". Jetstar. Retrieved 7 June 2015. 
  13. ^ "New Jetstar flights between Cairns and Osaka- Local Cairns News". 1 December 2009. Retrieved 30 May 2011. 
  14. ^ "TWO MORE INTERNATIONAL LINKS WELCOMED". Retrieved 7 June 2015. 
  15. ^ "Rex announces new Cape York route". Retrieved 7 June 2015. 
  16. ^ "Tigerair focuses on Queensland". Travel Weekly. Retrieved 7 June 2015. 
  17. ^ Tiger Airways gets green-light for more flights
  18. ^
  19. ^ "UNITED Ends 2 Guam Routes from late-Sept 2015". 20 July 2015. Retrieved 20 July 2015. 
  20. ^ "Airport Traffic Data 1985–86 to 2010–11". Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics (BITRE). May 2012. Retrieved 8 May 2012.  Refers to "Regular Public Transport (RPT) operations only"
  21. ^ a b Fiscal year 1 July – 30 June
  22. ^ "Domestic aviation activity 2014" (PDF). Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics (BITRE). April 2015. Retrieved 26 April 2015.  Refers to "Regular Public Transport (RPT) operations only"
  23. ^ a b "International Airline Activity Annual Publications 13" (PDF). Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics (BITRE). June 2014. Retrieved 15 July 2014.  Refers to "Regular Public Transport (RPT) operations only"

External links

About Cairns Airport-(IATA: CNS, ICAO: YBCS)