Sydney Airport proposes drive-up premium departures wing

By David Flynn, August 27 2018
Sydney Airport proposes drive-up premium departures wing

Sydney Airport hopes to spoil premium passengers with a dedicated wing where well-heeled travellers can stride straight from the kerb through immigration and to the lounge, and potentially board their flight directly from the lounge itself.

It’s one of many prospects outlined in the airport’s 2039 Master Plan, released this week for public consultation before being submitted to the Federal Government in 2019.

Also on the cards are extensions to all three terminals, installing ‘swing gates’ at domestic for international flights and two remote ‘satellite’ piers at the airport’s south-east and south-west corners, plus new airport hotels.

There’s also a slew of ground transport improvements promised, including widening roads – such as up to four lanes in each direction for the roadway between the domestic and international terminals – plus expanded pick-up and drop-off areas, all to address ongoing issues with traffic congestion.

And of course, the 20-years-ahead blueprint embraces the latest technology such as biometrics and advanced security screening plus improved systems for baggage handling and advising travellers in real-time of the fastest immigration lanes to avoid choke-points.

However, plans for Terminal 4 – which was proposed in 2017 as a T3-adjacent international terminal to be built on the space now occupied by the Qantas jet base – appear to have been dropped.

Here’s a look into the future – at least to 2039, and as Sydney Airport Corporation is concerned – according to the airport’s Preliminary Draft Master Plan 2039.

International Terminal 1

A newly-built wing at the northern edge of the current T1 building would provide a drive-up and drop-off area for ‘premium passengers’ nominated by airlines – likely to be first class flyers and perhaps members of super-elite programs such as the Qantas Chairman’s Lounge.

Sydney Airport’s 2039 Master Plan describes this as “a common-use premium processing area,’ adding that “airline product differentiation within T1 will be offered through the provision of dedicated departures processing facilities, which may be accessed directly from ground transport facilities.”

This would operate similar to Singapore Airlines’ First Class Check-in Reception at Changi Terminal 3, which has everything from a hotel-style porter service to a private Immigration channel.

Extensions are planned for both arms of T1, with the primary Pier A (below and to the left of the Qantas lounges) stretching as far as the perimeter of Airport Drive and boasting not only new departure gates but new lounges with “the ability for direct aircraft boarding” along the same lines as Emirates’ Airbus A380 terminal in Dubai.

The southern end of T1 would also be enlarged, with a remote South West Satellite Pier for international flights connected to T1 by busses.

Domestic Terminal 2, Terminal 3

As previously reported, Sydney Airport aims to bring a limited number of international flights to the domestic T2 and T3 terminals used primarily by Qantas and Virgin Australia.

Extensions to both terminals will see ‘swing gates’ capable of handling passengers on either international or domestic flights.

Sydney Airport flags that the redevelopment could accommodate up to 17 swing gates, which which would not only reduce transit time and hassle but could prove very useful for trans-Tasman flights.

There’s also provision for a domestic Satellite Pier at the south-each corner of the airfield, close to General Holmes Drive.

Domestic arrivals passengers bound for T1, or connecting from T1 back to T2 or T3, could look forward to zipping between terminals via a dedicated ‘airside transfer corridor for autonomous vehicles’ – self-driving shuttles which could be as modest as the compact pods used for London Heathrow Airport’s T5 parking station (shown below) or might prove to be far more advanced.

“The proposed airside transfer product will have the added benefit of reducing congestion on the landside road network,” the Master Plan notes.


David Flynn is the Editor-in-Chief of Executive Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.

08 Aug 2017

Total posts 42

I love premium access from the kerb, like AA Flagship First at LAX and boarding directly from the First lounge like Emirates T3 at DXB. Would be great to see similar in Sydney.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

28 Oct 2011

Total posts 462

The EK lounge in BNE has direct boarding to the upper deck - it's great.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

17 Aug 2012

Total posts 2204

I imagine everyone is looking forward to a better terminal transfer network, which will be utterly necessary if Sydney Airport want to grow both sides of the airfield without increasing both congestion and emissions.

I am, however, not convinced that a low-capacity, only-on-demand system like the Heathrow PRT is suitable for the mess that is Sydney Airport's disparate terminal and peripheral (hotel, parking, back-end services, etc.) precincts; I am inclined to think that a more substantial system (e.g. something akin to the Changi Airport Skytrain in Singapore) is in order, and that for maximum connectivity it should operate both landside and domestic airside (and perhaps even provide links onwards to Mascot, Botany and Sydenham to further reduce congestion and free up land for even more commercial use).

Good grief, the whole place is a mess—if we don't address the connectivity problem, the terminal expansion will break everything.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

14 Mar 2017

Total posts 152

This ^^ is correct.


