The Busiest Airports in Australia

Adelaide Airport

In this post we’re going to look at the busiest airports in Australia. We will compare passenger numbers before the pandemic with the latest figures for 2021-2022.

Figures are rounded up or down to the nearest 100,000 for all major airports in Australia. Passenger numbers relate to the annual total including both domestic and international travel. 2018/19 figures are via wikipedia while 2021/22 figures are via the data provided by the Australian Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics.

The Busiest Airports in Australia by Passenger Numbers (2018/19)

  1. Sydney Airport

Sydney Airport
Sydney Airport via Simon_sees, CC BY 2.0

Sydney tops the rankings for both the busiest airports in Australia by aircraft movements and passenger numbers. It topped 40 million passengers each year in those leading up to the pandemic and has continued to serve as the main gateway into Australia since despite extensive travel restrictions which for an extended period led to the suspension of almost all international services.

Plans were in place to expand the capacity of what is already the largest airport in Australia, to cater for an estimated 74 million passengers per year by 2033, including an integrated transport system linking its three main terminals. However it remains to be seen whether that goes ahead given the reduced demand for air travel and also the construction of a new airport in Western Sydney which is scheduled for completion in 2026.

Number of Passengers: 44.4 million

  1. Melbourne Airport

Melbourne and Sydney have long been the two most important cities in Australia and it’s no surprise that they also have the two busiest airports. Melbourne lags slightly behind its rival in this countdown with around 37 million passengers in 2018/19.

Melbourne-Sydney is also the third busiest air route in the world with close to 10 million passengers per year travelling between the two during peak times. That accounts for a sizable percentage of Melbourne’s total traffic but it does also have a number of long-haul international connections. Qantas operates services which connect the capital of Victoria with everywhere from Delhi to London and Los Angeles to Singapore.

Located in the northern fringes of the city, Melbourne is a curfew-free airport with planes landing and taking off throughout the day and night.

Number of Passengers: 37.1 million

  1. Brisbane Airport

Brisbane Airport
Brisbane Airport by Rae Allen, CC BY 2.0

Brisbane was the third busiest airport in Australia prior to the pandemic and has taken the number two spot ahead of Melbourne since. That’s largely because its location close to the Gold Coast and Sunshine Coast has ensured it has remained a hit with domestic travellers who have been unable to travel abroad during the last couple of years.

The city is also a popular stop for backpackers in Australia attempting to travel the popular East Coast stretch between Brisbane and Cairns. The airport is home to two terminals – an international one built in 1995 and an older domestic one which caters to airlines such as Jetstar, Qantas and QantasLink.

Number of Passengers: 23.6 million

  1. Perth Airport

Perth is the busiest of the airports in Western Australia by some margin with over 12 million passengers in 2018/19. With no other major cities in its vicinity, flying is by far the quickest and most convenient option for residents of the city looking to visit even other regions in Australia. The flight time to Sydney is four hours for example.

The city does have plenty of international connections too and is the main gateway into the Western parts of Australia from overseas. In 2018, Qantas even started a historic non-stop Perth-London service (which is set to restart in 2022), one of the longest direct flight links in the world linking the UK with Australia directly for the first time.

Its busiest international route is the connection with Singapore while Perth is also conveniently located for flying to South Africa with Johannesburg served regularly by South African Airways.

Number of Passengers: 12.4 million

  1. Adelaide Airport

Adelaide Airport
Adelaide Airport via Michael Coglan, CC BY-SA 2.0

In at number five is Adelaide Airport which is slightly more limited in terms of the international routes it offers when compared to the others. There are links to Asian cities such as Hong Kong and Kuala Lumpur while Qatar Airways runs a service to Doha but anyone flying in from Europe, Africa or the Americas will enter Australia via one of the bigger airports.

It is a single terminal airport that underwent a $165 million expansion project during the late 2010’s. That saw its duty free and international capacity increase but the pandemic followed soon afterwards and it may be some time before Adelaide’s increased capacity becomes of any real use.

Number of Passengers: 8.4 million

Australia’s Busiest Airports – Top 10 ranked by 2021/22 figures

Airport 2021/22 Total Passengers
Sydney 8.9 million
Brisbane 8.0 million
Melbourne 7.7 million
Perth 3.9 million
Adelaide 3.1 million
Cairns 2.4 million
Gold Coast 2.3 million
Hobart 1.3 million
Townsville 1.1 million
Darwin 1.1 million

Sydney remains the busiest international airport in Australia as of 2022, although its figures for 2021/22 were only slightly higher than Brisbane which experienced a less severe pandemic dip. Melbourne has dropped to 3rd place as a result with Perth and Adelaide still occupying 4th and 5th places.

Australia is gradually easing its travel restrictions making it easier for travellers from abroad to visit the country once more. The next set of figures ought to see a significant spike upwards but it may still be some time before we get anywhere close to the 2018/19 highs. 

Australia Airports Map

This post on the busiest airports in Australia was published in April 2022.

The Busiest Airports in Australia

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