Opening of the new airport terminal in December 1991

Darwin International Airport (IATA: DRW, ICAO: 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's northern suburbs, 8 km (5.0 mi) from Darwin city centre, in the suburb of Eaton. 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.


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. 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.

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

On 20 April 1954, Soviet spy Evdokia Petrova defected at Darwin Airport while she was being escorted out of Australia by KGB airports.

Between 1950 and 1974 Darwin Airport acted as the primary domestic and international airport for the Northern Territory and an important stop for airlines flying between Australia and Asia and onwards to Europe. UTA, BOAC, Alitalia and Air India 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 . The centre sits on eight hectares of airport land at the major intersection of Bagot Road and McMillans Road and was due for completion by the end of 2009.

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.

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. The suspension left Darwin Airport without any non-Australian carriers flying there until late 2010 when Indonesia AirAsia started services from Bali to Darwin, but flights ended in January 2018.

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.

On 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.

In March 2020, Qantas briefly operated non-stop flights between Darwin and London Heathrow. Qantas flights QF1 and QF2, which normally operated between Sydney and London via Singapore, were rerouted due to air travel restrictions imposed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Operated by an Airbus A380, passengers remained on-board during refueling in Darwin due to the Northern Territory's border restrictions which were also imposed in response to the pandemic, before onward journey to either London or Sydney.


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.

During 2008–09 financial year 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.

During the 2009–10 financial year 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%.

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

The head office of Airnorth is on the airport property.

Darwin airport electricity needs are partially met by two photovoltaic solar arrays. Stage 1 covers six hectares near the eastern end of the main runway and generates up to 4.0MW of electricity, opened on 5 August 2016. At the time of construction it was described as the largest airside photovoltaic system in the world. Stage 2 provides a further 1.5 MW opened in December 2016 near the general aviation apron on the western side of the airport.

Statistics for Darwin Airport
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%

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. Jetstar did eventually use Darwin as a base, with flights to Singapore, Bali, and Tokyo via Manila but was forced to cut back on them in May 2013. 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; 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.



Domestic aviation activity into and out of Darwin Airport 2018
Rank Airport Passengers carried % Change
1 Queensland, Brisbane 376,602 Decrease7.3
2 New South Wales, Sydney 310,700 Decrease3.4
3 Victoria, Melbourne 307,293 Increase0.3
4 Western Australia, Perth 194,308 Decrease2.0
5 Northern Territory, Alice Springs 109,707 Decrease7.6


Busiest international routes – Darwin Airport (Financial Year ending 30 June 2018)
Rank Airport Passengers handled % Change
1 Singapore, Singapore-Changi 135,242 Increase 10.8
2 Indonesia, Denpasar 100,311 Decrease 19.8

Airlines and destinations

Airnorth Alice Springs, Broome, Cairns, Dili, Elcho Island, Groote Eylandt, Gove, Katherine, Kununurra, Maningrida, McArthur River Mine, Milingimbi, Tennant Creek, The Granites, Townsville
Seasonal: Gold Coast, Perth
Alliance Airlines Charter: Alice Springs, The Granites
Donghai Airlines Shenzhen
Fly Tiwi Gapuwiyak, Milikapiti, Minjilang, Nguiu, Pirlangimpi, Ramingining, Tennant Creek, Warruwi
Jetstar Airways Adelaide, Brisbane, Cairns, Denpasar, Melbourne, Sydney
Jetstar Asia Airways Singapore
Qantas Adelaide, Alice Springs, Ayers Rock, Brisbane, Melbourne, Perth, Sydney
QantasLink Broome
SilkAir Singapore
Virgin Australia Adelaide, Alice Springs, Brisbane, Melbourne, Perth, Sydney
Seasonal: Denpasar
Virgin Australia Regional Airlines Adelaide, Alice Springs, Perth

Accidents and incidents

  • On 25 December 1974, Douglas C-47B PK-RDB of was damaged beyond economic repair by Cyclone Tracy.
  • 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.

See also

External links

Media related to Darwin International Airport at Wikimedia Commons