Opening of the new airport terminal in December 1991

Darwin International Airport (IATA: DRWICAO: YPDN) is the busiest airport serving the Northern Territory and the tenth busiest airport in Australia. It is the only airport serving Darwin.

The airport is located in Darwin, Northern Territory's northern suburbs, 13 km (8.1 mi) from the Darwin city centre, in the suburb of Marrara. It shares runways with the Royal Australian Air Force's RAAF Base Darwin.

Darwin Airport has an international terminal, a domestic terminal and a cargo terminal. Both of the passenger terminals have a number of shops and cafeterias.

In 2011 the airport served 26,036 flights and 1,743,734 passengers.[2]


In 1919, when the England to Australia air race was announced, Parap Airfield was established in the suburb of Parap to act as the Australian Terminal.[4] It operated as two airports, a civilian airport and a military field.

It frequently took hits from Japanese bombing through the Second World War, and was used by the Allies to project air power into the Pacific. The airport hosted Spitfires, Hudson Bombers, Kittyhawks, C-47s, B-24 Liberators, B-17 Fortresses and PBY Catalinas.[5]

In 1945 the Department of Aviation made the existing Darwin military airfield available for civil aviation purpose. As a result, the civilian airport at Parap was closed down and airport operations combined with the military airport.[4]

Between 1950 and 1974 Darwin Airport acted as the primary domestic and international airport for the Northern Territory and a very important stop for airlines flying between Australia, Asia and onwards to Europe. UTA,[6]BOAC,[7]Alitalia[8] and Air India[9] were some airlines that had scheduled services to Darwin. However the introduction of longer range aircraft in the 1970s meant that many airlines did not need to stop over in Darwin, and chose to cease services.

Cyclone Tracy hit Darwin in 1974 and flattened the city. The airport was used to ferry 25,628 people out of Darwin. Darwin Airport was extensively used to assist UN operations in East Timor from 1999, and to support medical evacuations following the 2002 Bali bombings.

The new passenger terminal, with four aerobridges, was opened in December 1991.

On 8 November 2007 it was announced that it[clarification needed] had reached agreements for a $100 million home and lifestyle centre in Darwin Airports Business Park, which will be developed by retail developer Ticor Developments. The centre is being built on eight hectares of airport land at the major intersection of Bagot Road and McMillans Road and is due for completion by the end of 2009.[10]

In 2008 the Australian Infrastructure Fund (AIX), which holds 28.2% of Northern Territory Airports, announced that the airport would undergo a $60 million expansion to cater for growing passenger numbers. Among other improvements it would provide a 65 percent increase in terminal floor space.[11]

In April 2009 Garuda Indonesia suspended the Denpasar service from Darwin after nearly 30 years of service, citing "economic reasons". The move had been protested by the Northern Territory government.[12][13] The suspension left Darwin Airport without any non-Australian carriers flying there until late 2010 when Indonesia AirAsia started service from Bali to Darwin, which were again suspended in 2012.

2012 and 2013 saw a major boost for Darwin Airport when foreign carriers Silk Air, Indonesia AirAsia, Philippine Airlines and Malaysia Airlines started direct flights to Singapore, Bali, Manila and Kuala Lumpur respectively. However, the increased competition from these carriers forced Jetstar to abandon its base in Darwin Airport and focus its aircraft elsewhere.[14][15][16][17]

On the 9 May 2015, a new expanded terminal was officially opened. The expansion, costing $85 million, increased the floor area from 16,000 to 27,000 square metres and is expected to double the capacity of the airport at peak periods. It offers expanded arrivals and departures area, four new domestic and two new international boarding gates, additional security screening areas, a larger check-in area and a new multi-use baggage reclaim area for both domestic and international arrivals. The extended terminal also features Qantas and Virgin Australia airline lounges as well as Duty Free and other retail areas. [18]


Airnorth Aircraft at Darwin International Airport
Darwin International Airport tarmac

Darwin Airport has scheduled flights to destinations in the Northern Territory, around Australia and in Southeast Asia. Only one terminal is used for both domestic and international services. The terminal has several food outlets and shops, with duty-free shopping for international travellers.[19]

During 2008–09 financial year[20] a total of 1,538,938 passengers passed through Darwin International Airport which consisted of 188,530 international passengers and 1,350,408 domestic passengers.[21]

During the 2009–10 financial year[20] there was a total of 1,569,007 passengers which consisted of 207,825 international passengers and 1,361,182 domestic passengers, up 2.0%.[21]

During the 2010–11 financial year[20] there was a total of 1,679,899 passengers.[21]

The head office of Airnorth is on the airport property.[22]

