Australia spans a staggering 7,692 million square km in size, and it’s the sixth-largest country on earth. This makes it no wonder that this vast country boasts 1,631 airports to serve its population of 25.5 million, and of course, its large number of foreign visitors.
In the lists of Australian airports shown below, the first table shows the largest ones serving international flights, whilst the second table shows relatively busy ones located around major towns or cities.
Read on to find Australia’s airport codes, plus other useful information for when you fly here!
Airport Codes for Australia (IATA and ICAO)
As with the rest of the world, each airport in Australia has its own IATA (International Air Transportation Association) and ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organisation) individual codes to help identify it. In this guide, we will look at them and their codes.
List of Australian International Airports
|Airport||IATA Code||ICAO Code|
|Hamilton Island (Great Barrier Reef)||HTI||YBHM|
List of Other Main Airports in Australia
|Airport||IATA Code||ICAO Code|
|Maroochydore Sunshine Coast||QLD||YBSU|
Explanation of Australia’s Airport Codes
- There are 2 kinds of airport codes in Australia and worldwide – IATA and ICAO. The IATA code is what you should look for when choosing your destination. Confusing the 2 codes can cause you additional expense should you fly to the wrong airport!
- You will notice that the ICAO Australia codes are always prefixed by the letter Y. Meanwhile, the IATA codes are based on the name of the departure or arrival airport and contain 3 letters, e.g. for Bangkok it is BKK, or Sydney for instance is SYD.
- These codes first came into play in the 1930s when there were considerably fewer airports worldwide. In those days, they would simply choose their own 2-letter code. However, as air transport became more mainstream, a more official system was needed.
- Worldwide, there are now 47,000 airport codes and many countries, like Australia, have multiple airports within their boundaries, so it is important that these are used correctly to avoid costly and possibly catastrophic errors. The USA has 13,513 airports – more than any other country in the world! Australia itself has 1,631 in total.
What Do the IATA Airport Codes for Australia Mean?
Over 17,000 worldwide airports have IATA codes. These codes are used by supporters and appendants of the United Nations to designate international flights and govern standards of air travel.
As almost all airline tickets are electronically produced these days, you will find the departure and arrival printed on the ticket, and usually the IATA airport code in brackets afterwards.
Currently, around 62 million passengers use Australia’s air hubs each year. If you are travelling to Oz, as it is known, you only need to remember your IATA designated airport.
What Do the ICAO Australian Airport Codes Mean?
54 airports in Australia have these codes. The codes are used by non-governmental trade organisations to identify airports, airlines and flight paths for customers. If you have ever used one of the many available flight tracking apps, you will see these 4-digit codes in real-time.
We’ve now supplied with the codes for Australia’s major airports. To learn more handy information about Aussie airlines and air transport for your trip, read on!
What Major International Airlines Serve Australia?
The major international airlines serving Australia are:
- Air New Zealand
- Air Canada
- Virgin Australia
- Air Niguina
- ANA (All Nippon Airways)
- British Airways
At one stage, Qantas (the national airline) had a monopoly on international and domestic flights alike. However, with the rise of aviation entrepreneurs such as Virgin Airlines and Jetstar, their grasp on the market began to loosen. That said, very cleverly, Qantas retain the airports that serve the most popular tourist attractions e.g. Ayers Rock!
Once upon a time, Cathay Pacific had regular flights to the major international airports in Australia, but now do not fly to Adelaide, Brisbane, Melbourne and Perth, due to changes on their worldwide network out of Hong Kong.
Meanwhile, in pre-2nd world war times, Australia only had a population of 7 million. However, due to the escalated emigration programme from the late 1950s onwards, it was not long before the country swelled its headcount – and the needs for airports grew!
Which Are the Main Airports in Australia?
The 4 biggest ones within Australia are:
- Sydney (IATA code SYD).
- Brisbane International Airport (IATA code BNE).
- Melbourne International Airport (IATA code MEL).
- Perth International Airport (IATA code PER).
This is primarily because these airports serve as incredibly important – and lucrative – tourist hotspots for the country.
Which Are the Other Australian International Airports?
The 4 that we listed above are the biggest and busiest international ones in the country. However, there are numerous others that service international flights, though these remain a drop in the ocean when we consider the hundreds of airports in Australia in total!
In addition to the aforementioned Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne and Perth, the following locales operate international flights in and out of Australia.
- Adelaide Airport (IATA code ADL).
- Cairns Airport (IATA code CNS).
- Darwin Airport (IATA code DRW).
- Gold Coast Airport (IATA code OOL).
