Melbourne Airport (IATA: MEL, ICAO: YMML), also known as Tullamarine Airport, is the primary airport serving the city of Melbourne, and the second busiest airport in Australia. It was opened in 1970 to replace the nearby Essendon Airport. Melbourne Airport is the sole international airport of the four airports serving the Melbourne metropolitan area.
The airport is 23 km (14 mi) from the city centre. The airport has its own postcode—Melbourne Airport, Victoria (postcode 3045). This is adjacent to the suburb of Tullamarine.
The Melbourne–Sydney air route is the fifth most-travelled passenger air route in the world and the second busiest in the Asia Pacific region. The airport features direct flights to 33 destinations in all states and territories of Australia in addition to numerous destinations in Oceania, Asia, Africa, Europe and North America. Melbourne is the most common destination for the airports of five of Australia's seven other capital cities. Melbourne serves as a major hub for Qantas and Virgin Australia, while Jetstar Airways and Tiger Airways Australia utilise the airport as home base. Melbourne is the busiest airport for international export freight as of August 2011, while second busiest for import freight. Domestically, Melbourne serves as headquarters for Australian air Express and Toll Priority and handles more domestic freight than any other airport in the nation.
In 2003, Melbourne received the International Air Transport Association Eagle Award for service and two National Tourism Awards for tourism services.The airport comprises four terminals: one international terminal, two domestic terminals and one budget domestic terminal. Most recently Melbourne Airport was awarded by Skytrax for having the best Airport hotel in the Australia/Pacific in the WORLD AIRPORT AWARDS. Melbourne Airport was also ranked the 43rd best airport for 2012.
Before the opening of Melbourne Airport, Melbourne's main airport was Essendon Airport which was officially designated an international airport in 1950. In the mid 1950s, over 10,000 passengers were using Essendon Airport and the limitations of Essendon Airport were beginning to become apparent. Essendon Airport's facilities were insufficient to meet the increasing demand for air travel; the runways were too short to handle the then new jet airliners and the terminals failed to handle the increase in passengers, by the mid 1950s, an international overflow terminal was built in a new northern hangar. Due to the encroachment of the urban boundary, the airport had become surrounded by residential housing, meaning that expansion of Essendon Airport was not possible.
The search for a replacement for Essendon commenced in February 1958, when a panel was appointed to assess Melbourne's civil aviation needs.
In 1959 the Commonwealth Government acquired 5,300 ha (13,000 acres) of grassland in then-rural Tullamarine.
In May 1959 it was announced that a new airport would be built at Tullamarine, with Prime Minister Robert Menzies announcing on 27 November 1962 a five-year plan to provide Melbourne with a A$45 million "jetport" by 1967. The first sod at Tullamarine turned in two years later in November 1964. In line with the five-year plan, the runways at Essendon were expanded to handle larger aircraft, with Ansett Australia launched the Boeing 727 there in October 1964, the first jet aircraft used for domestic air travel in Australia. Air Force One landed at Essendon on 22 December 1967, carrying United States President Lyndon B. Johnson.
On 1 July 1970, Melbourne Airport was opened to international operations by Prime Minister John Gorton, ending Essendon's near 2 decade run as Melbourne International Airport. Essendon still was home to domestic flights for one year, until they were transferred to Melbourne Airport on 26 June 1971, with the first arrival of a Boeing 747 occurring later that year.In the first year of operations, Melbourne handled six international airlines and 155,275 international passengers.Melbourne Airport was originally called Tullamarine Airport, after the adjacent suburb of the same name. Tullamarine derives from the indigenous name Tullamareena. International has sporadically been used in the name of the airport. After privatisation, the name changed to Melbourne Airport, following the lead of most other major Australian airports. Locally, the airport is commonly referred to as Tullamarine or simply as Tulla to distinguish the airport from the other three Melbourne airports: Avalon, Essendon and Moorabbin.
