Open main menu

Townsville Airport (IATA: TSV, ICAO: YBTL) is a major Australian regional airport that services the city of Townsville, Queensland. The airport is also known as Townsville International Airport, and Garbutt Airport, a reference to its location in the Townsville suburb of Garbutt. Townsville Airport is serviced by major Australian domestic and regional airlines, and in 2011/12 handled 1.7 million[2] passengers making it the 11th busiest airport in Australia.

Townsville Airport

Garbutt Airport

Townsville Airport
Townsville Airport logo.svg
Airport typeMilitary/Public
OwnerDepartment of Defence
OperatorQueensland Airports Limited
ServesTownsville, Queensland
LocationGarbutt, Queensland
Elevation AMSL18 ft / 5 m
Coordinates19°15′12″S 146°45′54″E / 19.25333°S 146.76500°E / -19.25333; 146.76500Coordinates: 19°15′12″S 146°45′54″E / 19.25333°S 146.76500°E / -19.25333; 146.76500
YBTL is located in Queensland
Location in Queensland
Direction Length Surface
m ft
01/19 2,438 7,999 Asphalt
07/25 1,100 3,609 Asphalt
Statistics (2010)
Source: Enroute Supplement Australia from Airservices Australia[1]
Virgin Blue Boeing 737-700 at Townsville after arriving from Brisbane
Jetstar Boeing 717 at Townsville Airport, Inaugural Jetstar flight to Townsville

Townsville Airport is a common-use civilian and defence facility, sharing access with RAAF Base Townsville. It is used as a staging point for Australian Defence Force (ADF) operations within Australia and internationally. The aerodrome has also been used for co-ordination of relief efforts following Tropical Cyclones and other natural disasters, notably Cyclone Larry in 2006.

Townsville Airport was the first[citation needed] Australian regional city airport to be granted international airport status commencing in 1980. International traffic grew substantially through the early 1980s then receded however as a result of airline market restructuring, and significant competition with Cairns Airport for regional tourism. The airport then suffered an extended hiatus from handling direct civil international flights with the final Qantas international service in 2002, between Townsville and Singapore via Brisbane using a Boeing 767. From December 2010, the city again handled direct international flights, flown by Strategic Airlines to Bali Denpasar Airport.[3] These flights ceased with the insolvency of Strategic Airlines, but resumed with Jetstar on 2 September 2015.

It was announced on September 11, 2017 that Jetstar will cancel flights to Bali from 21 March 2018 due to low passenger numbers.[4]

It was announced on July 3rd, 2018 that Tiger Airways will cease flights to Melbourne due to low passenger numbers.[5]

The airport is located 2 nautical miles (3.7 km; 2.3 mi) west of the Townsville CBD.[1]


1920s to World War IIEdit

The first airport was established in the 1920s in the Thuringowa Shire south of the Ross River, in what is now the suburb of Murray.[6] It was licensed as a civil airport by the Civil Aviation Branch in 1930, but it was never very satisfactory, as the ground was boggy for much of the year, and there was only room for one east-west runway. In 1938 a larger site was selected within the City of Townsville on the Town Common, adjacent to Ingham Road and the North Coast Railway. Two 800 yd (730 m) gravel runways were constructed, and the new Townsville Airport officially opened on its present site on 1 February 1939.

The Department of Defence was looking for military airfield sites in northern Australia at the time, and almost immediately Townsville Airport was planned for expansion as a Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) base for three fighter squadrons. The plans were scaled back to one squadron, and RAAF Base Townsville was built alongside the civil airport in early 1940. In October 1940, Number 24 Squadron, flying CAC Wirraways, became the first operational unit to occupy the base. A year later the airfield was greatly expanded to take United States Army Air Corps bombers and transport aircraft reinforcing the Philippines. All three runways were sealed, and the south-east runway was extended to 5,000 ft (1,500 m) to take the heavier aircraft. The work was nearly finished in early December 1941 when the Pacific War began.[citation needed]

During 1942, the defence establishment in the Townsville region increased enormously, and five other military airfields were built in the immediate vicinity of Townsville. To avoid confusion, RAAF Base Townsville was renamed RAAF Base Garbutt, the name of the nearby railway siding, where there were stockyards owned by Garbutt Brothers, wholesale butchers. The civil airport continued to operate during the war, and retained the name Townsville Airport. RAAF Base Garbutt was renamed RAAF Base Townsville in 1951.

