Melbourne Airport, colloquially known as Tullamarine Airport, is the primary airport serving the city of Melbourne and the second busiest airport in Australia. It opened in 1970 to replace the nearby Essendon Airport.
Melbourne Airport is the leading international airport of the four airports serving the Melbourne metropolitan area, the other international airport being Avalon Airport.
The airport comprises four terminals: one international terminal, two domestic terminals and one domestic budget terminal. It is 23 kilometres (14 miles) northwest of the city centre, adjacent to the suburb of Tullamarine. The airport has its own suburb and postcode—Melbourne Airport, Victoria (postcode 3045).
In 2016–17 around 25 million domestic passengers and 10 million international passengers used the airport. The Melbourne–Sydney air route is the third most-travelled passenger air route in the world.
The airport features direct flights to 33 domestic destinations and to destinations in the Pacific, Europe, Asia, North America and South America. Melbourne Airport is the number one arrival/departure point for the airports of four of Australia's seven other capital cities.
Melbourne serves as a central hub for Qantas and Virgin Australia, while Jetstar utilises the airport as home base. Domestically, Melbourne serves as headquarters for Australian airExpress and Toll Priority and handles more domestic freight than any other airport in the nation.
Before the opening of Melbourne Airport, Melbourne's main airport was Essendon Airport, which was officially designated an international airport in 1950. In the mid-1950s, over 10,000 passengers were using Essendon Airport, and its limitations were beginning to become apparent.
Essendon's facilities were insufficient to meet the increasing demand for air travel; the runways were too short to handle jets, and the terminals failed to handle the increase in passengers.
By the mid-1950s, an international overflow terminal was built in a new northern hangar. The airport could not be expanded, as it had become surrounded by residential districts.
The search for a replacement for Essendon commenced in February 1958, when a panel was appointed to assess Melbourne's civil aviation needs. In 1959, the Commonwealth Government acquired 5,300 ha (13,000 acres) of grassland in then-rural Tullamarine.
In May 1959, it was announced that a new airport would be built at Tullamarine, with Prime Minister Robert Menzies announcing on 27 November 1962 a five-year plan to provide Melbourne with a A$45 million "jetport" by 1967.
The first sod at Tullamarine was turned two years later, in November 1964. In line with the five-year plan, the runways at Essendon were expanded to handle larger aircraft. Ansett Australia launched the Boeing 727 there in October 1964, the first jet aircraft used for domestic air travel in Australia.
On 1 July 1970, Prime Minister John Gorton opened Melbourne Airport to international operations ending Essendon's nearly two-decade run as Melbourne's international airport.
Essendon still was home to domestic flights for one year until they transferred to Melbourne Airport on 26 June 1971, with the first arrival of a Boeing 747 occurring later that year. In the first year of operations, Melbourne handled six international airlines and 155,275 international passengers.
Melbourne Airport was initially called 'Melbourne International Airport'. It is at Tullamarine, a name derived from the indigenous name Tullamareena. Locally, the airport is commonly referred to as Tullamarine or simply as Tulla to distinguish the airport from the other three Melbourne airports: Avalon, Essendon and Moorabbin.
Melbourne Airport consisted of three connected terminals: International in the centre, with Ansett to the South and Trans Australia Airlines to the North.
The airport’s design capacity was eight Boeing 707s at a rate of 500 passengers per hour, with minor expansion works completed in 1973, allowing Boeing 747s to serve the airport. By the late 1980s, peak passenger flows at the airport had reached 900 per hour, causing major congestion.
In late 1989, Federal Airports Corporation Inspector A. Rohead was put in charge of a bicentennial project to rename streets in Melbourne Airport to honour the original inhabitants, European pioneers and aviation history.
Information on the first two categories was provided by Ian Hunter, Wurundjeri researcher, and Ray Gibb, local historian. The project was completed but was shelved, with the only suggested name, Gowrie Park Drive, being allocated, named after the farm at the heart of the airport.
During the 1920s, the farm was used as a landing site for aircraft, which were parked at night during World War II if Essendon Aerodrome was bombed.
