Sunshine Coast Airport Plans For Next 20 Years

Queensland’s Sunshine Coast Airport (MCY) is suffering growing pains. It has implemented a 20 year masterplan to help it accommodate increasing plane movements and passenger numbers.

The 2040 Masterplan provides for a number of significant changes at the airport. Most critical are increasing the length of the runway, providing more apron space, and improving the terminal. This 20 year Masterplan integrates with longer term planning blueprints at the airport that sees key infrastructure works well underway.

Sunshine Coast Airport plans for next 20 years
Qantas and Jetstar are among the airlines that fly into the Sunshine Coast Airport. Photo : Jetstar Airways

The Australian Government has provided a AUD$181 million Federal Government Concessional Loan to help fund the works.

Like the Sunshine Coast Airport, several other airports in the Oceania region have medium to long term blueprints in place to cater for expected increases in aircraft and passenger numbers in the region.

The regional airport in the Sunshine Coast suburb of Maroochydore has ambitious future plans to increase both its connectivity and economic contribution to the local region.

A little background about MCY

Sunshine Coast Airport is a handy alternative to Brisbane, 100km south, for locals and visitors alike. Approximately 350,000 people live on the Sunshine Coast in a series of suburbs stretching from Caloundra in the south to Tewantin in the north. The population is expected to increase to 500,000 by 2040.

Sunshine Coast Airport plans for next 20 years
Coolum on the Sunshine Coast with the airport runway to the south. Photo : Hot Meteor via Flickr

Sunshine Coast Airport currently handles approximately 1.2 million passengers a year. This is expected to increase to 3 million by 2040. Visitors to the area make up 55% of passenger traffic through the airport and locals the remaining 45%. There are approximately 15 jet arrivals and departures daily. Five airlines service the airport with the majority of traffic going to Sydney and Melbourne.

Sunshine Coast Airport plans for next 20 years
Airlines serving Sunshine Coast Airport and their destinations.

A new, longer runway

Sunshine Coast Airport currently has two runways. The shorter runway handles general aviation. The longer main runway is 1797 x 30 metres, neither long or wide enough to take jets bigger than the A320’s and 737’s that currently fly in.

Sunshine Coast Airport plans for next 20 years
The current runway cannot take aircraft bigger than a 737. Photo : Virgin Australia

The 2040 Masterplan facilities the building of a new runway, 2450 x 45 metres in size, allowing the airport to handle larger A330s and Boeing 787 aircraft flying in from further afield.

It is expected that the new runway will be operating next year.

A larger parking apron

The apron at the current terminal will be expanded to accommodate up to eight aircraft. Currently there is parking for four narrowbody jets. Presently the airport deals with overcrowding on the tarmac by using the ‘power in/push back’ apron management technique, in an effort to get the planes in and out as quickly as possible

An improved terminal

This writer, who uses the Sunshine Coast Airport reasonably regularly, reckons terminal improvements can’t come fast enough. The terminal is already facing space and capacity issues. It’s a situation that exacerbated by having to set space aside for customs and immigration to service Air New Zealand’s seasonal A320 flights from Auckland. These flights are popular with Kiwis escaping the New Zealand winter. The airport would like further international flights and has its sights set on Asia.

Space in the departure lounge is at a premium. There are no airline lounges, a sore point with all the Qantas Platinum’s with winter homes at Noosa Sound. The local plats are already annoyed with the infrequent Qantas MCY services and attempts to push them onto Jetstar. Like everybody else they have to pay $10 for a glass of floor cleaner trying to pass itself off as pinot grigio at the cafe / bar.

Sunshine Coast Airport plans for nexr 20 years
Air New Zealand schedules winter services into Sunshine Coast Airport. Photo : Umedha Shanka Indranath Hettigoda via Flickr

A considerable expansion of terminal floorspace would be essential if the airport wants to achieve its stated aim of processing 2,400 passengers an hour by 2040.

Until the terminal improvements are made, overcrowding on the apron and in the terminal is the key challenge facing the airport. When the Masterplan is complete, moving through MCY should be a much more pleasant experience.