Qantas pushes for Sydney Airport mega-terminal

Domestic and international flights would be combined into a single terminal, ending transfer headaches and hassles.

By David Flynn, October 25 2022
Qantas pushes for Sydney Airport mega-terminal

Qantas is in discussions with Sydney Airport on plans to run domestic and international flights from a single terminal, streamlining connections and removing what airline CEO Alan Joyce described as Sydney’s “biggest pain point” for passengers.

The terminal would be dedicated to international flights by Qantas and its partners – including Oneworld members and Emirates – with presumably the current T1 international terminal remaining for all other airlines.

“There is a future that we have in mind and we’re talking to Sydney Airport (about it),” Joyce remarked during a speech to the American Chamber of Commerce on Monday in Sydney.

“We would like the domestic and international terminals to come together, because that is our biggest pain point… connecting domestically would be a lot easier than it is now,” he added, describing the current process of hopping on and off shuttle buses between T1 and T3 as being “painful”.

Combining domestic and international operations into a single purpose-built terminal was the answer, Joyce said.

Trouble-free transfers

“They would have to expand where we are on the domestic side – there’s a whole series of hangers and land there, they could expand into that, and create a Qantas international terminal for Qantas and its partners.”

Joyce flagged the airline would itself embark on a substantial investment into the new terminal, including lounges.

This is not the first time Sydney Airport has considered creating ‘mega-terminals’ combining domestic and international flights.

In 2011, the airport’s 2033 Master Plan proposed that both T1 and T2/T3 become “integrated terminals for international, domestic and regional airlines” with “swing gates which can be used for either international or domestic/regional operations at different times of the day.”

Sydney Airport's previous plan for T2 and T3 to become a Qantas and Oneworld 'super-terminal'.
Sydney Airport's previous plan for T2 and T3 to become a Qantas and Oneworld 'super-terminal'.

The current T2 and T3 domestic terminals would be extended and combined into a single hub for Qantas and Jetstar, plus all Oneworld airlines and Emirates.

All other international airlines would continue to fly from T1, which would also become the home for Virgin Australia’s domestic services along with international Star Alliance and SkyTeam members.

Sydney Airport later scrapped those plans, saying "after consulting with stakeholders and the community our concept has moved on from being an alliance concept to one based around specific airline requirements and (passenger) transfer flows.”

Instead, the airport’s latest 2039 Master Plan sees T1 as remaining an international-only terminal, while the T2/T3 precinct would be overhauled to “integrate international, domestic and regional operations.”

The footprint and infrastructure of both T1 and T2/T3 would be expanded, with T1 gaining a new south-west ‘satellite pier’ likely to be used by low-cost airlines, while T2 and T3 would each be extended with a flexible ‘international/domestic/regional pier’.

24 Oct 2010

Total posts 2547

Readers are welcome to share reasoned thoughts on the prospect of a combined domestic/international terminal for Sydney Airport, but comments must as always be on topic and add value to this article and the conversation (in other words, this isn't the place for a random angry rant).

26 Mar 2020

Total posts 59

What they really need is a dedicated underground train between domestic and international terminals and that is free to use - Singapore Changi seamlessly connects all terminals in-house free of charge for passengers.

The current system of forcing passengers to use public transport via Sydney Trains - isn't exactly the best experience 

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

20 Aug 2014

Total posts 147

Spot on Travellz. An automated people mover from domestic to International is what's needed. Plenty of airports have had these for decades. 

24 Aug 2011

Total posts 1175

AJ says the terminal transfers is a pain point but he has actively made this worse by cost-cutting and deciding to outsource the transfer from international to domestic to a private bus company who cannot operate airside.  The new transfer system is pathetic.  In July, I was forced into a $27 taxi ride because the Qantas bus drivers were at lunch and the T-Bus didn't arrive.  The failure of long-term planning, which is a very Australian thing, has led to the mess that is SYD Airport.