Expansion and privatisation
In 1988, the Australian Government formed the Federal Airports Corporation (FAC), placing Melbourne Airport under the new corporation’s operational control and 21 other airports worldwide.
In April 1994, the Australian Government announced that all airports operated by FAC would be privatised in several phases. Melbourne Airport was acquired by the newly formed Australia Pacific Airports Corporation Limited for $1.3 billion in the first phase.
The transfer was completed on 30 June 1997 on a 50-year long-term lease, with the option for a further 49 years. Melbourne Airport is categorised as a Leased Commonwealth Airport.
Since privatisation, further improvements to infrastructure have begun at the airport, including expansion of runways, car parks and terminals.
The multi-storey carpark outside the terminal was completed between 1995 and August 1997 at the cost of $49 million, providing 3,100 parking spaces, the majority undercover.
This initially four-level structure replaced the previous open-air carpark outside the terminal. Work commenced on the six-story 276-room Hilton Hotel (now Parkroyal) above the carpark in January 1999, which was completed in mid-2000 at the cost of $55 million.
Expansion of the Qantas domestic terminal was completed in 1999, featuring a second pier and nine additional aircraft stands.
In December 2000, a fourth passenger terminal opened: the Domestic Express Terminal, located to the south of the main terminal building at the cost of $9 million. It was the first passenger terminal facility to be built at Melbourne Airport since 1971
Expansion of carparks has also continued with a $40 million project commenced in 2004, doubling the short-term carpark’s size with the addition of 2,500 spaces over six levels, along with 1,200 new spaces added to the 5,000 already available in the long term carpark.
Revenue from retail operations at Melbourne Airport broke the $100 million mark for the first time in 2004, this being a 100 per cent increase in revenue since the first year of privatisation.
In 2005, the airport undertook construction works to prepare the airport for the arrival of the double-decker Airbus A380. The main work was to widen the main north-south runway by 15 m (49 ft), which was completed over 29 days in May 2005.
The improvements also included the construction of dual airbridges (Gates 9 and 11) with the ability to board both decks simultaneously to reduce turnaround times, the extension of the international terminal building by 20 m (66 ft) to include new penthouse airline lounges, and the construction of an additional baggage carousel in the arrivals hall. As a result, the airport was the first in Australia to be capable of handling the A380.
The A380 made its first test flight into the airport on 14 November 2005. On 15 May 2008, the A380 made its first passenger flight into the airport when a Singapore Airlines Sydney-bound flight was diverted from Sydney Airport because of fog.
Beginning services in October 2008, Qantas was the first airline to operate the A380 from the airport, flying nonstop to Los Angeles International Airport twice a week. This was the inaugural route for the Qantas A380.
In March 2006, the airport undertook a 5,000 m2 (54,000 sq ft) expansion of Terminal 2 and the construction of an additional level of airline lounges above the terminal.In 2008 a further 25,000 m2 (270,000 sq ft) expansion of Terminal 2 commenced, costing $330 million with completion in 2011.
The works added five additional aerobridges on a new passenger concourse and a new 5,000 m2 (54,000 sq ft) outbound passenger security and customs processing zone.
Melbourne Airport has two intersecting runways: one 3,657 m (11,998 ft) north-south and one 2,286 m (7,500 ft) east-west. Due to increasing traffic, several runway expansions are planned, including an 843 m (2,766 ft) extension of the north-south runway to lengthen it to 4,500 m (14,764 ft) and a 1,214 m (3,983 ft) extension of the east-west runway to a total of 3,500 m (11,483 ft).
Two new runways are also planned: a 3,000 m (9,843 ft) runway parallel to the current north-south runway and a 3,000 m (9,843 ft) runway south of the current east-west runway.
The current east-west runway extension and new third runway were expected to cost $500–750 million, with major construction originally set to begin around 2019 and be complete by 2022.