On opening Melbourne Airport consisted of three connected terminals: International in the centre, with Ansett to the left and Trans Australia Airlines to the right. The design capacity of the airport was eight Boeing 707s at a rate of 500 passengers per hour, with minor expansion works completed in 1973 allowing Boeing 747s to serve the airport. By the late 1980s peak passenger flows at the airport had reached 900 per hour, causing major congestion.
In late 1989, Federal Airports Corporation Inspector A. Rohead was put in charge of a bicentennial project to rename streets in Melbourne Airport to honour the original inhabitants, European pioneers and aviation history. Information on the first two categories was provided by Ian Hunter, Wurundjeri researcher, and Ray Gibb, local historian. The project was completed but was shelved, with the only suggested name that was allocated being Gowrie Park Drive, named after the farm at the heart of the airport. During the 1920s the farm had been used as a landing site for aircraft, which were parked at night during World War II in case Essendon Aerodrome was bombed.
Expansion and privatisation
In 1988, the Australian Government formed the Federal Airports Corporation (FAC), placing Melbourne Airport under the operational control of the new corporation along with 21 other airports around the nation. In April 1994, the Australian Government announced that all airports operated by Federal Airports Corporation would be privatised in several phases. Melbourne Airport was included in the first phase, being acquired by the newly formed Australia Pacific Airports Corporation Limited for $1.3 billion. The transfer was completed on 30 June 1997 on a 50-year long-term lease, with the option for a further 49 years. In July 1997, the Melbourne Airport website was launched, providing Australia's first real-time flight operations data over the internet.
The first major upgrades at the airport were carried out at the domestic terminals, with an expansion of the Ansett domestic terminal approved in 1989 and completed in 1991, adding a second pier added for use by smaller regional airlines. Work on an upgrade of the international terminal commenced in 1991, with the 'SkyPlaza' retail complex completed in late 1993 on a site flanking the main international departure gates. The rest of the work was completed in 1995, when the new three-level satellite concourse was opened at the end of the existing concourse. Diamond shaped and measuring 80 m (260 ft) on each side, the additional 10 aerobridges provided by the expansion doubled the international passenger handing capacity at Melbourne Airport.
Since privatisation, further improvements to infrastructure have begun at the airport, including expansion of runways, car parks and terminals. The multi-storey carpark outside the terminal was completed between 1995 and August 1997 at a cost of $49 million, providing 3,100 parking spaces, the majority undercover. This initially four-level structure replaced the previous open air carpark outside the terminal. Work commenced on the six-story 276 room Hilton Hotel (now Park Royal) above the carpark in January 1999, which was completed in mid-2000 at a cost of $55 million. Expansion of the Qantas domestic terminal was completed in 1999, featuring a second pier and 9 additional aircraft stands.
In December 2000, a fourth passenger terminal was opened: the Domestic Express Terminal, located to the south of the main terminal building at a cost of $9 million. It was the first additional passenger terminal facility to be built at Melbourne Airport since 1971.
Expansion of carparks has also continued with a $40 million project commenced in 2004, doubling the size of the short term carpark with the addition of 2,500 spaces over six levels, along with 1,200 new spaces added to the 5,000 already available in the long term carpark. Revenue from retail operations at Melbourne Airport broke the $100 million mark for the first time in 2004, this being a 100 per cent increase in revenue since the first year of privatisation.
Widening of the main north–south runway by 15 m (49 ft) was completed over a 29-day period in May 2005, enabling the operation of the Airbus A380.The works were followed in March 2006 by a 5,000 m2 (54,000 sq ft) expansion of Terminal 2, and the construction of an additional level of airline lounges above the terminal. In 2008 a further 25,000 m2 (270,000 sq ft) expansion of Terminal 2 commenced, costing $330 million with completion in 2011. The works added 5 additional aerobridges on a new passenger concourse, and a new 5,000 m2 (54,000 sq ft) outbound passenger security and customs processing zone.