Darwin International Airport

Darwin International Airport (IATA: DRW, ICAO: YPDN) is the busiest airport serving the Northern Territory and the tenth busiest airport in Australia. It is the only airport serving Darwin.

Darwin International Airport

Airport typeMilitary/Public
OperatorDarwin International Airport Pty Ltd (DIA) / RAAF Darwin
ServesDarwin, Northern Territory
LocationEaton, Northern Territory
Hub forAirnorth
Focus city forQantas
Elevation AMSL103 ft / 31 m
Coordinates12°24′53″S 130°52′36″E
Direction Length Surface
m ft
11/29 3,354 11,004 Asphalt
18/36 1,524 5,000 Asphalt
Statistics (2012)
Sources: Australian AIP and aerodrome chart[1]
passenger and aircraftmovements from the Department of Infrastructure and Transport[2]
Darwin International Airport Pty Ltd (DIA) is 100% owned by Airport Development Group of Northern Territory Airports.[3]

The airport is located in Darwin's northern suburbs, 8 km (5.0 mi) from Darwin city centre, in the suburb of Eaton. It shares runways with the Royal Australian Air Force's RAAF Base Darwin.

Darwin Airport has an international terminal, a domestic terminal and a cargo terminal. Both of the passenger terminals have a number of shops and cafeterias.

In 2011 the airport served 26,036 flights and 1,743,734 passengers.[2]


In 1919, when the England to Australia air race was announced, Parap Airfield was established in the suburb of Parap to act as the Australian terminal.[4] It operated as two airports, a civilian airport and a military field.

It frequently took hits from Japanese bombing through the Second World War, and was used by the Allies to project air power into the Pacific. The airport hosted Spitfires, Hudson Bombers, Kittyhawks, C-47s, B-24 Liberators, B-17 Fortresses and PBY Catalinas.[5]

In 1945 the Department of Aviation made the existing Darwin military airfield available for civil aviation purposes. As a result, the civilian airport at Parap was closed down and airport operations combined with the military airport.[4]

Between 1950 and 1974 Darwin Airport acted as the primary domestic and international airport for the Northern Territory and an important stop for airlines flying between Australia and Asia and onwards to Europe. UTA,[6] BOAC,[7] Alitalia[8] and Air India[9] were some airlines that had scheduled services to Darwin. However the introduction of longer range aircraft in the 1970s meant that many airlines did not need to stop over in Darwin, and chose to cease services.

Cyclone Tracy hit Darwin in 1974 and flattened the city. The airport was used to ferry 25,628 people out of Darwin. Darwin Airport was extensively used to assist UN operations in East Timor from 1999, and to support medical evacuations following the 2002 Bali bombings.

The new passenger terminal, with four aerobridges, was opened in December 1991.

On 8 November 2007 it was announced that it had reached agreements for a $100 million home and lifestyle centre in Darwin Airports Business Park, which will be developed by retail developer Ticor Developments. The centre sits on eight hectares of airport land at the major intersection of Bagot Road and McMillans Road and was due for completion by the end of 2009.[10]

In 2008 the Australian Infrastructure Fund (AIX), which holds 28.2% of Northern Territory Airports, announced that the airport would undergo a $60 million expansion to cater for growing passenger numbers. Among other improvements it would provide a 65 percent increase in terminal floor space.[11]

In April 2009 Garuda Indonesia suspended the Denpasar service from Darwin after nearly 30 years of service, citing "economic reasons". The move had been protested by the Northern Territory government.[12][13] The suspension left Darwin Airport without any non-Australian carriers flying there until late 2010 when Indonesia AirAsia started services from Bali to Darwin, but flights ended in January 2018.

