Your guide to catching the Sydney Airport train

From Opal cards and contactless payments through to time-saving tricks and more, here's your guide to Sydney's Airport Link train.

By Chris Chamberlin, December 15 2020
Your guide to catching the Sydney Airport train

Just arrived in Sydney, or planning your next trip? Sydney Airport is well-connected to the city’s train services, with stations linking both the international and domestic airport terminals with the city, southwest Sydney, and the broader rail network.

Here’s what you need to know about the Sydney Airport Link train, including how to catch the train to or from the domestic airport and international airport, how much the train costs, how to use an Opal card or contactless card to pay the ticket price, and more.

Sydney’s airport train: the basics

Sydney Airport is connected to Sydney’s suburban rail network on the T8 Airport & South Line. As such, passengers travelling to and from the airport share the train with regular commuters.

There are three air terminals at Sydney Airport, but only two train stations.

Terminal 1 (T1), which handles all international flights, is attached to International Airport Station. Terminals 2 and 3 (T2, T3), which house domestic flights, are both linked with Domestic Airport Station.

For example, passengers taking domestic flights with Qantas, Virgin Australia, Jetstar, Regional Express (Rex) and other carriers should board or alight the train at Domestic Airport station.

After exiting the platform area, follow the signs either to Terminal 2 – for Virgin Australia, Jetstar, Regional Express and others – or to Terminal 3, which is used by Qantas and QantasLink.

Although Sydney Airport is situated within the suburb of Mascot, be aware that Mascot Station does not serve the airport. Mascot Station is instead one stop from Domestic Airport Station, so if you alight here, you’ll be in for quite a walk to the airport!

CBD stops on the Sydney Airport train

When taking the train from the airport into the city, the following stops are served, in order:

  • International Airport
  • Domestic Airport
  • Mascot (suburban stop, not the airport)
  • Green Square (serving Alexandria and surrounds)
  • Central (from here onwards, you’re in the CBD)
  • Museum
  • St James
  • Circular Quay
  • Wynyard
  • Town Hall

After Town Hall, the train returns to Central, having done a city loop.

Your journey follows the green line (T8) between Sydney Airport and the CBD.. Transport for NSW
Your journey follows the green line (T8) between Sydney Airport and the CBD.
Transport for NSW

Before travelling, you should check which station will be the closest to your destination, as well as which exit to use, as it’s a long walk if you alight at the wrong stop!

Heading to Town Hall? On trains directly to and from the airport, the journey between Central and Town Hall is five stops – Museum, St James, Circular Quay, Wynyard, then Town Hall – and if you’re loaded up with luggage, you may prefer to stay put and wait it out.

But if you’re travelling light, you can save time by changing trains at Central: avoiding the city loop and hopping straight to or from Town Hall in just one stop. Don’t exit the station or cross through any ticket barriers: simply move from one platform to another, inside the paid area of the station.

Expert tip: if you'll be hopping off the train at Central, and especially if you've got luggage, position yourself at the very front of the platform 1 at the International Airport or Domestic Airport stations and get onto the front carriage. When you arrive at Central, you'll be closest to the steps and the elevator which take you from platform to concourse.

Sydney’s airport train: Opal and contactless

To catch the train to or from Sydney Airport, you can use a rechargeable Opal card – NSW’s public transport payment card, as also works on other services like buses and ferries – or can simply tap a contactless credit card.

The Opal card is your tap-and-go pass for Sydney trains, buses and light rail.
The Opal card is your tap-and-go pass for Sydney trains, buses and light rail.

Opal card is a pre-paid card, which you’ll need to load value onto before you can travel. This can be done online, at train station kiosks, at train station service windows (including at the Domestic Airport and International Airport), and at retailers like 7-Eleven.

Want to top-up your Opal card with American Express? Although you can’t do this online or at train station kiosks, American Express cards are accepted at the staffed service windows at both the Domestic Airport and International Airport stations, as well as by many retailers that process Opal top-ups.

Alternatively, you can pay for your fares by using a contactless credit card or debit card, which means you won’t need an Opal card at all: just tap your credit card on the ticket barrier or card reader at the beginning of your journey, and tap the same card again when you exit the transport service.

Your fare will then be automatically billed to your card. Where contactless payments are accepted, you can use Visa, Mastercard, or American Express.

You can use your contactless credit card or debit card to travel without having to get an Opal card.. American Express
You can use your contactless credit card or debit card to travel without having to get an Opal card.
American Express

Mobile wallets such as Apple Pay and Google Pay are supported – provided your payment is funded using a Visa, Mastercard or AMEX card – but if using a mobile wallet, you’ll need to use the same device to both begin and end your journey, or you will be charged twice.

To keep your travel costs to a minimum, use the same card – or same mobile wallet on the same device – every time you travel. This will help ensure you qualify for any eligible discounts as you continue to ride, whether that’s to and from the airport, or around Sydney and New South Wales.

