Cairns Airport to Close Year with Major Developments

Cairns Airport will close out the year with a swathe of significant developments, including major infrastructure improvements, compelling international passenger numbers and the appointment of a familiar local figure as Chair of the Board of Directors.

Former James Cook University Vice Chancellor and President, Emeritus Professor Sandra Harding AO, has recently accepted the role of Chair of North Queensland Airports (NQA). She replaces highly respected Ross Rolfe AO, who served in the role since 2014.

The widely experienced Professor Harding has been involved in a variety of local, national and international boards and councils, including serving as a Director of Advance Cairns for several years during her time at JCU. Her contribution to the Cairns business community was formally recognised with the 2021 Legacy Award conferred by the Cairns Chamber of Commerce.

Professor Harding said she was delighted to accept the role at NQA, which operates both Cairns Airport and Mackay Airport.

“Being based in the Far North, I know just how critical the Cairns and Mackay airports are to local people and visitors alike, and to supporting the vibrancy of our economy,” she said.

“I warmly acknowledge the significant contribution Ross Rolfe has made to NQA and to the Cairns and Mackay communities during his time as NQA’s Chair. I look forward to continuing this work, supporting Richard and the NQA team to ensure that this vital infrastructure serves our communities well and continues to provide a welcoming, vibrant and accessible entry point for visitors to our region.”

It comes as Cairns Airport officially opens a major car park expansion at the domestic terminal. An additional 280 new spaces have been built, taking the total to 1165 non-covered, with a further 126 undercover.

Cairns Airport Chief Executive Officer Richard Barker said the timing could not be better.

“It is fantastic to have this work done before the onset of the wet season, and as we head into the busy Christmas holiday period when many people will be travelling to visit family and friends,” he said.

“September was bustling at Cairns Airport, with domestic passenger figures in excess of pre-COVID 2019 and international performance at 93 per cent, the highest since the pandemic. Significantly, this international passenger data also reveals our Japan services, operated by Jetstar and Virgin Australia, are drawing more travellers through our terminal now than in 2019.”

“Close to 34,700 passengers travelled on a Japan service in September, representing growth of 127 per cent. We expect to see this positive trajectory continue across Cairns Airport, and our infrastructure and operations are well-placed to welcome it.”

Assistant Tourism Minister Michael Healy said the popularity of the Japan flights, supported by the Queensland Government’s Attracting Aviation Investment Fund, were testament to the success of the program, announced in February 2022 to help rebuild the visitor economy.

“It shows the Palaszczuk Government’s Attracting Aviation Investment Fund to boost Japanese services has been a real winner for Cairns,” he said.

“One in three Japanese visitors who travel to Australia are coming to Cairns. We are on a trajectory to reach 140,000 Japanese visitors for the year.”

“I want to thank the trade both in Japan and here in Cairns, including TTNQ and Cairns Airport, for their hard work. This has been a real community effort with positive outcomes and more to come.”

The $55 million international terminal redevelopment has also rapidly progressed since construction commenced in April.

The check-in hall has been transformed with light tiled flooring, fresh paint and replacement of all counters. Installation of a new escalator is almost complete and the bathrooms in arrivals have been remodelled, with significant work also happening on the adjacent hire car counters.

The next phase of the project will focus on enhancing passengers’ arrival experience, with new baggage reclaim belts and an expanded area to increase capacity. Four new, glass airbridges are due to arrive early in November. The first will be operational by the end of this year and the rollout of the others will be staged one at a time, with completion due by mid-2024.

Cairns Airport invested a further $9 million this year in the complete resurface and enhancement of a key aircraft taxiway.