30 Jul 2015

Total posts 107

Sydney airport seems very messy for a premium airport. I love Sydney so its nice enough, but it still feels hmmm very outdated and nearly sad. SYD should be spectacular!.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

22 Jul 2015

Total posts 219

Its one of those airports that does not generate a desire to get there early and spend time in the terminal unlike a Changi or HK. But its reasonably efficient. I have lounge access so can find my little bubble at Qantas and hideaway. Unfortunately the airport is what it is and not fitting of a city like Sydney but it works. .

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

09 Jun 2011

Total posts 88

Swing gates at the dom terminals? Not sure SACL will set aside much space for immigration etc for a couple of flights a day, plus the Border Force staff will need to manage the balance between the terminals. Sounds like there may be some compromised services there.

Also sounds like the idea of co-locating Qantas and partners in T1 and the other airlines in T2/3 has been dropped?

12 Dec 2012

Total posts 1024

Given the typical issues that building on an existing in operation site brings, I think it would be better to bulldoze the entire airport and start again with a better design.

05 Oct 2015

Total posts 4

this is in 2039 how bad is that. when we have a congestion NOW at present. Five star airlines like Garuda and All nippon airlines are given bus bays to disembark passengers to the ground (no aero bridges given) they are plannig for 2039. There is no one to tell the relevant minister about what is going on NOW. I feel sorry. because all the advisers who advice polititians know next to nothing like. passengers are suffering. airlines are paying landing parking and handling fees for their passengers. we are living a dream in this our first world country. then what a idiotic idea to build bagreekcreek when this international airport is suffering. which is the international airline going to land in bagreeks creek and how can the passengers get a domestic flight from there. it will be another Avalon in Melbourne only. Why cant they build a beautiful Very BIG new international terminal in the long term car park right on the M1/M5 and connect it to the present T1 under ground like in Zurich dock E. then there is lot of space along the small runway behind the T2/T3 no one knows. big talk but no use. will we be there in 2039. even the planners wont some thing now for us to enjoy life.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

29 Aug 2018

Total posts 1

QF have done a damn fine job to refurbish BNE Dom & Biz lounges with their separate checkin/security/lounge entry. Haven't been to SYD for some time but the precedent has been set. MEL Dom QP reno's are atrocious with it losing its window apron views and taking on a cafeteria scenario.

08 Aug 2017

Total posts 42

I agree - the new Qantas setup in Brisbane is great.

23 Jul 2017

Total posts 99

It seems a little too far in the future - 2039 - for this development to occur. Will the mess that's Sydney airport continue till then or will some modifications be done in the meantime? Much and all that Sydney tries to compare itself to airports such as Changi, Hong Kong or Los Angeles, it doesn't quite cut the mustard.

Emirates Airlines - Skywards

11 Mar 2015

Total posts 191

21 years-and at the same time can have an airbridge to the Mars flight as well -really? 21 years have to wait for this-


29 Aug 2018

Total posts 14

I will be senile by then!

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

29 Mar 2015

Total posts 94

For transit passengers especially SYD is an absolute trainwreck. And if it's going to take 21 years to address...why bother. This just hands off to BRIS, MEL, PER a schedule to stay ahead of...not hard.

17 Sep 2015

Total posts 388

Traffic congestion isn't 'addressed' by widening roads.

The solution is to maximise the convenience of mass transit and (if a 'stick' is needed) make it harder for private motorists, even though this eats into the airport's carparking revenue.

Many who drive to or from the airport could already use public transport. The airport train may not be dedicated (as in 'standalone') but I've found it far more convenient than standing in line for a taxi or hiring a car.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

07 Dec 2017

Total posts 2

2039? You have to be joking right? Seriously, Sydney is meant to be an international city but our airport experience continues to be nothing but world beating - if you consider Sydney as an emerging country! As a very frequent international traveller, I can't help but compare (unfavourably) SYD with other majors in the region like SIN, NRT, HND, ICN, HKG, PEK, PVG, KUL. All of these seem to have better experiences, which I find staggering. The ideas in this article are excellent, but this should be a SYD 2022 plan, not a SYD 2039 Plan. Given the (exorbitant) fees pax pay for SYD, I can't understand how it's owners and the NSW Govt don't see the disconnect.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

07 Dec 2017

Total posts 2

Adding to the above, over the last several months there hasn't been a single occasion where I've had a seamless experience - arriving to a standoff bay and using bus transport, arriving and waiting 10-15 mins for a gate to pull-in for disembarkation, spending 5-10 mins on the Kingsford Smith Drive parking lot to get to the arrival driveway...need I go on. Totally predictable by anyone with a simple knowledge of congestion management, statistics and demand forecasting.

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