2012 and 2013 saw a major boost for Darwin Airport when foreign carriers Silk Air, Indonesia AirAsia, Philippine Airlines and Malaysia Airlines started direct flights to Singapore, Bali, Manila and Kuala Lumpur respectively. However, the increased competition from these carriers forced Jetstar to abandon its base in Darwin Airport and focus its aircraft elsewhere.[14][15][16][17]

On 9 May 2015, a new expanded terminal was officially opened. The expansion, costing $85 million, increased the floor area from 16,000 to 27,000 square metres and is expected to double the capacity of the airport at peak periods. It offers expanded arrivals and departures area, four new domestic and two new international boarding gates, additional security screening areas, a larger check-in area and a new multi-use baggage reclaim area for both domestic and international arrivals. The extended terminal also features Qantas and Virgin Australia airline lounges as well as Duty Free and other retail areas.[18]


Darwin Airport has scheduled flights to destinations in the Northern Territory, around Australia and in Southeast Asia. Only one terminal is used for both domestic and international services. The terminal has several food outlets and shops, with duty-free shopping for international travellers.[19]

During 2008–09 financial year[20] a total of 1,538,938 passengers passed through Darwin International Airport which consisted of 188,530 international passengers and 1,350,408 domestic passengers.[21]

During the 2009–10 financial year[20] there was a total of 1,569,007 passengers which consisted of 207,825 international passengers and 1,361,182 domestic passengers, up 2.0%.[21]

During the 2010–11 financial year[20] there was a total of 1,679,899 passengers.[21]

The head office of Airnorth is on the airport property.[22]

Darwin airport electricity needs are partially met by two photovoltaic solar arrays. Stage 1 covers six hectares near the eastern end of the main runway and generates up to 4.0MW of electricity, opened on 5 August 2016. At the time of construction it was described as the largest airside photovoltaic system in the world.[23] Stage 2 provides a further 1.5 MW opened in December 2016 near the general aviation apron on the western side of the airport.[24]

Statistics for Darwin Airport[21]
Total aircraft
2001–02 962,589127,768834,821−10.7%17,2531,98515,268−22.0%
2002–03 985,17289,306895,8662.3%17,2431,31115,932−0.1%
2003–04 1,073,44084,106989,3349.0%16,5081,41015,098−4.3%
2004–05 1,210,734103,2151,107,51912.8%16,5011,98714,5140.0%
2005–06 1,219,378116,4541,102,9240.7%16,4162,30914,107−0.5%
2006–07 1,403,685134,2171,269,46815.1%17,9812,95115,0309.5%
2007–08 1,562,216173,2431,388,97311.3%19,2703,42115,8497.2%
2008–09 1,538,938188,5301,350,408−1.5%22,7335,22517,50818.0%
2009–10 1,569,007207,8251,361,1822.0%26,3104,98621,32415.7%
2010–11 1,679,934252,2141,427,7204.9%27,2375,15322,0843.5%
2011-12 2,044,622357,2101,687,41221.7%26,8293,79723,032−1.5%
2012-13 1,925,039313,0321,612,007−5.8%26,2593,54522,714−2.1%

Future of Darwin Airport

Australian low-cost carrier, Jetstar Airways, had expressed a keen interest in developing Darwin Airport as a hub for its trips to Asia. With the close proximity to Southeast Asia, Jetstar anticipated that it would be able to make flights using smaller aircraft, such as the Airbus A320 to fly anywhere within 4 to 5 hours from Darwin.[25] Jetstar did eventually use Darwin as a base, with flights to Singapore, Bali, and Tokyo via Manila but was forced to cut back on them in May 2013.[26] Flights to Bali were retained while flights to Singapore would now operate by Jetstar Asia with Singapore-based aircraft. New low-cost carrier Tiger Airways had also expressed interest in making Darwin Airport its second hub;[27] however, Tiger terminated its flights from Singapore to Darwin in October 2008, and for quite some time only operated domestic flights to Melbourne, however these flights have also now been terminated. Tiger started flights from Brisbane to Darwin after starting its Brisbane base.