I flew from SIN to SYD at the start of the month and had to transfer to the domestic terminal to fly onto ADL, the transfer is back to how it used to be, SkyBus is the new operator but the bus still goes on the airside road by the cargo apron around to T3. 

12 Dec 2012

Total posts 1033

The SYD QF T1-T3 transfer is back to normal with the airside bus. I used it 3 weeks ago.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

16 Jan 2018

Total posts 117

It’s not just Singapore though. Even Zurich operates the same system, as well as KL. I’m sure there are other airports in this category, but none that I can think of right now. The cost to bring in the suggested infrastructure would be just as costly in the long run as implementing autonomous trains. 

Interesting, I downloaded the 2039 Master Plan linked in this article and they are talking up an "airside transfer product" which would be "along a dedicated shuttle corridor, which will allow passengers to quickly and comfortably connect between precincts. Over time, it is anticipated that this inter-precinct transfer product will utilise autonomous vehicles."

Sounds like the idea would begin with a SYD shuttle bus service running back and forth airside between T1 and T2/T3 but could become an automated service like the Singapore inter-terminal trains or even those on-demand pods which run around Heathrow's T5 car park.

Delta Air Lines - SkyMiles

16 Oct 2017

Total posts 153

The Qantas plan seems to be based on the belief that QF to QF transfers are more important than any others.  Certainly there are many such, but it's a fairly selfish view of how an airport should be run. I'm with those who are saying improve inter-terminal connections.

05 Mar 2015

Total posts 380

Well, most domestic-international transfers would involve Qantas, but I'd hope that if SYD finally makes good on adding international capabilities to T2/T3 it means the new T2 wing with swing gates could be used by some VA partners like United, SQ, Etihad and Air Canada, as long as there are proper business class and frequent flyer lounges to cater for those airlines.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

12 Jun 2011

Total posts 147

The plan literally has Qantas at T3 and the freeing up of QF and partners from T1 could create space for VA to move into T1 and have its own integrated terminal. Unfortunately VA blocked the original co-located terminal because they complained that Qantas would have the advantage being closer to the city... 🙄

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

09 Feb 2015

Total posts 356

It makes sense, but isn’t this what Perth Airport have proposed and Qantas are digging their heels in?

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

28 Oct 2011

Total posts 468

No, the exact opposite. Qantas wants its domestic and international operations at PER combined, which is what has now happened. But PER airport keeps saying they would like QF's international ops to go back to the international terminal.

24 Aug 2011

Total posts 1175

QF wants it international and domestic operations in PER combined in T3/T4 but PAPL want these old terminals demolished and all operations from a combined terminal complex at T1/T2 where most international operations and VA already operate from.  T3/T4 are very old (apparently T4 has significant amounts of asbestos) and don't deserve to be saved.  They are not connected to the new airport rail link as it was originally planned that these terminals would be gone before the rail was finished.  Unfortunately PAPL and QF could not agree on just about everything so QF remains in the old terminals.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

09 Feb 2015

Total posts 356

I think you will find Perth Airport want all of the Qantas domestic and international operations to move to airport central (in a newly constructed terminal), not where their current and ageing T3/T4 are located.

06 Feb 2021

Total posts 57

Agree totally with the two previous posts. The airport should install an automated train, similar to Zurich's, which can rapidly shift a reasonable number of passengers between the two terminals, with the ability to separate incoming from outgoing international transfers. (If required.)   Having a dedicated "Qantas plus friends," terminal and an " Everybody Else," terminal, sounds like an ambit claim from Alan Joyce that QF should have perpetual preference.  What if someone flies in on QF but wants to transfer to a ZL or VA, the situation for them would be the same pathetic and outdated arrangement as now.    It would also mean separate customs and immigration areas, a duplication which costs money.  

25 Oct 2022

Total posts 1

It would get messy with non-alliance agreements as well. Think about Air NZ and United... would Air NZ be at the Qantas terminal (for connecting domestic AU flights) and would United would be at the Virgin Australia terminal (for connecting domestic AU flights? If so, this would result in a traveller connecting from Air NZ to United (for US bound flights) would need to do a terminal change.

