Annabel Bowles

Tropic Now journalist

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Cairns Airport completes its domestic terminal transformation

As the gateway to the beauty and diversity of Tropical North Queensland, Cairns Airport is often the first port of call for many of our region’s visitors.

And according to Cairns Airport CEO Norris Carter, first impressions mean a lot.

That’s why he’s thrilled to see the completion of a $55 million upgrade to the T2 Domestic Terminal. 

Three years in the making, the development was carefully designed to not only improve traveller navigation, reduce congestion and offer a wider array of retail and dining outlets, but immediately immerse travellers in the essence of our remarkable surrounds.

Mr Carter believes the new upgrade will future proof the airport for many years to come.

“With domestic passenger numbers expected to grow by 40 per cent over the next ten years, it was important that we looked at a configuration that both accommodated the increased passenger traffic and put the customer experience first,” he said.

“We set out to deliver a terminal experience that focused and connected passengers with our unique region, from its ancient culture to modern marvels in both the reef and rainforest.

“We know that the new generation of passengers expect more from their airport experience, so incorporating our sense of place was critical for us in meeting and surpassing those expectations.”

Among the terminal’s new eateries are familiar local favourites like Ochre, The Pier Bar and Rattle n Hum, which all showcase local produce and beverages.

The T2 Domestic upgrade also includes a number of sustainability measures, including carpet made from recycled fishing nets, carbon-neutral tiles and more natural lighting.

Organic food waste is also composted through the terminal’s new three stream waste bins and macerator, which is just the third system of its kind in Australia.

Regional partnerships were also key to the construction of the project.

Kyle Hare from Hutchinson Builders Cairns said Hutchies was delighted to be involved in the expansion of the T2 Terminal.

“We’ve enjoyed the opportunity to collaborate with other local businesses and are proud to say that 350 direct jobs were secured as a result of the project, supporting around 50 subcontractors and suppliers,” he said.

“As Australia’s largest family-owned builder, we are strong believers in the importance of supporting our communities.

"Hutchies always looks local first, and the majority of our direct team, subcontractors and suppliers were from the region.”


Cairns Airport is the seventh busiest by passenger movements in Australia, and the second busiest regional centre behind the Gold Coast.

For a time during the COVID-19 pandemic in recent months, the Cairns-Brisbane route was the busiest in Australia due to border closures and a spike in intrastrate travel.


After sixteen years of service and more than a million lift-offs and landings, the main runway at Cairns Airport has undergone a complete resurfacing.

The upgrade included removing 11,000 tonnes of asphalt, replacing it with a high strength pavement, and repurposing the old material across the airport’s internal levee roads.

Head of Infrastructure at Cairns Airport Alan Dugan said the project had gone like clockwork, completed each night in work windows to ensure the airport remained open and accessible.

“Maintaining safe operations at the airport over this time was critical to the completion of the project and it’s a testament to the tremendous partnerships we have with our airline partners and our contractors,” he said.

As a contribution to the local community, new runway grade asphalt from the on-site plant was also used to resurface the Cairns BMX Club access road.

These stories originally appeared in Tropic Magazine Issue 26. Read the issue here