Statistics for Darwin Airport[21]
Year Total
International Domestic  %
Total aircraft
International Domestic  %
2001–02 962,589 127,768 834,821 −10.7% 17,253 1,985 15,268 −22.0%
2002–03 985,172 89,306 895,866 2.3% 17,243 1,311 15,932 −0.1%
2003–04 1,073,440 84,106 989,334 9.0% 16,508 1,410 15,098 −4.3%
2004–05 1,210,734 103,215 1,107,519 12.8% 16,501 1,987 14,514 0.0%
2005–06 1,219,378 116,454 1,102,924 0.7% 16,416 2,309 14,107 −0.5%
2006–07 1,403,685 134,217 1,269,468 15.1% 17,981 2,951 15,030 9.5%
2007–08 1,562,216 173,243 1,388,973 11.3% 19,270 3,421 15,849 7.2%
2008–09 1,538,938 188,530 1,350,408 −1.5% 22,733 5,225 17,508 18.0%
2009–10 1,569,007 207,825 1,361,182 2.0% 26,310 4,986 21,324 15.7%
2010–11 1,679,934 252,214 1,427,720 4.9% 27,237 5,153 22,084 3.5%
2011-12 2,044,622 357,210 1,687,412 21.7% 26,829 3,797 23,032 −1.5%
2012-13 1,925,039 313,032 1,612,007 −5.8% 26,259 3,545 22,714 −2.1%


Commercial passenger aircraft most commonly seen at Darwin International Airport include Airbus A319, A320 and A330, Boeing 717, 737 and 767, Beechcraft 1900, Fokker 100, de Havilland Canada Dash 7, Bombardier Dash 8, Embraer E170, Embraer E190 and Embraer EMB 120 Brasilia. Darwin International Airport is extensively used by a wide range of general aviation aircraft as well as military aircraft that use the adjacent RAAF Base Darwin.

Until it was withdrawn from service, Concorde made sporadic visits to Darwin, which had one of the few runways in Australia long enough for it to land on.

Future of Darwin Airport

Australian low-cost carrier, Jetstar Airways, had expressed a keen interest in developing Darwin Airport as a hub for its trips to Asia. With the close proximity to Southeast Asia, Jetstar anticipated that it would be able to make flights using smaller aircraft, such as the Airbus A320 to fly anywhere within 4 to 5 hours from Darwin.[23] Jetstar did eventually use Darwin as a base, with flights to Singapore, Bali, and Tokyo via Manilla but was forced to cut back on them in May 2013.[24] Flights to Bali were retained while flights to Singapore would now operate by Jetstar Asia with Singapore-based aircraft. New low cost carrier Tiger Airways had also expressed interest in making Darwin Airport its second hub;[25] however, Tiger terminated its flights from Singapore to Darwin in October 2008, and for quite some time only operated domestic flights to Melbourne, however these flights have also now been terminated. Tiger started flights from Brisbane to Darwin after starting its Brisbane base.

In December 2010 the Federal Government approved the Darwin Airport Master Plan, a 20-year blueprint of how the airport will be affected by and manage issues such as aviation growth and the rise of Darwin Airport as an international transit point between Europe, Asia and Australia.[26]



Busiest domestic routes into and out of Darwin International Airport (Year ending June 2013[20])[27]
Rank Airport Passengers carried  % Change
1 01 !Queensland, Brisbane 373,600 Increase02 !0.9
3 02 !New South Wales, Sydney 358,800 Increase01 !NA(a)
2 02 !Victoria, Melbourne 296,300 Increase01 !2.3
4 03 !Western Australia, Perth 165,800 Increase03 !2.3

(a) Darwin – Sydney route included from May 2012, prior data not shown.


Busiest international routes out of Darwin International Airport
Rank Airport Passengers handled  % Change
1 01 !Indonesia, Denpasar 135,107 Decrease 02 !23.8
2 04 !Singapore, Singapore-Changi 133,619 Increase 04 !52.0
3 03 !Philippines, Manila 48,015 Increase 01 !60.4
4 02 !Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh City 10,106 Decrease 02 !68.2

Airlines and destinations

Airlines Destinations Terminal
Airnorth Broome, Cairns,[29]Elcho Island, Groote Eylandt, Gove, Karratha, Kununurra, Maningrida, McArthur River Mine, Milingimbi, Mount Isa, Perth, Port Hedland, Wadeye, The Granites, Townsville Domestic
Airnorth Dili International
Alliance Airlines The Granites[30] Domestic
Fly Tiwi Gapuwiyak (Lake Evella), Milikapiti (Snake Bay), Minjilang, Nguiu, Pirlangimpi, Ramingining, Tennant Creek, Warruwi Domestic
Indonesia AirAsia Denpasar-Bali International
Jetstar Airways Adelaide, Brisbane, Cairns, Melbourne, Sydney Domestic
Jetstar Airways Denpasar-Bali International
Jetstar Asia Airways Singapore[31] International
Malaysia Airlines Kuala Lumpur[32] International
Philippine Airlines Manila International
Qantas Adelaide, Brisbane, Melbourne, Perth, Sydney Domestic
QantasLink operated by Cobham Alice Springs, Cairns Domestic
Silk Air Singapore International
Tigerair Australia Brisbane[33] Domestic
Virgin Australia Alice Springs, [34]Brisbane, Melbourne, Perth, Sydney Domestic