Having international flights split across two terminals is always going to inconvenience somebody, but surely it would be better if only say 10% of passengers were inconvenienced instead of 100% of them, and if those 10% had a decent intra-terminal transit system like an automated people mover.

24 Aug 2011

Total posts 1175

SIN has a terrific terminal transfer system.  Even CGK has a brilliant automated rail system between T2 and T3.  SYD cannot manage a basic airside transfer bus; even LHR does that.  

Instead of going for an easy and logical short-term fix, AJ proposes a massively expensive terminal redevelopment that will take a decade or more to implement.  Yes, there is an argument that the terminals in SYD will eventually need redevelopment particularly T2 which is operating at a level way in excess of what it was designed for back in the '90s but that does not mean logical fixes are not able to be put in place now.  The services offered today are inferior to what existed 3 years ago.

I actually like the original idea of converting T1 into a domestic+international terminal, along with T2+T3 becoming a single dual-purpose terminal. But we definitely need a fast reliable automated people mover solution between the terminals. There's no reason SYD has to wait on any new terminal concept for this, there is nothing stopping them from putting in an automated Changi-style people mover between T2/T3 and T1, running next to the perimeter road. Well nothig but lack of will and lack of desire to invest in the project.

11 Mar 2012

Total posts 313

I wonder if QF will come around to this line of thinking at PER.


11 Jul 2014

Total posts 870

How does Badgery Creek fit into the 2039 master plan;

Would I prefer to fly from Badgery Creek going against the traffic and the same on the way home? (YES)

Will they actually need the same capacity at Mascot?


06 Feb 2021

Total posts 57

Plus, once Badgery Creek is open, any plan for a major redevelopment at Mascot will without doubt attract a large number of objectors, most of them almost certainly arguing that Mascot should be closed now Badgery is available.  (Convenience for those who live on the other side of the city won't come into their argument..)  The risk of a political stalemate over approving the major redevelopment could also ensure it drags on for years with no-one wanting to sign off on it due to the potential loss of votes, either real or perceived.  (Heathrow third runway anyone...)  

Building an automated train between the two existing terminals could be done with minimal fuss, at a fraction of the cost of the major redevelopment proposed, and would not be likely to be subject to the same objections from nearby residents, or therefore the risk of hitting a political brickwall. 

One thing is for sure, Qantas will argue they shouldn't have to pay extra for access to the new terminal, so who is going to pay for it ?  

Valid points with Badgery Creek and the Train Link between both terminals

Jetstar Airways - Qantas Frequent Flyer

24 Aug 2018

Total posts 104

A return "home" into Sydney is a pain in the posterior if you live in Melbourne. If your plane is delayed landing and you are worrying about your connection time, the bloody bus to the domestic terminal has just left, many time you are carrying your own luggage to the sweet ladies in Sydney, but will they get to Melbourne at the same time as you. Rationalise Sydney so that a seamless connection ex Melbourne via Sydney becomes bearable, especially  the USA flights and returns.

After moving all my airline travels away from Qantas and experiencing a far premium experience all round and considerably cheaper. I would not be phased if QF went belly up. QF just ooze the feelings of entitlement. They sell all of their assets and then demand the companies obey their requirements because they want their cake and eat it too. The overall passenger experience is down the toilet and its only getting worse. Why on earth do people still pay a 300% premium for flying QF which is basically the same as Jetstar except for lounges and the branding. A $400 economy ticket mel-syd is not worth it for a cup of coffee and a tiny biscuit, not catering to any special requirements with an airline that thinks not having a service desk in large airport hubs to assist when flights are cancelled, only for you to do their work for them in an app which barely works is disgraceful. They need a new CEO who doesn't have tunnel vision of just a paycheque.  

