Airport Planning for Capital Cities: Overcoming Forecasted Growth Challenges - Airport Group

Airport Planning for Capital Cities: Overcoming Forecasted Growth Challenges

The business model for airports has undergone significant changes over the past two decades. The industry has seen changes including increases in commercialisation, more privatisation of airports globally, and growing revenue from non-aviation opportunities. Additionally, there has been a transition in public expectation, resulting in increased importance of gaining a social licence to operate from stakeholders. As a result of rapid changes in the aviation landscape, it has become more essential than ever for airports to develop and maintain sustainable long-term approaches.  



Compared to regional airports, airports located in major cities have different challenges to overcome when it comes to designing and implementing sustainable operations. Not only do capital city airports need to consider on-airport factors, such as maintaining the ability for aircraft to operate safely and in an unrestricted manner, but they also have significant off-airport considerations, including aircraft noise impacts, integrated land use and transport planning, and airspace protection[1].

Of all the challenges that capital city airports are expected to experience, it is the growing volume of inbound traffic that presents a major challenge and requires long-term, holistic planning and solutions. With the number of passengers passing through Australian airports having doubled over the past 20 years, as well as surges in freight volumes, major airports located in Australia’s capital cities are having to adapt operations and procedures to cope with influxes. This a precarious task, with airport operators having to manage the careful balance of efficiency and consumer expectations. Passengers expect efficiency in essential activities, including security screening, baggage and boarding processes, as well as expectations surrounding standards of quality in amenity services such as dining and premium lounges[2].

In addition to passenger needs and expectations, airport operators also have to cater to the airlines. With the Australian airport industry seeing a huge growth in the amount of people choosing to fly both internationally and domestically, airlines are investing in aircraft fleets and rely on airports being able to facilitate the efficient movement of both planes and passengers to enable maximum utilisation of their aircraft[2]. Air freight operators rely on efficiency at terminals to meet the demands of time-conscious products and customers, including those behind the growing number of online purchases[2]. To ensure efficiency, airport owners are having to continually improve their operations by updating existing infrastructure and investing in new infrastructure[2]. This is already being seen in the industry, with several of Australia’s major airports having new runways in design or under construction with operation expected to commence by 2020 in Brisbane, 2024 in Melbourne and 2028 in Perth[3][4].



For airports located in Australia’s capital cities, it is essential to consider how design, operations, and infrastructure will adapt to meet long-term changes expected within the industry. This is where the regular practice of implementing a Master Plan offers significant benefits. The Airports Act 1996 stipulates that Australian airports are required to produce a Master Plan every five years, with 20 year development horizon. This ensures that there is a comprehensive plan in place, which includes all the necessary elements to safeguard airport operations for the future.

For larger operations like capital city airports, such a process requires the integration and streamlining of several moving parts. Bringing a consultancy on board can allow for internal teams to focus on the core aspects of the plan and outsource components of the development and complementary activities to those who are equipped with the skill and knowledge to provide comprehensive, objective and actionable solutions. For example, with regard to stakeholder engagement, it allows for the heavy lifting to be done with external stakeholders such as, developers and government agencies. Consultancies also have the capacity and skills to conduct best practice benchmarking research to provide airports with a valuable comparison too, in addition to providing niche services such as airspace design and management and the production of Australian Noise Exposure Forecasts (ANEF).  

To learn more about how The Airport Group has partnered with airports serving capital cities, view some of our recent projects >



[1] Australian Airports Association. (2014). Regional airport master planning guideline: Airport practice note 4. Retrieved from

[2] Australian Government Productivity Commission. (2018). Economic regulation of airports: Productivity commission issues paper. Retrieved from

[3] Australian Competition and Consumer Commission. (2010). Sydney airport corporation limited’s price notification for regional air services: Decision. ACCC, Canberra.

[4] Perth Airport. (2018). New runway project. Retrieved from×292-6Pg.pdf

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