Accidents and incidents

  • An Embraer EMB 120 Brasilia operated by Airnorth crashed after takeoff during a training flight on 22 March 2010. A check and training pilot and pilot under instruction were the only occupants and were both killed in the accident. Shortly after becoming airborne from runway 29, the pilot-in-command closed the power lever to simulate a failure of the left engine. During the manoeuvre, control was lost. The aircraft rolled left, pitched nose down and impacted the ground close to the golf course at RAAF Base Darwin. The subsequent investigation conducted by the Australian Transport Safety Bureau found that the incorrect throttle setting used by the pilot-in-command resulted in a simulated failure of the propeller auto-feathering system that increased the aircraft's tendency to roll, and that the pilot under check increased power on right engine, further increasing the roll. The crew failed to abandon the manoeuvre once control was lost. As a result of the accident, Airnorth now conducts most flight proficiency training using a simulator.[36]


  1. ^ YPDN – Darwin (PDF). AIP En Route Supplement from Airservices Australia, effective 29 May 2014, Aeronautical Chart
  2. ^ a b Airport traffic data
  3. ^ "Welcome to Northern Territory Airports". Airport Development Group. Retrieved 18 August 2014. 
  4. ^ a b "History of the Qantas Hangar". Northern Territory Government. Natural Resources, Environment and The Arts. Retrieved 16 June 2008. 
  5. ^ Darwin Airport website[dead link]
  6. ^ "UTA timetable, 1964". Retrieved 30 May 2011. 
  7. ^ "BOAC timetable, 1964". Retrieved 30 May 2011. 
  8. ^ "Alitalia timetable, 1961". Retrieved 30 May 2011. 
  9. ^ "Air India website". Retrieved 30 May 2011. 
  10. ^ "$100 million Home Centre Development to Excite Shoppers" (PDF). Northern Territory Airports. 11 July 2008. Retrieved 13 July 2008. [dead link]
  11. ^ "AIX announces Darwin airport expansion". The Sydney Morning Herald. 11 July 2008. Retrieved 11 July 2008. 
  12. ^ Bourchier, Daniel (17 April 2009). "Plea for Garuda to retain Darwin flights". 
  13. ^ "Garuda pulls pin on Darwin after 30 years". 
  14. ^ Creedy, Steve (12 July 2013). "Malaysia Airlines latest to resume Top End service". The Australian. Retrieved 15 July 2013. (subscription required)
  15. ^ {}
  16. ^ {}
  17. ^ {}
  18. ^ "Prime Minister Tony Abbott officially opens Darwin Airport’s expanded terminal" (HTML). Newsroom (Northern Territory Airports). 9 May 2015. Retrieved 11 May 2015. 
  19. ^ John Pike (27 April 2005). "Space Shuttle Emergency Landing Sites". Retrieved 30 May 2011. 
  20. ^ a b c d 1 July to 30 June
  21. ^ a b c d "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"
  22. ^ "Contact us." Airnorth. Retrieved on 10 February 2011. "Administration 4 Lancaster Road MARRARA."
  23. ^ Creedy, Steve (2 August 2008). "Jetstar boosts services from Darwin airport". The Australian. Retrieved 2 September 2008. 
  24. ^
  25. ^ Creedy, Steve (22 December 2007). "Jetstar plan for Darwin springboard into Asia". The Australian. Retrieved 25 June 2008. 
  26. ^ "Darwin airport master plan approved". 20 December 2010. 
  27. ^ "Australian Domestic Airline Activity June 2013" (PDF). Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics (BITRE). August 2013. Retrieved 26 August 2013.  Refers to "Regular Public Transport (RPT) operations only"
  28. ^ "International airline activity". April 2013. Retrieved 16 May 2013. 
  29. ^
  30. ^
  31. ^ "Statement regarding changes to Darwin operations". Jetstar Airways. Retrieved 11 December 2013. 
  32. ^
  33. ^ "New cheap flights on offer as Tigerair reveals major expansion, extra routes and new planes". News Limited. 4 December 2013. Retrieved 4 December 2013. 
  34. ^ "Virgin to fly Adelaide-Alice Springs from March 2015". Australian Aviation. 
  35. ^ "PK-RDB Hull-loss description". Aviation Safety Network. Retrieved 24 August 2010. 
  36. ^ Australian Transport Safety Bureau "Loss of Control – Embraer S.A. EMB-120ER Brasilia VH-ANB", 23 February 2012

External links

About Darwin International Airport-(IATA: DRW, ICAO: YPDN)