After World War II to 1990sEdit

Townsville Airport experienced a progressive increase in passenger numbers and aircraft movements after World War II, with services operated by Qantas, Trans Australia Airlines (TAA), Australian National Airways (ANA) and Ansett Australia (Ansett) to Brisbane. Types operated were the Australian regional airliners such as the DC-3/4, Convair 240, DC-6, Viscounts, and F-27s, as well smaller charter aircraft such as Ansons. It wasn't until the mid-1960s that airport growth accelerated. TAA replaced their weekly DC-3 service to Port Moresby and Honiara with more frequent F-27 services, while Ansett operated similarly from Cairns. During that period TAA and Ansett – ANA gradually increased their jet services starting with DC-9s and then Boeing 727s. Following that period of rapid growth, Townsville was developed as a regional hub for both airlines during the 1970s.

In April 1980, Sir Rupert Murdoch and Sir Peter Abeles, the new owners of Ansett, were petitioning the Federal Government for international flights to begin in some regional centres of Australia. On 18 April 1980, the inaugural Townsville-Singapore flight departed, operated by Ansett, one of the first international flights Ansett had ever operated. In the same year, Townsville Airport was given $13 million by the Australian Government-owned operator, Federal Airports Corporation, to construct and build a new state-of-the-art international terminal. The new terminal was constructed and opened in 1983.[7]

With the new demand for international services, Townsville became the first regional Australian airport to offer direct long-distance international flights. Airlines providing direct services included Qantas, Ansett, Air Niugini, Continental Micronesia, Garuda Indonesia, Air New Zealand, Cathay Pacific and Japan Airlines (JAL). Destinations in Asia included Singapore, Tokyo, Hong Kong; Auckland, Port Moresby and Honolulu in the Pacific; and the North American cities of San Francisco, and Los Angeles. The American flights reflected the significant tourism demand between the United States and Australia at the time. Today many of these services would be considered unrealistic for regional airports, as evidenced by the gradual withdrawal of services from Townsville.

The airport was expanded again in 1987 when a redevelopment of the international terminal opened to cater for domestic traffic. In 1989, the Australian aviation industry was in a crisis with the pilots dispute ceasing nearly all domestic flights in the country. Throughout the period of the strike some international flights continued, and by 1991 most domestic services had returned to normal.

During the 1990s a new crisis was looming for Townsville International Airport. The airlines began to explore rationalising services in North Queensland. Load factors on international flights were increasing however the number of services was steadily diminishing. The friendly rivalry between Townsville and Cairns with respect to hosting international flights was becoming more serious as the airlines started to rationalise services. Cairns Airport campaigned with a major proposal for improved airport facilities, including a separate international terminal capable of accommodating significantly greater passenger numbers than Townsville's terminal and Cairns' original terminal. In 1993 when Cairns' new terminal opened, all the airlines, except Qantas, Ansett, Cathay Pacific and Garuda, stopped international flights to Townsville, and eventually by 1995 the remaining airlines ceased international flights to Townsville.

Townsville's International Aerobridge and gate, which was opened in 1981.

In the mid-1990s domestic flights started to decrease, with some services being cut back by Qantas and Ansett. Qantas began to retire the aircraft type in use on the route to Sydney which resulted in a decrease in services to that city.

Since 2000Edit

Services also received a giant drop when Ansett was placed into voluntary liquidation in late 2001. Approximately 40% of Townsville's flights and capacity to Brisbane were cut because of Ansett's financial collapse. The same year also represented the start of a new era in domestic travel for Townsville International Airport: in February 2001, Virgin Blue (now Virgin Australia) made Townsville its first regional destination, and passenger figures rose by 25% that year. Then in June 2001, Qantas announced that the airline would resume international services to Singapore in September. In August, Qantas announced that it would resume Townsville-Sydney services using Boeing 717 aircraft acquired when Qantas bought out Impulse Airlines. When Ansett collapsed, Qantas and Virgin expanded services to exploit the gap that Ansett left.

In August 2002, Qantas ceased the services to Singapore, which had been at times circuitously routed via southern airports such as Brisbane, due to lack of demand. Despite the loss of international services, Virgin Blue, Qantas and a new airline, Alliance Airlines were increasing domestic flights to Townsville, bringing more passengers to the city and increasing domestic tourism to Townsville. Also that year, Australian Airports Ltd announced that Townsville domestic terminal would receive a State-of-the-art upgrade and the new redevelopment would open in October 2003. The redevelopment was scheduled to open October 2003 to coincide with the hosting of three Rugby World Cup matches in Townsville, however delays beset the project and the redevelopment finally opened in December 2003. A new international route operated by Strategic Airlines started twice weekly to Denpasar from 3 December 2010, however these services have since been terminated.[8]

On 15 November 2011, Air North announced plans to commence services between Townsville & Darwin. The flights began on 17 February 2012, providing a linkage between the two largest Defence communities in Northern Australia.