In December 2010 the Federal Government approved the Darwin Airport Master Plan, a 20-year blueprint of how the airport will be affected by and manage issues such as aviation growth and the rise of Darwin Airport as an international transit point between Europe, Asia and Australia.[28]



Domestic aviation activity into and out of Darwin Airport 2018[29]
RankAirportPassengers carried% Change
1Queensland, Brisbane376,6027.3
2New South Wales, Sydney310,7003.4
3Victoria, Melbourne307,2930.3
4Western Australia, Perth194,3082.0
5Northern Territory, Alice Springs109,7077.6


Busiest international routes – Darwin Airport (Financial Year ending 30 June 2018)[30]
RankAirportPassengers handled% Change
1Singapore, Singapore-Changi135,242 10.8
2Indonesia, Denpasar100,311 19.8

Airlines and destinations

Airnorth Alice Springs,[31] Broome, Cairns, Dili, Elcho Island, Groote Eylandt, Gove, Katherine, Kununurra, Maningrida, McArthur River Mine, Milingimbi, Tennant Creek, The Granites, Townsville
Seasonal: Gold Coast,[32] Perth[33]
Alliance Airlines Charter: Alice Springs, The Granites[34]
Donghai Airlines Shenzhen[35]
Fly Tiwi Gapuwiyak, Milikapiti, Minjilang, Nguiu, Pirlangimpi, Ramingining, Tennant Creek, Warruwi
Jetstar Airways Adelaide, Brisbane, Cairns, Denpasar/Bali, Melbourne, Sydney
Jetstar Asia Airways Singapore[36]
Murin Travel & Freight Services Wadeye
Qantas Adelaide, Alice Springs,[37] Ayers Rock,[37] Brisbane, Melbourne, Perth, Sydney
QantasLink Broome[38]
SilkAir Singapore
Tigerair Australia Brisbane (new route to launch on 15 April 2020)[39]
Virgin Australia Regional Airlines Adelaide, Alice Springs, Perth
Virgin Australia Adelaide, Alice Springs,[40] Brisbane (ends 3 February 2020)[41], Melbourne, Perth, Sydney
Seasonal: Denpasar[42]

Accidents and incidents

  • On 25 December 1974, Douglas C-47B PK-RDB of Seulawah Air Services was damaged beyond economic repair by Cyclone Tracy.[43]
  • An Embraer EMB 120 Brasilia operated by Airnorth crashed after takeoff during a training flight on 22 March 2010. A check and training pilot and pilot under instruction were the only occupants and were both killed in the accident. Shortly after becoming airborne from runway 29, the pilot-in-command closed the power lever to simulate a failure of the left engine. During the manoeuvre, control was lost. The aircraft rolled left, pitched nose down and impacted the ground close to the golf course at RAAF Base Darwin. The subsequent investigation conducted by the Australian Transport Safety Bureau found that the incorrect throttle setting used by the pilot-in-command resulted in a simulated failure of the propeller auto-feathering system that increased the aircraft's tendency to roll, and that the pilot under check increased power on right engine, further increasing the roll. The crew failed to abandon the manoeuvre once control was lost. As a result of the accident, Airnorth now conducts most flight proficiency training using a simulator.[44]