However, in 2019 following an extensive consultation period, Melbourne Airport unexpectedly dropped plans for a new east-west runway to construct a new parallel north-south runway to the west of the airport, citing aircraft noise concerns for residents in nearby suburbs of nearby suburbs Gladstone Park, Westmeadows, Attwood and Jacana.
Although there is an additional 12–24 months of planning, Melbourne Airport Corporation anticipates the new north-south runway will be operational by 2025, with the potential to include the extension of the existing east-west runway.
Traffic movement was expected to reach 248,000 per annum by 2017, and existing runway capacity is expected by 2023, necessitating a third runway.
On 5 June 2008, it was announced that the airport would install a Category III landing system, allowing planes to land in low visibility conditions, such as fog. This system was the first of its kind in Australia and was commissioned in March 2010 at the cost of $10 million.
Melbourne Airport is 23 km (14 mi) from the city centre and is accessible via the Tullamarine Freeway. One freeway offramp runs directly into the airport grounds, and a second to the south serves freight transport, taxis, buses and airport staff. In June 2015, the Airport Drive extension was completed, creating a second major link to the airport.
The link starts at the M80 Western Ring Road and provides direct access to Melrose Drive 1.5 kilometres from the terminal area. As of 2018, the Tullamarine Freeway is being widened.
Melbourne Airport has five car parks, all of which operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The short-term, multi-level long-term business and express carparks are covered, while the long-term parking is not.
The main multi-level carpark in front of the terminal was built in the late 1990s, replacing the pre-existing ground-level car parking. It has been progressively expanded ever since.
The Skybus Super Shuttle operates express bus services from the airport to the Southern Cross railway station (on the western boundary of the Melbourne City Centre) and St Kilda.
Shuttle services also operate between the airport and the Mornington Peninsula, making stops in St Kilda, Elsternwick, Brighton and Frankston.SkyBus current transports around 3.4 million passengers between the airport and Melbourne's CBD.
Metropolitan and regional public buses also operate to or via the airport. Routes 478, 479 & 482 operate to Westfield Airport West, via the route 59 tram terminus. Route 479 also operate at Sunbury railway station, connecting with Sunbury and Bendigo line trains.
The route 901 SmartBus service was introduced in September 2010 as a frequent bus service.
Route 901 connects to trains at Broadmeadows (Craigieburn, Seymour, Shepparton and Albury lines), Epping (Mernda line), Greensborough (Hurstbridge line) and Blackburn (Belgrave and Lilydale lines).V/Line operates timetabled regional coach services to Barham and Deniliquin via the airport.
Nine other bus companies serve the airport, with services to Ballarat, Bendigo, Dandenong, Frankston, Mornington Peninsula, Geelong, Melbourne's suburbs, Shepparton and the Riverina. These provide alternatives to transfer onto other V/Line services.
Proposed rail connection
Although Melbourne Airport is serviced by public transport vehicles, there is no railway connection between the airport and the city as of 2021.
The possibility of installing a rail link from what was originally known as the Broadmeadows line (now the Craigieburn line) to the airport was debated in the 1960s under the Bolte State Government, but with not enough support in parliament to gain a majority, the rail project was abandoned in 1965.
In 2001, the Bracks State Government investigated constructing a heavy rail link to the airport under the Linking Victoria programme.
Two options were considered; the first branched off the Craigieburn Suburban Line to the east, and the second branched off the Albion Goods Line, which passes close to the airport's boundary to the south. The second option was preferred.
Market research concluded most passengers preferred travelling to the airport by taxi or car, and poor patronage of similar links in Sydney and Brisbane cast doubt on the project’s viability.
This led to the project being deferred until at least 2012. On 21 July 2008, the Premier of Victoria reaffirmed the government's commitment to a rail link and said that it would be considered within three to five years.
To maximise future development options, the airport lobbied for the on-grounds section of the railway to be underground.
On 12 April 2018, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull announced that the federal government would pledge $5 billion for a rail link between the airport and Melbourne's CBD.
He also stated that the Victoria state government would also have to match federal funding for the project.
With a 50-50 funding split between the State and Federal governments, a possible private investment in the project could see the total cost rise to $15 billion.
