Sydney Airport to close observation deck

By David Flynn, February 19 2014
Sydney Airport to close observation deck

Sydney Airport will close its outdoor observation deck at the international terminal next month – and if you listen closely you can hear the howls of plane-spotters rising above the roar of jet engines.

A spokesperson for Sydney Airport confirmed to Australian Business Traveller that the outdoor deck will not longer be open to the public "for operational reasons."

"This area is currently under review and Sydney Airport is exploring a range of potential uses for the area."

The airport suggests that "members of the public can view the airfield from the Rydges Hotel at T1" along with other a handful of other locations listed at the airport's aviation community web page, including Qantas Drive, the '16L Mound' and '25 Threshold'.

(And if you have no idea where those last two are, or even what they mean, you're probably not a plane-spotter to begin with.)

"Sydney Airport understands that the deck is popular with the aviation community," the spokesperson said.

"The decision to close the observation deck was not taken lightly and we are currently reviewing other options that would enable a unique experience overlooking the runway."

Plane-spotters react

As you'd expect, plane-spotters are saddened to lose one of their favourite perches.

"I've spent many days at the observation deck, enjoying the view over part of the apron and the main runway" reflects planes-potter and aviation photographer Nick Young

"I've met people from around the world: plane-spotters, photographers and also those just interested in seeing their friends or relatives embark on their journeys."

Daniel Kirby works in the aviation industry but has been keeping a very close eye on aircraft as a hobby since 2001.

"The observation deck is just one of those places I love going to" Kirby told Australian Business Traveller.

"I live in Melbourne but get up to Sydney at least five times a year to do some spotting and photography, and the deck is one of my favourite spots to visit in the afternoon."

But the deck isn't just a hangout for aviation geeks.

"This is the only public place that parents can take their kids to show them the planes up close" reflects Sarah Collins.

"I can recall countless times when kids or tourists would come up to the deck and would just be astounded by the view - a last impression of Sydney that will be gone forever."

Collins told Australian Business Traveller that Sydney Airport should be embracing plane-spotters rather than cutting them out of the picture.

"The funny thing is that Sydney is now alienating spotters, in contrast to the likes of Perth and Brisbane who have created new specialised spotting areas without any direct revenue benefit to them."

"Sydney Airport needs to realise that there is a lot of value in people who are not actually flying. Keeping places like this open allows visitors to stay longer, and hence spend more money at outlets and parking for example."

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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.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

09 May 2013

Total posts 73

Well there goes my pre-flight tradition. 


Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

17 Jan 2012

Total posts 171

It was a pretty run down, dirty and un kept area of the Terminal I can recall from resent visits.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

17 Aug 2012

Total posts 2207

It is in rather poor condition, I must admit, and far from ideal. Its formerly excellent view has been partially obscured by the First Class Lounge, anyway.

Hopefully it is rebuilt into a nicer observation deck - assuming they don't just tear it down and wash their hands of the matter - with some revenue potential to keep it going.

In the meantime, I'd recommend Qantas Drive, the Qantas Historical Collection, the Fence and Shep's Mound.

26 May 2011

Total posts 19

It was run down because SACL didn't care about it. Anything that doesn't make them money, they aren't going to bother. But yes with its poor state it was embarassing at times to international visitors but it was something and the view back to the Sydney skyline was hard to achieve anywhere else without obstructions in the way.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

17 Aug 2012

Total posts 2207

That is precisely why I mentioned the need for revenue potential to keep it going. The main issue is that it never had the scale to support a separate dining/drinks venue, given that it was directly atop the Terrace Bar & Bistro.

It'll be a shame to see it go, but its current state is nothing to shout about.

02 Jul 2011

Total posts 61

It's a pity that SACL only care about putting in more shops but not maintaining the public areas. They should take a leaf from the Tokyo airports that have huge, well maintained rooftop observation decks on each terminal at both Haneda and Narita, and provide plenty of restaurants and services for the users. So it's a win/win scenario in Tokyo. 


Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

10 May 2011

Total posts 732

My favourite observation deck has got to be Amsterdam Schiphol Airport. Restaurants and even a Fokker 100 plane which is open to the public and parked on the deck (never knew the STOL capability of an F100 was so remarkable!!). I think som of the commnts here are spot on, you have to make sure it generates a bit of revenue to keep it well maintained.  Some food and beverage outlet does the trick normally.


15 Apr 2011

Total posts 580

There used to also be a cafe up there, which was a really nice place to sit outside and have a drink before a long trip. A new bar/restaurant would be great (it could be fully enclosed if there are security issues with the open space), but it seems unlikely given the new food court in the check in area. 

Would it be possible to link it to the airside area, perhaps via the far end of the mezzanine outside the Qantas lounges? Could be an interesting area to redevelop into a lounge given that there doesn't seem to be much space available elsewhere in the terminal.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

17 Aug 2012

Total posts 2207

The whole point of it was to have a landside observation deck, though - and in any case the current ob deck is a rusty shack on five-storey stilts.

16 Dec 2011

Total posts 49

My kids loved being able to watch the planes take off.  But we can't begrudge another chance for Sydney airport to F$%k us over !

12 Jun 2013

Total posts 737

I never knew it existed. Still, I'm sure that any space at Sydney Airport not currently generating a squillion dollars per year in rent will meet the same fate.

On the upside, woohoo, more lounge space for somebody!

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

03 Jan 2013

Total posts 60

It only underscores everything that is wrong with Sydney Airport - they just don't care.

As for the masterplan - what a joke!

15 Aug 2018

Total posts 26

Well here we are 4 years later and I’m sitting in the QF lounge looking at the poor old observation deck rusting away on the roof of the terminal. Can’t really see an “operational” reason to close it as it’s not even that close to the ramp. You’d think Sydney Airport would have it open with some high priced F&B outlet up there.

After all their signs in the terminal say “Eat*, Shop*, Fly**

*overpriced ** with lots of taxes and charges.

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