Sydney airport is by far a disconnected airport and indeed needs to fix the customer pain points like transferring to T1. Alliance based terminals are not ideal for an industry which is seeing individual partnerships growing. I avoid SYD whenever possible however due to some ridiculous reason for airlines choosing SYD over's difficult. 

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

14 Sep 2021

Total posts 2

They should see what, for example, United is doing in IAH.

21 Aug 2019

Total posts 67

Build adequate transfer facilities. Love going through DFW. The airlink train goes through all the terminals and makes transfers simple. 

14 Sep 2015

Total posts 5

Don't miss the part about pushing Virgin and other non-aligned airlines to the (current) international terminal - which puts Qantas at a huge competitive advantage (the reason it fell over in previous proposals - Virgin Mk1 successfully lobbied against it). Further travel time and higher taxi fares to get the being the main issue which consumers wont accept.


19 Apr 2012

Total posts 1444

I suspect the cost of a people mover isn’t that cheap; and virgin won’t go to the international terminal so they will need the same treatment as in a terminal revamp. Interesting to see how much western Sydney takes. Probably all of Jetstar but interesting to see how many others, and how much Qantas and virgin domestic, to see how much space is freed up at KSA.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

11 May 2015

Total posts 7

This couldn't come soon enough.  The transfer experience at SYD is the most degrading experience I've had at any airport anywhere.  The inbound connection to domestic is THE PITS.

01 Jul 2022

Total posts 2

The conversation is about inter terminal connectivity so the focus needs to be on Sydney Airport Corporation.  It should be providing a seamless people mover system connecting all terminals and serving all airlines.  SAC is a monopoly that appears to this customer to put profit before passengers.  Terminal 2 is an overcrowded disgrace, the walkway between T2 and T3 is a dungeon, and you need to be very fit to get to the designated pick up parking areas in fifteen minutes. Investment by SAC in the last twenty years seems minimal.

03 Oct 2018

Total posts 1

No, what QANTAS want it’s exactly what Lufthansa has in Munich , new T 2 terminal, which is brilliant. All LH, star alliance and LH and friends ( included Ethiad) for Schengen and international located at one terminal. In addition with a super nice transfer to the other T1 terminal , which services all other including Schengen and international.

That how Syd should operate and even showcasing with proud their national carrier.

I believe LH it’s not only the operating airline of T2 as well Investor and part owner.

That make sense!


09 May 2020

Total posts 530

Which planet are they on?

Sydney Aviation Alliance just paid aud 23 billion for mascot earlier this year and I would think until they start making money, they hardly going to go along with QFs grand plan particularly with uncertainty of what badgery creek is going to draw, in terms of traffic. 

QF will have to put a lot more money where their mouth is particularly when terminal security needed to be a lot better (and expensive, with potentially domestic cross subsidising international traffic in the mega terminal) and baggage handling (and the bio security procedures) needed to be quarantined as well.

22 Sep 2017

Total posts 63

I'd expect the number of transferring pax on international flights varies greatly depending on the overseas destination.  Nobody wants to transfer from other major airports via SYD to Europe or SE Asia, they will fly direct or connect via Singapore or the Middle East (or Perth).  Transfers are more common for the lower-volume north Asian destinations and some trans-Pacific routes.

So the airport should prioritise the high-transfer flights to T2/T3 with a walkable connection, and use T1 for flights where transfers are infrequent.

However, A380s might need to stay at T1, but hopefully the gates at T2/T3 can handle 787 and A350 including the future Sunrise variant.

08 May 2020

Total posts 80

With the Curfew in place at the Mascot Airport, it will be a Waste of Money and better spent at Badgery- Creek new airport where there will be no Curfew.  The Airport design must be universal and cater for a reasonable sharing and not give Qantas a Lion share of the best placement within. several Island 360 degree Plane's to Park all connected to a Driverless Train service running every 3 minutes would save 15 minutes walk 

26 Oct 2017

Total posts 15

When is Badgery Ck likely to be completed?

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