See also


  1. YPDN – Darwin (PDF). AIP En Route Supplement from Airservices Australia, effective 15 August 2019, Aeronautical Chart Archived 25 March 2012 at the Wayback Machine
  2. "Airport traffic data". Archived from the original on 19 August 2014. Retrieved 13 June 2017.
  3. "Welcome to Northern Territory Airports". Airport Development Group. Archived from the original on 29 March 2012. Retrieved 18 August 2014.
  4. "History of the Qantas Hangar". Northern Territory Government. Natural Resources, Environment and The Arts. Archived from the original on 30 August 2008. Retrieved 16 June 2008.
  5. "Darwin Airport - History of the Terminal". 28 January 2008. Archived from the original on 28 January 2008. Retrieved 13 June 2017.
  6. "UTA timetable, 1964". Retrieved 30 May 2011.
  7. "BOAC timetable, 1964". Retrieved 30 May 2011.
  8. "Alitalia timetable, 1961". Retrieved 30 May 2011.
  9. "Air India website". Home.airindia.in. Archived from the original on 29 December 2011. Retrieved 30 May 2011.
  10. "$100 million Home Centre Development to Excite Shoppers" (PDF). Northern Territory Airports. 11 July 2008. Archived from the original (PDF) on 19 July 2008. Retrieved 13 July 2008.
  11. "AIX announces Darwin airport expansion". The Sydney Morning Herald. 11 July 2008. Retrieved 11 July 2008.
  12. Bourchier, Daniel (17 April 2009). "Plea for Garuda to retain Darwin flights".
  13. "Garuda pulls pin on Darwin after 30 years".
  14. Creedy, Steve (12 July 2013). "Malaysia Airlines latest to resume Top End service". The Australian. Retrieved 15 July 2013.(subscription required)
  15. {http://www.travelweekly.com.au/news/jetstar-expands-adelaide-base}
  16. {http://www.darwinairport.com.au/newsroom/airasia-indonesia-resumes-flights-from-darwin-to-bali} Archived 4 March 2016 at the Wayback Machine
  17. {http://www.ausbt.com.au/singapore-airlines-offshoot-silk-air-begins-flights-to-darwin-virgin-australia-to-follow-next-week}
  18. "Prime Minister Tony Abbott officially opens Darwin Airport's expanded terminal". Newsroom. Northern Territory Airports. 9 May 2015. Archived from the original on 18 May 2015. Retrieved 11 May 2015.
  19. John Pike (27 April 2005). "Space Shuttle Emergency Landing Sites". Globalsecurity.org. Retrieved 30 May 2011.
  20. 1 July to 30 June
  21. "Airport Traffic Data 1985–86 to 2010–11". Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics (BITRE). May 2012. Archived from the original on 24 March 2012. Retrieved 8 May 2012. Refers to "Regular Public Transport (RPT) operations only"
  22. "Contact us Archived 8 February 2011 at the Wayback Machine." Airnorth. Retrieved on 10 February 2011. "Administration 4 Lancaster Road MARRARA."
  23. "Darwin Airport completes 4MW large scale solar array". Darwin International Airport. 5 August 2016. Retrieved 16 September 2019.
  24. "Annual Report 2016-17". Airport Development Group. p. 13. Retrieved 16 September 2019.
  25. Creedy, Steve (2 August 2008). "Jetstar boosts services from Darwin airport". The Australian. Retrieved 2 September 2008.
  26. "Jetstar shuts Darwin base as competition grows – Travel Weekly". www.travelweekly.com.au. Retrieved 13 June 2017.
  27. Creedy, Steve (22 December 2007). "Jetstar plan for Darwin springboard into Asia". The Australian. Archived from the original on 15 March 2008. Retrieved 25 June 2008.
  28. "Darwin airport master plan approved". 20 December 2010.
  29. "Australian Domestic Domestic aviation activity 2018". Bitre.gov.au. March 2019. Retrieved 27 May 2019.
  30. "International Airline Activity 2017-18". bitre.gov.au. October 2018. Retrieved 27 May 2019.
  31. "Airnorth launches "Centre Run" flights between Darwin and Alice Springs - Australian Aviation". australianaviation.com.au. Retrieved 13 June 2017.
  32. https://www.goldcoastairport.com.au/latest-news/airnorth-connects-the-gold-coast-and-townsville
  33. https://secure.airnorth.com.au/AirnorthSchedule/?q=plan-your-trip/timetable
  34. "About Us". www.allianceairlines.com.au. Retrieved 13 June 2017.
  35. "Donghai Airlines plans Darwin debut in late-May 2018". routesonline. Retrieved 13 April 2018.
  36. "Statement regarding changes to Darwin operations". Jetstar Airways. Archived from the original on 12 December 2013. Retrieved 11 December 2013.
  37. https://www.qantasnewsroom.com.au/media-releases/qantas-northern-territory-network-changes/
  38. https://www.qantasnewsroom.com.au/media-releases/flying-tourism-boost-for-the-territory/
  39. "New cheap flights on offer as Tigerair reveals major expansion, extra routes and new planes". News Limited. 4 December 2013. Retrieved 4 December 2013.
  40. "Virgin to fly Adelaide-Alice Springs from March 2015". Australian Aviation.
  41. "Virgin Australia opts for fleet and route cull". 7 November 2019. Retrieved 8 November 2019.
  42. https://www.airlineratings.com/news/virgin-oz-starts-darwin-bali-services/
  43. "PK-RDB Hull-loss description". Aviation Safety Network. Retrieved 24 August 2010.
  44. Australian Transport Safety Bureau "Loss of Control – Embraer S.A. EMB-120ER Brasilia VH-ANB", 23 February 2012

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