• The people of Cairns started raising money to build an airport where aircraft were able to land and take off at all times, particularly in times of emergency.1936- The Cairns City Council bought 162 hectares of land and built three runways made of cinders, red earth, weathered rock and sand.


  • The Australian Government bought the airport during World War II for use by the Royal Australian Air Force. The Main runway was sealed and made longer for the RAAF aircraft.


  • Runway first sealed.

Qantas Office history 650


  • The main runway was lengthened to 1730 metres to accommodate larger aircraft.


  • The airport was upgraded and the runway lengthened to 2020 metres and strengthened so jets could land.


  • The number of aircraft flying to Cairns increased. TAA and Ansett provided regular scheduled services to most Australian capital cities and also Papua New Guinea.

    History page Aircraft tails anset qantas flightwest 650


  • Air Niugini was the first international service to commence flights out of Cairns to Port Moresby in Papua New Guinea.


  • The significant increase in aircraft traffic and passengers lead to overcrowding of facilities. The need for expansion prompted the Government to hand the airport over to local ownership.


  • The Cairns Harbour Board, which managed the Port of Cairns, agreed to expand its interests and take control of the airport. The Commonwealth Government provided funding for expansion. The Harbour Board subsequently changed its name to Cairns Port Authority (CPA) and assumed control of Cairns Airport under the Airport Local Ownership Plan in December.


  • Commencement of Stage I Redevelopment. This involved further lengthening of the runway to 2600 metres (making it the longest runway in Queensland) and construction of a new terminal building.


  • Completion of Stage I. Official opening of dual International and Domestic Terminals on 31 March.


  • New Fire Station Facility constructed by Commonwealth Government.


  • CPA withdrew from the Airport Local Ownership Plan, taking full fiscal responsibility for the airport. Stage II development works commenced.


  • Stage II works completed. This included a new separate International Terminal, associated aprons and taxiways costing an estimate of $80 million.


  • Completion of main runway extension from 2600 to 3196 metres.
  • Australian Pilots’ dispute.
  • Airservices Australia Control Tower.
  • Qantas Flight Catering.


  • International Apron Bay 5. Qantas Flight Catering Expansion.


  • Cathay Pacific commences services to Cairns from Hong Kong

History page Cathay Pacific first arrival at CNS 650px

  • Taxiway G2. Bureau of Meteorology.


  • International Apron Bay 1.


  • International Apron Bay 6. Taxiway B5. Domestic Apron widened.


  • Southern Eastern Levee extended.


  • Completion of Stage IIIA Redevelopment. Within this redevelopment, a three storey Airport Administration Centre was constructed providing 4000 square metres of office space.
  • Domestic Apron Bays 11-14.
  • Domestic Car Park extended.


  • Australian Customs Dog Unit.


  • Airport Lighting Equipment Room 15 Runway
  • Aircraft Turnaround Engineering.
  • Avis Car Park.


  • Australian Airlines commenced operations and Cairns is announced as the airline’s hub.

History page Australian Airlines takeoff 650px

  • Ansett Australia went into voluntary administration on 14 September.


  • CASA Building


  • US-led War on Terror is is declared 20 March 2003. Lead up to the war saw a decrease in passengers.
  • International Terminal Building IQI expansion.
  • International Apron Bays 7 & 8.


  • Queensland Transport Minister Paul Lucas officially opens stage one of the Cairns International Airport Terminal Redevelopment.
  • Hawker Pacific Hangar.


  • The Australian Association of Airports National Conference is Held in Cairns, hosted by CPA.
  • Central Services Building – Staff Car Park expansion.
  • GA Staff Car Park.
  • Separate Fire Main.
  • CPA celebrates 100 years.


  • Cairns International Airport implement new security requirements.
  • General Manager of Cairns Airport, Kayleen Collins is appointed to the Queensland Tourism Board.
  • Cairns Airport Tropical Ambassador Program begins.
  • Cairns Airport welcomed 5 new aircraft parking bays and extended taxiways.
  • Deputy Premier, Anna Bligh announces contract for $135 million redevelopment of Cairns Airport. Work commences in August.


  • Premier Anna Bligh announces Cairns Airport is to be sold.
  • Cairns Airport hosts the 3rd Airports Council International Asia Pacific Regional Assembly Conference & Exhibition.
  • Jetstar make Australia’s first landing of an A321 aircraft at Cairns Airport.
  • The Royal Flying Doctor moves to new premises in General Aviation.
  • First stage of Domestic Terminal Redevelopment opens.


  • North Queensland Airports group purchases Cairns Airport and Mackay Airport. Cairns Airport Pty Ltd now operates Cairns Airport.
  • Cairns Airport becomes the first airport in Australia to be fully equipped for bar-coded boarding passes.
  • New Domestic Terminal Common-User Check-In completed.



  • Cairns Airport Domestic Terminal Redevelopment completed and officially opened 29 September.


  • Direct services to Cairns Airport from mainland China commenced December 2012 by China Eastern out of Shanghai


  • Direct services to Cairns Airport from Singapore commenced 30 May 2015 by SilkAir, the regional wing of Singapore Airlines.

History page SilkAir history Cairns Airport 650px

  • T1 (International) celebrates the 25th Anniversary of its opening on 3 September 1990. (learn more here
  • Direct services to Cairns Airport from Manilla (Philippines) and Auckland (New Zealand) commenced 3 December 2015 by Philippine Airlines


  • The inaugural Hong Kong Airlines service touches down in Cairns on 9 January 2016 operating charter services over Chinese New Year.
  • Cairns Airport welcomes 5 million passengers 8 June 2016 for the first time in a 12 month period.
  • JinAir announce they will commence seasonal services between Cairns & Seoul from December 2016


  • The inaugural China Southern service touches down in Cairns from Guangzhou on 5 December followed by Hainan Airlines service from Shenzhen on 20 December.


  • Aelia Duty Free opens in T1 International Terminal.
  • Cathay Pacific celebrates their 25th anniversary flying Cairns-Hong Kong on 31 October.
  • The Standby Zone launches - FREE 30minute Wait Zone
  • SilkAir announces daily services between Cairns-Singapore on 14 December
  • Cairns Airport wins Commercial Award at Australia Airports Association Industry Awards


  • Cairns Airport commences $55M Domestic Terminal Upgrade in February
  • Qantas commences direct services to Port Moresby on 31 March 2019
  • SilkAir commences daily flights to Singapore in June 2019
  • Cathay Pacific ceases services to Hong Kong in October
  • Air Niugini launches freight service between Cairns-Port Moresby-Hong Kong in October
  • China Southern and Hainan Airlines cease services in December 2019


  • COVID-19 pandemic hits Australia in March 2020
  • $55M Domestic Terminal Upgrade officially opens in August 2020
  • $17M Runway overlay project completed in August 2020
  • Air Niugini celebrates 45th anniversary flying Cairns-Port Moresby
  • Direct services to Sunshine Coast commence on July 17 with Alliance Airlines 3 x weekly
  • Direct services to Canberra commence in October 2020 with Qantas
  • Cairns Airport receives ACI Global Health Accreditation
  • Qantas celebrates 100 years of flying


  • Direct services to Newcastle commence in June with Jetstar 3 x weekly
  • Direct services to Townsville commence with Alliance Airlines
  • SilkAir rebrands to Singapore Airlines in August
  • Air New Zealand commence year round services between Cairns-Auckland in July
  • Skytrans commence direct services to Whitsundays 5 x weekly