Canberra Airport (IATA: CBR, ICAO: YSCB), is an international airport serving Australia's capital city, Canberra, as well as the nearby city of Queanbeyan and regional areas of the Australian Capital Territory and southeastern New South Wales. Located approximately 8 km (5.0 mi) from the city centre, within the North Canberra district, it is the eighth-busiest airport in Australia.

The airport serves direct flights to most Australian state capitals and regionally to Newcastle, Dubbo and the Gold Coast. Direct international links operate from Canberra to Singapore. Flights to Qatar also operate via Sydney.

Canberra Airport handled 3,217,391 passengers in the 2018-19 financial year. Major redevelopment work completed in 2013 included the demolition of the old terminal, replacing it with a new facility designed to handle up to 8 million passengers annually.

In addition to serving airline traffic, the airport is also the only public general aviation facility within the Australian Capital Territory. A former Royal Australian Air Force base - Defence Establishment Fairbairn is located within Canberra Airport and supports government VIP flying operations by 34 Squadron as well as ground handling for itinerant military aircraft and visiting heads of state.

Corporate management

The airport's controlling entity is Capital Property Finance Pty Ltd, which had a 2014–15 income of A$405 million. The airport is managed and operated by the Canberra Airport Group Pty Ltd. Terry Snow is the airport's executive chairman and his step-son, Stephen Byron, is the managing director.


Early years

The hangars and air traffic control tower of Defence Establishment Fairbairn, viewed from the main runway.
A Royal Australian Air Force Airbus KC-30 landing at Canberra Airport in January 2020

The airport was built up from an old airstrip that was first laid down in the 1920s, not long after the National Capital site was decided. In 1939 it was taken over by the RAAF, with an area leased out for civil aviation.

On 13 August 1940, in what became known as the Canberra air disaster, a RAAF Lockheed Hudson flying from Melbourne crashed into a small hill to the east of the airport. Four crew and six passengers, including the Chief of the General staff and three Federal Government ministers, were killed in the accident. James Fairbairn, Minister for Air and Civil Aviation, was one of those killed and Fairbairn Airbase, the eastern component of the airport, was subsequently named after him. In 1962 the military side of the airport was renamed RAAF Base Fairbairn. The North-East quadrant of the airport still retains the Fairbairn name.

The lease to the site was sold to Canberra International Airport Pty Ltd in 1998, and the RAAF area was sub-leased back to the Department of Defence. It was decommissioned as a RAAF base in 2003, (although No. 34 Squadron RAAF remains based there), and the RAAF area was renamed Defence Establishment Fairbairn.

Before the airport redevelopment in 2009 there was one building made up two terminals. The former Qantas Terminal at Canberra Airport was located on the western side of the building. All Qantas and QantasLink flights and related services such as lounges now operate from the new Southern Concourse Terminal. The former terminal was demolished in 2011 to make way for the building of the second Western Concourse Terminal.

The former Common User Terminal was located on the far eastern side of the building. The terminal served Virgin Australia and briefly Tiger Airways. Also until 2001 the terminal was the home of Ansett Australia's operations from the airport. However, after the construction of the new Southern Concourse, only the terminal's departure lounge and gates 5 and 6 were in use. The Common User terminal was demolished in June 2013 after the opening of new Southern Concourse.


In 2008, Canberra International Airport launched an advertising campaign advocating the idea of having Canberra considered as Sydney's Second Airport. The slogan used was "Is the solution to Sydney's second airport still 20 years away? Less than 3 hours actually". This point of view was presented at "Canberra is the Only Serious Solution to Sydney's Air Traffic Problems."

The now demolished old Canberra Airport terminal.

The Federal Transport Minister Anthony Albanese rejected Canberra International Airport's draft master plan in November 2008, on the grounds that it did not provide enough detail on the proposal to develop the airport into a freight hub; and that the airport's community consultation had been insufficient. The Airport's 2005 master plan was also criticised by the then-Howard Government for not providing enough information.

