A marquee was used as the international terminal and just 1.8 million passengers, or less than 30 per cent of today’s number, travelled through what is now called Gold Coast Airport 20 years ago.
The transformation of the city’s airport has been dramatic since the privatisation agreement was inked on a deal that saw the Federal Government transfer ownership on 29 May 1998.
Owned and operated by Queensland Airports Limited (QAL), Gold Coast Airport is the country’s sixth busiest airport, and facilitates 6.5 million passengers annually.
In the past 20 years, more than 500,000 aircraft and 80 million passengers have taken off from and landed at Gold Coast Airport. Servicing only three destinations in 1998, the airport now facilitates more than 420 flights per week to 21 destinations across Australia, New Zealand and Asia.
Almost $300 million has been invested into the airport since it was privatised, with a long list of major projects that include a runway overlay in 1999, the runway extension in 2007, and most recently, the extension of the apron and construction of an additional taxiway.
Queensland Airports Limited CEO Chris Mills said privatisation was a major turning point for Gold Coast Airport and the growing Gold Coast and northern NSW regions it supports.
“Things looked very different in 1998. We flew to three destinations – Sydney, Melbourne and Hamilton in New Zealand, Ansett was one of our major airline partners, and we had only 46 international flights in the whole year,” he said.
Mr Mills said privatisation had enabled significant investment from shareholders in upgrading and expanding the airport to increase connectivity and bring in more flights.
“One of the most important projects in the past 20 years was the completion of the runway extension in 2007,” he said.
“This opened up the airport to wide-bodied aircraft and the first direct services to Asia.
“Then in 2010 we opened the current terminal after a $100 million redevelopment – firming up our major airport status.”
Today, there is a focus at Gold Coast Airport on a series of key projects including the Project LIFT terminal redevelopment and an onsite hotel.
Gold Coast Airport Chief Operating Officer Marion Charlton said based on redevelopment plans, about half a billion dollars would be invested into the airport precinct in the next few years.
“A series of projects designed to expand our capacity, improve our efficiency and enhance the passenger experience were delivered in the lead up to GC2018,” she said.
“This included the airside component of Project LIFT and our Taxiway Charlie project – which involved an $86 million investment.
“We are now focused on our expansion and particularly the terminal works. We plan to expand to the south and deliver a three-level terminal with provision for aerobridges.”
Project LIFT is expected to deliver an economic impact of $426 million (Gross Regional Product) and an increase in tourism expenditure in the region of $62 million a year.
Airport staff will celebrate 20 years of the airport’s privatisation at a special airside event today.
Gold Coast Airport has been named the best regional airport Australia/Pacific at the Skytrax World Airport Awards twice – first in 2015 and then again last year.
QAL owns and operates Gold Coast, Townsville, Mount Isa and Longreach airports.