The other ones within Australia serve domestic flights, carrying passengers to different parts of the country. That is not just out of convenience and time-saving – many routes between Australian cities are difficult to negotiate by road, partly due to distance and partly due to rugged, inhospitable terrain.
What Other Aussie Airports Are There?
There is a multitude of small and even tiny airports, used for ‘hopping’, and these are frequently out ‘in the bush’ or just a mere dirt strip!
Some of these are used by the famous Flying Doctors Service, which provides medical attention to outlying regions. Other small aircraft facilitate the delivery of supplies, once again to areas that cannot be easily serviced by larger aircraft.
It is unlikely that you would recognise many of these smaller airports’ names, which are in ancient aboriginal language! Whilst small, these landing strips provide a serious lifeline for those living in the outback.
Around 18% of this wonderful country is desert (mainly the Great Victoria Desert) but, in certain regions, so little rainfall occurs that the land is baked dry or arid. This is where the smaller airstrips really serve their purpose.
What Are the Advantages of the Australian Airport Network?
Whilst the country is vast, connections are fortunately easy to most of the key destinations, especially those close to a major attraction. For example, you could easily spend a whole week in Sydney, though it would be a shame to visit such a fascinating country without seeing as much of it as you can.
Competition between the domestic airlines is fierce, so it’s worthwhile to check out all the air passes by the various carriers before you travel. This way, you can take advantage of special fares when you plan your itinerary and save money on point-to-point destinations.
What Is an Australian Air Pass?
An Australian Air Pass is the most economical way to travel, rather than purchasing single fares to each destination. The air passes are only available to travellers from outside the country.
When choosing an air pass, make sure that your inward carrier to Australia has an ‘alliance’ with the airlines offering the internal flights.
For instance, British Airways and Qantas are members of the ‘One World Alliance’, so travelling on a Qantas air pass within Australia would be beneficial, though not necessarily the most economical. Do take the time to check out all of the deals available for when you are travelling.
For instance, you may want to see the following on your Australian itinerary:
- Highlights include the Opera House and Sydney Harbour Bridge (make the famous climb to the top).
- There’s also sophisticated nightlife, waterfront cafes, Hilly Rocks area, art galleries, food markets (you will see produce here like never before!) and of course beaches, such as Bondi and Manly.
- From Sydney, you can fly to Uluru and see the mystical Ayers Rock, an ancient Aboriginal site. Stay and have a night barbecue under the incredible stars.
- Federation Square is the place to ‘shop ‘til you drop’ and enjoy some fantastic food. Stroll around the quirky streets and view the street art or experience the live music venues all over the city.
- No visit is complete without seeing the Queen Victoria Markets, with huge stalls of produce and indigenous artworks and souvenirs. Melbourne is also well-known for its coffee houses, and visitors say that they have the best baristas in the world.
- Island life:
- Explore the wealth of islands located along the coast. The Great Barrier Reef needs no introduction for its sea and plant life.
- If you surf, the Gold Coast is the ideal spot for water sport enthusiasts.
- Hamilton Island and Bird Island are a must in terms of nature and crystal blue waters.
- If you want to head to the west coast, where the weather is far more ‘hospitable’, Perth, the state capital, is where you would fly to.
- Perth is a perfect combination of beach and city life. Heirisson Island, located on the Swan River has its own kangaroo population – and it’s only a short walk from the city!
- There is a vibrant day and nightlife, and shopping at the Hay Street and Murray Malls is excellent, while the best attraction is the seafood. As Perth is on the Indian Ocean, you can just imagine the delights in store.
We have only just touched the surface of what’s available in this wonderful country. There is so much more with water parks, theme parks, museums and things to do with the kids. Enjoy!
Helpful Tips on Using Australian Airports and Airlines
In the main, state capitals all connect with each other, enabling travel between them to be efficient and relatively speedy. Each state also has its own interior network, using the capital as the hub to connect with other towns within the area. Quite frequently, flights in regional destinations may often involve a transit via the state capital.
Flights within the interior, domestic networks may carry extra charges for refreshments, etc., so always make sure you budget extra cash for this eventuality.
Australian authorities are also strict about carry-on baggage or hand luggage limitations. If
you go over the set allowance, you may be charged additional fees, so bear this in mind.
We hope that you’ve found this article helpful! In most cases, you will need a visa for this country, although If you are a native Australian or a New Zealander, this is not necessary. To apply for your travel permit to enter Down Under, head to our Australia eVisa page.
Also, to learn some fun facts about Oz ahead of your trip, check our infographic about the Top 10 Aussie Slang Terms That Confuse Foreigners.