Qantas Boeing 737 landing at Canberra

In the second half of 2008, Canberra International Airport Pty Ltd started referring to itself as "Canberra Airport".

In early December 2007, plans were announced to construct a new terminal, with works commencing in July 2008, and completion set for September 2010. When completed, the terminal would have six aerobridges (an increase of two), 32 check-in counters, (twice the current number), 2,500 car parking spaces (doubled), three times the baggage belt capacity, and the floor area of the lounge facilities would be quadrupled.

These plans were placed on hold in late 2008 as a result of the global economic crisis.

In April 2009, Canberra Airport announced that it would spend $350 million on a number of infrastructure projects:

  • three new jet aircraft parking positions – under construction
  • Two Structured Car Parks (each containing 1,000 parking spaces and an additional 450 spaces in two open-air car parks) – Both completed
  • A new Southern concourse Terminal – Completed in late 2010
  • A Western concourse Terminal – Partially Opened in March 2013 and to be completed November 2013

Changes to the terminal included:

  • International capability with dedicated customs, immigration and quarantine facilities
  • More than double the number of check-in counters (from 17 to 44)
  • A quadrupling of baggage capacity
  • A quadrupling of Airline Club Lounge areas
  • A two-storey roadside drop off and pick up system – departures on the upper level and arrivals on the lower level
  • An indoor taxi rank waiting area – a first for an Australian airport

It placed a 4½-minute animated video of the planned finished product on its website.

The project was given the go ahead by Canberra International Airport executive chairman Terry Snow, to start late 2009. It was approved by the Australian Government in February 2008. The new terminal increased space by 65%. Completed as part of the redevelopment were 10 airbridges; two four-level car parks; and an under-cover taxi rank. Space will be made for the future requirements of international flights.

In 2010, 8 Brindabella Circuit, a building located in the administration area of the Airport precinct, won the 5 Green Stars Australian Excellence Award.

In November 2012, a national petition was started by 10-year-old Eve Cogan to name the new extensions after David Warren, inventor of the blackbox. The petition has been supported by Captain C.B. "Sully" Sullenberger.

International flights

A Qatar Airways Airbus A350 taxiing at Canberra Airport in January 2020
A Singapore Airlines Boeing 777 at the terminal

In January 2016, Singapore Airlines announced it would launch flights from Singapore to Wellington via Canberra with the Boeing 777-200ER aircraft. Dubbed as the "Capital Express" service, it was the first regular international service to Canberra in years and began on 21 September 2016.

The ACT Government and Canberra Airport had been attempting for years to attract international airlines such as Air Asia X, Air New Zealand, and Emirates or persuade Qantas or Virgin Australia to commence international flights from Canberra. The airport argues there is a strong business case for flights to New Zealand. Canberra Airport managing director Stephen Byron said he believed there was a case to support about three flights a week to the capital of Wellington and another three to Auckland. In addition, the airport believes in the viability of a direct daily flight to an Asian Hub airport (such as Singapore or Hong Kong) to accommodate one-stop flights to onward destinations in Asia, the Middle East and Europe. Canberra has a population of 900,000 in its catchment area (approximately 75% of that of Adelaide which has 42 weekly international services from its airport). Its status as Australia's capital city and the above average income of residents in the surrounding area provide more arguments in favour of international services at the airport.

On 13 February 2018, Qatar Airways began flights to Canberra, via Sydney, using Boeing 777-300ER aircraft. The flights have been conducted by A350-1000 aircraft since early November 2019.

On 24 January 2018, Singapore Airlines announced that it was ending its Canberra to Wellington service on 30 April 2018, altering its Canberra operations to a daily Singapore-Sydney-Canberra-Singapore service from 1 May 2018 using the Boeing 777-300ER aircraft.