On 22 July 2018, the state government announced that it would provide $5 billion to match federal government funding for the airport rail link.
On 14 March 2019, the Victorian and Commonwealth governments formally signed off on the project and have committed up to $5 billion each to deliver the missing rail link, with the total cost of the project estimated to be in the range of $8–13 billion.
The Sunshine route was chosen for the route of the rail link as it would perform better overall. The Sunshine station will also be upgraded, making it easier for metropolitan and regional passengers travelling to and from the airport.
Construction of the rail link will take up to nine years and is due to commence in 2022, with the business case to be delivered by 2020.
Best Ways To Get From The Melbourne Airport to the CBD
Your plane has finally touched down at the Melbourne Airport -- now you need to get to the Central Business District. So which mode of transportation will work best for you?
The airport is located 22 kilometres northwest of the city centre, near the industrial suburb of Tullamarine. So it’s not nearly as close to downtown as the Sydney Airport is.
So the best way to get from the Melbourne Airport to the CBD really depends on how you’d like to travel.
The Most Convenient Option – Skybus
The Skybus service is a 24/7 shuttle that runs to and from the Coach Terminal at Southern Cross Station, located on Spencer Street in the Central Business District.
There are two locations at the airport where you can be picked up by the shuttle next to the Virgin Australia terminal or the Qantas/Jetstar domestic terminal.
To purchase tickets, you can use the ticket desks at T1 and T3 or purchase tickets electronically from the driver. The trip to the CBD will only take around 20 minutes, and it will cost $18 for a one-way journey or $30 for a return.
The shuttles will depart every 10 minutes, except between 1 a.m. and 4 a.m. when they leave every half hour.
The Cheapest Option – Public Transport Victoria
This is a much slower but cheaper option to get from the airport to downtown Melbourne, which will cost you $7 on weekdays and $3.50 on the weekends. Go to the Skybus terminal and buy a Myki Card.
Exit the terminal and walk across the first road, turning left and walking to the end of the platform at T1. Catch the bus number 901 to Broadmeadows Station. The sign on the bus should say “Frankston”. At the Broadmeadows Station, switch to a train. It is also possible to catch the bus to Essendon, Moonee Ponds and Sunbury.
The Most Independent Option: Hire A Car
If you want to be able to travel more independently during your visit to Melbourne, you might consider hiring a car. You can find one at the airport as there are several car rental operators.
The driving routes to the city are quite straightforward, and the turn-offs are well signposted. However, keep in mind that many of the hotels in the city will charge you for parking.
The Fastest Option: Taxi
Probably the quickest way to get from the airport directly to your hotel is to jump in a taxi cab.
It will leave as soon as you are ready and drive you exactly where you want to go. You can catch a taxi from the designated taxi ranks at the airport, which are located on the ground floor outside Terminal 1 and between Terminal 3 and 2. Check out this taxi fare estimator to give yourself an idea of what it will cost to get to your hotel.
The Most Luxurious Option: limo
If you really want to arrive in Melbourne with style, why not hire a limo? The prices for a limo rental can range between $80 and $150, depending on what type of vehicle you choose and where in Melbourne city you are travelling to. This is a bit pricey, but it’s a fun way to treat yourself if it is a special occasion!
SkyBus runs express bus services every 15 minutes between Melbourne Airport and Melbourne CBD, operating between 4:30am and midnight, 7 days a week at a flat rate of $15 one-way, or $28 return. Check with SkyBus directly to confirm service status.
An interesting and inexpensive way to get from Melbourne Airport to the city is by combined bus and train. Take the 901 bus to Broadmeadows station (a ride of about 20 minutes) and change to the train for the 40 minute trip to Flinders Street (Melbourne central business district).
The below is a short summary of the main transport options and prices to the city centre: Taxi: $55 - $65 (up to four people) - 20 - 40 mins. Skybus: $19 per person - 20 - 40 mins. Starbus, VHA Airport Shuttle: $18 - $25 per person - 20 - 40 mins.