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Sydney Airport named capital city airport of 2018

written by WOFA | November 15, 2018

An aerial image of Sydney Airport. (Sydney Airport)
An aerial image of Sydney Airport. (Sydney Airport)

Sydney Airport has taken out the capital city airport of the year award at the Australian Airports Association (AAA) national conference for a second straight year.

The airport also received an innovation and excellence (technology) award for its facial recognition trial conducted earlier in 2018.

Sydney Airport chief executive Geoff Culbert said he was “grateful to our industry peers for their recognition”.

“However, there is still plenty of work to do and we remain committed to working with our airline partners, key stakeholders and the broader community to continue finding new ways to improve,” Culbert said in a statement.

“Sydney is one of the greatest cities in the world and we’ll continue working hard to ensure we are an airport of which Sydney and NSW can be proud.”

A supplied image of a checkin kiosk at Sydney Airport. (Sydney Airport)
A supplied image of a checkin kiosk at Sydney Airport. (Sydney Airport)

Others to be recognised at the AAA national conference dinner in Brisbane on Wednesday night included former Brisbane Airport chief executive Julieanne Alroe receiving an outstanding contribution to the airport industry award.

Alroe was in charge of Brisbane Airport from 2009 to 2018. Currently, the veteran aviation executive is the chair of Infrastructure Australia.


AAA chief executive Caroline Wilkie said Alroe was an obvious choice for the award.

“Julieanne has made a significant difference to our industry, especially in her home state of Queensland,” Wilkie said in a statement.

“She has led a real transformation at Brisbane Airport, getting its $1.3 billion runway project underway and creating stronger connections with the wider tourism industry.”

A supplied image of Brisbane Airport's new parallel runway. (Brisbane Airport)
A 2017 file image of Brisbane Airport’s new parallel runway. (Brisbane Airport)

Away from the state capitals, Newcastle Airport was named major airport of the year for recognition of its terminal redevelopment and the return of international flights later in November, when Virgin Australia commences a seasonal flight to Auckland with Boeing 737-800 equipment.

And Whitsunday Coast Airport was named large regional airport of 2018, Kangaroo Island Airport took out small regional airport of the year award and Bairnsdale Airport won small regional aerodrome of the year.

QantasLink returned to Kangaroo Island in December 2017. (Ryan Hothersall)
QantasLink returned to Kangaroo Island in December 2017. (Ryan Hothersall)

“We have seen some exceptional entries in the awards, with many airports introducing significant initiatives or projects over the course of the last year,” Wilkie said.

“It is great to see so many airports investing to create an easy, seamless and memorable experience for their passengers, while also improving efficiency for airlines.”

Full list of awards
  • Capital City Airport of the Year – Sydney Airport
  • Major Airport of the Year – Newcastle Airport
  • Large Regional Airport of the Year – Whitsunday Coast Airport
  • Small Regional Airport of the Year – Kangaroo Island Airport
  • Small Regional Aerodrome of the Year – Bairnsdale Airport
  • Corporate Project of the Year – Airbus for its Sydney airport T1 transformation
  • Small Regional Airport Corporate Project – BMD Group for its Kangaroo Island Airport upgrade
  • Airport Innovation & Excellence (Commercial Major Airport) – Cairns Airport for its “local produce and product” project in conjunction with Tourism Tropical North Queensland
  • Airport Innovation & Excellence (Commercial Regional Airport) – Broome International Airport for its partnership with Djarindjin Aboriginal Corporation (DAC) to manage the Lombadina Airport
  • Airport Innovation & Excellence (Customer Experience) – Gold Coast Airport for its GC2018 Commonwealth Games project
  • Airport Innovation & Excellence (Environmental Management) – Camden Airport for its conservation work with Greater Sydney Local Land Services, Conservation Volunteers Australia and Landcare Australia to protect wombats
  • Airport Innovation & Excellence (Infrastructure Development Major Airport) – Hobart Airport for runway extension project completed in December 2017
  • Airport Innovation & Excellence (Infrastructure Development regional Airport) – Busselton-Margaret River Airport for its Airside and landside civil infrastructure project
  • Airport Innovation & Excellence (Non-Aeronautical Development) – Launceston Airport for its terminal redevelopment
  • Airport Innovation & Excellence (Operations) – Perth Airport for its CAT III Lighting Upgrade
  • Airport Innovation & Excellence (Technology) – Sydney Airport for its facial recognition technology trial
  • Outstanding Contribution to the Airport Industry – Former Brisbane Airport chief executive Julieanne Alroe


  • Geoffrey Herbert


    I find the distance between the domestic and international terminals a fatal flaw. Transiting with Qantas involves bad walking levels, a rough bus ride and general uncertainty.
    Melbourne does it better!

    • Rupert


      Well MEL is the newest major new-build airport we have, so it should have been designed with more up to date thinking. I have heard it referred to as “LAX like” or similar though, and it didn’t win the ‘capital city airport of the year’ award so sounds like they are not maximising their design advantage. Keep trying Melbourne!

      What SYD needs is a people mover like Changi has. Will they spend that kind of money though? There are over 80 years left on the 99 year lease, plenty of time to depreciate the spend.

      At the end of the lease I’d expect SWZ to be well placed to become the designated major Sydney airport, with SYD functioning more like LCY (London city) does now. A lot can happen in 80 years though! Beam me up, Scotty.

  • David


    If facial recognition and auto checkin were the major criteria, the field for the selection was too narrow.

    • SK


      For PR reasons, I guess they had to find something other than the criteria that REALLY matter, namely (a) charging insane amounts for car parking and (b) forcing passengers through interminable shopping chicanes to get to the gate.

  • David


    yes Sydney airport is a major disaster area. They should have bulldozed the lot & started again. How nuts is it that you can’t use the train from domestic to international or vice versa without paying a fortune.

  • Mark Swayn


    Every time I use Sydney Airport, especially arriving at the International Terminal, I reflect on how unwelcoming it is and frankly what an embarrassment this airport is as the main gateway to Australia.
    There are long, dreary corridors with concrete block walls and garish carpets, a scrum to get through Customs, congestion around the exits and an open walk to the tin shed taxi rank.
    The international departures is confusing to non-regular travelers. It also has the ambience of the ground floor of Myers.
    Access to the airport is congested if you travel by car, there is only one, infrequent bus route and the surcharge on the train is outrageously expensive, particularly if you’re travelling as a family.
    I know it’s unfair to compare what is basically a 1970’s facility to newer airports like Doha, Hong Kong etc. However, despite the additions and renovations that have occurred over the years (which in themselves look ad-hoc and add to the confusing layout), it has little of the functionality and attractive sense of space of almost any comparable sized airport in the world (I must admit I’m excluding most USA airports in these comments).
    Commercial requirements are given priority over aesthetics and functionality. As an example, the most recent renovations built a large, open and pleasant atrium just after immigration in the departures area. This only lasted a few years before it was stuffed full of designer shops.
    Others have pointed out the inconvenience caused by the distance between the domestic and international terminals. Compared to other airports, this is in itself not unusual. However, unlike Sydney all major comparable airports have some type of free, efficient and regular systems to enable passengers to transfer quickly between them.
    Frankly, I wonder at the validity of these types of awards if Sydney Airport is the “best” primarily due to its use of facial recognition.

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