International services from Townsville recommenced on 2 September 2015, with Jetstar offering three return flights to Denpasar per week on A320 aircraft.[9] They were terminated again on March 21, 2018.[10]

Airlines and destinationsEdit

Accidents and incidentsEdit


Busiest domestic routes out of Townsville Airport (2014-2015)[15]
Rank Airport Passengers 2013-14 Passengers 2014-15 % Change
1 Queensland, Brisbane 955,900 953,600   0.2
2 New South Wales, Sydney 175,100 173,000   1.2

Terminals and facilitiesEdit


Inside the Departures/Arrivals lounge at Townsville International Airport

Townsville International Airport has an integrated terminal building, with the Southern concourse the international terminal, and the Northern concourse the domestic terminal. The terminal has four aerobridges (1 international, 3 domestic) and three ground level tarmac departure / arrival gates for regional flights at the Northern end of the terminal.


In October 2002, redevelopment started on the domestic terminal. It was officially opened on 12 December 2003. The redevelopment was part of a broader modernisation program for the airport.

The project included a new common user departures and arrivals lounge, new modern check-in facilities for Qantas and QantasLink, a new Qantas Club adjacent to the new departures lounge, new retail stores and airside retail space, a new mezzanine level with departure lounges, and three aerobridges for aircraft up to the size of Boeing 767 aircraft.

On 13 December 2003, an "Open Day" was held for Townsville residents to view the new look airport. Later that evening, a Qantas flight from Brisbane became the first arrival to use the new departures/arrivals lounges, and after overnighting in Townsville also became the first departure at 6:05 am (AEST) 14 December 2003, returning to Brisbane.

In 2008 another upgrade project was completed, with an improvement of the check-in desks of the current airlines and an extra two desks built for Virgin Australia. Two of the four entrances into the terminal were redeveloped to improve passenger access, and further upgrades were made to retail space.

Qantas maintains a Qantas Club lounge in the airport terminal, with access for Qantas Club and affiliate members.

The future development of the airport is governed by a 30-year master plan. Projected developments include a new Virgin Australia business lounge, expansion of the International terminal area, and re-development of the entire land-side terminal area.

In May 2015, Townsville Airport announced plans for a $40 million redevelopment of the current terminal to totally reconfigure the layout of the terminal and also slightly expand floor space. [1]


The terminal is serviced by bus (Sunbus Routes 205/215[16]), with regular connections to the CBD, Strand and Ferry terminals (Magnetic Island and Great Barrier Reef departures / arrivals).

Aerospace activitiesEdit

NAACEX or the Northern Australian Aerospace Centre of Excellence is an Aviation business park, located at Townsville Airport, that was announced by Queensland Airports Ltd is February 2007. The precinct is one of many being set up at airports around Australia, and is the first of its kind in Northern Australia. The centre opened in late 2007, with tenants BAE Systems and Worland Aviation starting operations in the new hangars (Stage 1 of the project) built just north of the Terminal.[17]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b YBTL – TOWNSVILLE/Townsville Intl (PDF). AIP En Route Supplement from Airservices Australia, effective 15 August 2019
  2. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 30 December 2012. Retrieved 13 July 2012. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  3. ^ "Fly direct to Bali for only $199, Townsville Bulletin News". 16 September 2010. Retrieved 30 May 2011.
  4. ^ "Townsville Bulletin". Retrieved 2 December 2017.
  5. ^ "Tigerair announces it will cease flights between Townsville and Melbourne". Townsville Bulletin. Retrieved 7 March 2018.
  6. ^ History of Thuringowa City Archived 20 July 2008 at the Wayback Machine
  7. ^ "Draft Major Development Plan" (PDF). Townsville Airport Pty Ltd. 12 May 2015. Archived from the original (PDF) on 23 October 2015. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)
  8. ^ (16 September 2010). Strategic adds new Brisbane-Townsville-Bali service. Australian Aviation. Retrieved 3 June 2014.
  9. ^ "Jetstar brings international flying back to Townsville" (Press release). Jetstar. 2 September 2015. Retrieved 3 September 2015.
  10. ^ "Townsville Bulletin". Retrieved 2 December 2017.
  11. ^ "Airnorth expands from Wellcamp with new Townsville flights". Australian Aviation. 9 September 2016.
  12. ^
  13. ^
  14. ^ "A76-73 Accident description". Aviation Safety Network. Retrieved 19 September 2010.
  15. ^ "Domestic aviation activity Annual 2014-15" (PDF). September 2015. Retrieved 20 August 2016.
  16. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 24 September 2015. Retrieved 13 August 2015. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  17. ^ "$60 Flights, Townsville 'on Tiger's radar'". Retrieved 3 March 2007.

External linksEdit