Security Screening
Southern Concorse

The Canberra Spatial Plan released by the ACT Government in March 2004 identified the airport and surrounding areas as being an important centre for future industrial and related development. The airport precinct is currently divided into four areas, catering to aviation and non-aviation activities:

  • The passenger terminal and general aviation facilities are in the south western quadrant formed by runways 17/35 and 12/30. This area also contains long and short term parking and a four-star hotel.
  • The Brindabella Business Park is south of the passenger terminal. A heavy maintenance facility for QantasLink Boeing 717 aircraft is located adjacent to the business park.
  • Fairbairn, a former RAAF base is on the eastern side of the main runway. In addition to military and VIP aircraft operations, this area contains the Air Traffic Control tower, aircraft rescue and firefighting (ARFF) facilities and remote parking for visiting heavy aircraft and diverted passenger flights.
  • A retail and mixed use area north of runway 12/30, on Majura Road which has been named Majura Park. Tenants include Majura Park Shopping Centre, Costco, IKEA, and some office buildings.

Passenger Terminals

Southern Concourse

Construction of the Southern Concourse was completed in late 2010 and came into service on 14 November. Qantas uses its check-in counters and departure gates. The Southern Concourse also includes The Qantas Club, The Qantas Business Class Lounge and The Qantas chairman's Lounge. The building's two wings, the Southern Concourse and the Western Concourse are separated by an Atrium, the centrepiece of the terminal.

Western Concourse

The Western Concourse opened in March 2013 and conjoins onto the Southern Concourse Terminal. Virgin Australia uses its check-in counters and departure gates. The Western Concourse also includes the 300-seat Virgin Lounge and Virgin's invitation-only The Club.

The western concourse was built with space for customs, immigration and quarantine facilities next to the Virgin lounge on the upper floor and on the ground floor. These areas were fitted out and opened when Singapore Airlines began its Canberra services to Wellington and Singapore. International flights arrive and depart from gate 5.

General Aviation Terminal

The General Aviation Terminal in Canberra Airport is a small separate building located on the far west side of the Terminal Precinct. Brindabella Airlines had its head office and maintenance facility located near this terminal prior to the airline's collapse in 2013.

Airlines and destinations

Map of domestic routes flown from Canberra Airport, as of July 2018
Map of international routes flown from Canberra Airport, as of July 2018
FlyPelican Newcastle, Ballina (launches July 3, 2020)
Qantas Adelaide, Brisbane, Melbourne, Perth, Sydney
QantasLink Brisbane, Melbourne, Sydney
Qatar Airways Doha
Singapore Airlines Singapore
Tigerair Australia Brisbane, Melbourne
Virgin Australia Adelaide, Brisbane, Gold Coast, Melbourne, Sydney



Total passengers and aircraft movements

Year Actual
1997–98 1,824,515 38,446
1998–99 1,820,757 38,077
1999–00 1,969,221 41,025
2000–01 2,107,219 51,867
2001–02 1,841,302 39,716 90,281
2002–03 1,916,351 2,176,603 35,986 93,296
2003–04 2,303,422 39,418
2004–05 2,478,705 2,280,557 38,512
2005–06 2,550,129 38,182
2006–07 2,687,336 38,257
2007–08 2,853,480 41,177
2008–09 3,061,859 2,829,882 45,191
2009–10 3,258,396 44,201
2010–11 3,240,848 43,280
2011–12 3,158,685 42,938
2012–13 3,013,960 41,816
2013–14 2,857,618 40,498
2014–15 2,803,989 3,476,797 38,718 116,072
2015–16 2,815,331 37,137
2016–17 2,995,470 37,123
2017-18 3,178,309 39,747
2018-19 3,217,791 40,050

Busiest domestic routes

Domestic aviation activity into and out of Canberra Airport 2018
Rank Airport Passengers
% Change
1 Melbourne, Victoria 1,175,695 Increase  3.8
2 Sydney, New South Wales 953,333 Increase  0.4
3 Brisbane, Queensland 643,328 Increase  8.3
4 Adelaide, South Australia 195,185 Increase  7.5

Busiest international routes

Busiest international routes – Canberra Airport (2018)
Rank Airport Passengers
% Change
1 Singapore 53,468 Increase0.4
2 Doha^ 28,939 IncreaseNA
3 Wellington^ 12,515 Decrease59.8

^Since 1 May 2019 the Singapore Airline service operates via Sydney from Singapore and no more flights operate to Wellington. The Doha service commenced on 12 February 2018.


While billboards have been barred in Canberra since the 1930s, an amendment of the National Capital Plan in 2000 allowed them to be displayed at Canberra Airport. Subsequently, the airport has hosted advertisements promoting defence hardware. A community group said the airport should not be promoting weapons manufacturers. The airport defended the ads and said the airport would continue to accept defence industry advertising. In 2015 the airport was lit up in rainbow colours, and in 2017 electronic and 3D message boards were used to support marriage equality. In August 2017 Canberra Airport awarded Qatar Media Services (QMS) the concession for all internal and external advertising. The first advertising project will be a double-sided "landmark digital billboard", being the only installation of this type in the ACT.


Approach and departure corridors lie over largely rural and industrial areas, although the instrument approach path (from the south) passes near the New South Wales suburb of Jerrabomberra, the city of Queanbeyan, and the Royal Australian Navy base, HMAS Harman, which has some barracks and housing.

Proposals have been made to the NSW Planning Minister by various developers to approve housing estates that are under the southern flight paths in New South Wales. Canberra International Airport Pty Ltd has been vigorous in advertising its opposition to these plans on the basis of a general increase in noise levels over a wide corridor which is currently free of aircraft noise, and concern that this will lead to the imposition of a curfew on the hours-of-operation of the airport.

Ground transport

The ACTION bus stop at Canberra Airport

Access to the city from the airport is via Morshead Drive and Parkes Way and Pialligo Avenue to Queanbeyan. A major junction which connects the Majura Parkway and Monaro Highway with Canberra's east-west arterial road network is located adjacent to the airport. Travel time to Canberra from the airport is generally around 10 minutes. The road approaches to the airport and business parks have historically been prone to traffic congestion in peak times. In 2007, the Chief Minister, Jon Stanhope controversially attributed the congestion to the Federal Government permitting construction of office buildings on airport land. A report commissioned by the ACT Government however identified a range of factors contributing including population growth in Gungahlin and Queanbeyan and the expansion of the airport itself, calling for a staged approach to road improvements in the area. Major investment in upgrades aimed at improving access have progressively been completed since 2008 through joint funding from both Canberra Airport Group and the ACT Government.

Canberra Cabs and partner taxi companies provide services to the airport taxi rank. An enclosed waiting area was opened in November 2013, aiming to improve the experience for arriving passengers who would otherwise wait outside in Canberra's relative climate extremes. Hire car companies maintain a presence in the terminal and Uber pick-up and drop offs are permitted with a $3 fee charged to drivers.

ACTION resumed Route 11/11A to Canberra Airport's passenger terminal from the City bus interchange in 2017. The route operated with 64 services each week day, 26 services on a Saturday and 24 on Sundays. Route 11/11A has since been incorporated into route R3. Canberra Airport Express provides daytime mini-bus services to Canberra City, connecting to regional and Interstate coach services at the West Row bus station. Other local bus services operate through the airport precinct and Brindabella Business park, but do not stop at the terminal including former ACTION route 792 (peak hours) to/from Woden and Qcity Transit route 834 to Queanbeyan (Monday to Friday only).

On 10 February 2009, Canberra Airport released its preliminary draft master plan which announced that a high-speed rail link between Sydney, Canberra and Melbourne was being considered. The plan was shortlisted in December 2008 by Infrastructure Australia for further consideration; however, it was the most expensive project shortlisted, and has not attracted any funding from any government. The decision to build the Second Sydney Airport at Badgerys Creek has made a fast rail link to Canberra Airport unlikely in the foreseeable future.

See also

External links

Media related to Canberra Airport at Wikimedia Commons