(In addition, Transport for NSW is currently trialling a digital version of the Opal card which will let you tap on and tap off using the digital wallet on your smartphone or watch.)

Sydney’s airport train: prices

The price of your fare depends on several factors, including where you board, where you disembark, what time of the day you’re travelling, what type of ticket you hold, and if using an Opal card or contactless, how many other journeys you may have taken that week.

That said, here’s what a typical one-way journey costs for an adult passenger travelling on a variety of services, current as at 2020:

Journey

Opal & contactless (peak)

Opal & contactless (off-peak)

Single ticket fare

Sydney Airport (Domestic Airport or International Airport) to Central Station

$18.48

$17.39

$19.40

Central Station to Sydney Airport

$18.48

$17.39

$19.40

Domestic Airport to International Airport

$5.81

$4.72

$6.70

International Airport to Domestic Airport

$5.81

$4.72

$6.70

Domestic Airport to Mascot

$10.18

$9.09

$11.07

Domestic Airport to Green Square

$12.58

$11.49

$13.47

Peak rates apply from Monday to Friday, when touching on to begin your journey between 7am-9am or between 4-6:30pm. Off peak rates apply at other times, on weekends and on public holidays. These off-peak fare prices can also be marginally cheaper on Sundays.

The prices above include both a “station access fee” which is charged by the Airport Link rail operator, and the regular train fare price. There are no return tickets: you’ll simply pay for two journeys – one in each direction.

If you take more than one return trip to the airport each week (Monday to Sunday) and use the same Opal card or contactless card, your fares will get much cheaper as there’s a weekly cap on the station access fee, which makes up the bulk of the ticket price.

For adult passengers, the station access fee is normally $14.87 of the ticket price to or from the airport – but this fee is capped at $30.16 per week.

This means your first return journey to or from the city will be full-price, your next journey will be significantly less, and your third journey (or more) will be at regular suburban rail prices with no station access fee charged until the following week.

These discounts primarily benefit airport workers who catch the train to and from work each day, but could also prove useful for business travellers during weeks of heavy travel into and out of Sydney.

Sydney’s airport train: checking your fare

You can check how much you were charged for each journey in a number of ways, but the easiest is via the Transport for NSW website, or via the Opal Travel mobile app for Apple iOS and Android.

If you completed your journey using an Opal card, you can register your card and log in here to check your travel history.

Alternatively, if you used contactless, head to this page and enter your card details to see your travel history. Even if your contactless payment was made via a mobile wallet like Apple Pay or Google Pay – which uses a virtual card number – you’d still enter your ‘real’ card details on this page.

Keep in mind that it may take several hours, or even a day, before the details of all your recent journeys appear here: and it’s possible that some journeys may appear online before others or may be listed with gaps along the way, until all your journey data is synced and made available.

Sydney’s airport train: schedule

Train services to and from Sydney Airport run regularly, and depart every 3-15 minutes.

As such, you won’t need to plan your journey down to the minute: you can simply make your way to the station and hop aboard the next train, as you won’t be kept waiting long.

If your plans are tight – or you’ll be making the trip regularly and want to minimise wait times – you can find the full train timetable and schedule on the Airport Link website.

Separately, you can also use the Transport for NSW website to plan your journeys to and from Sydney Airport, as well as around Sydney and New South Wales. The website considers all your options, such as catching a train and then transferring to a bus, if needed.

Also read: Rydges Sydney Airport hotel review

Chris Chamberlin

Chris Chamberlin is the Associate Editor of Executive Traveller, and lives by the motto that a journey of a thousand miles begins not just with a single step, but also a strong latte, a theatre ticket, and later in the day, a good gin and tonic.

Delta Air Lines - SkyMiles

16 Oct 2017

Total posts 119

Many of these trains have little or no luggage storage in the carriages. In peak times if you've got luggage it can be a nightmare.

ajd
ajd

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

27 Nov 2014

Total posts 49

If you're a cheapskate like me, rather than a true Executive Traveller as the name of this site would suggest, don't forget that you can take bus 400 from the airport to Mascot Suburban and go onwards from there to avoid the Station Access Fee and pay the regular Opal rates. Of course, this takes substantially longer than the far more convenient airport stations!

XWu
XWu

09 May 2020

Total posts 385

Some people even walk the 15-20 min with their luggage in tow to domestic airport when they get off the mascot stop

Obviously not anybody who is a business traveller or even values their time, but would rather go through all that inconvenience of walking with luggage for 15 minutes to save $15. I'll grant you that $15 sounds like a bit, in itself, I suppose it's a meal at the airport if you don't have lounge access, but I value my time and convenience at more than $1 per minute.

XWu
XWu

09 May 2020

Total posts 385

And that’s walking that distance rain wind or shine.... and crossing a  busy road

the NSW government had a opportunity to buyback the contract at a bargain from the company running the airport station levy but didn’t. Probably wanted to milk their share of the levy as long as possible 

I suppose the kind of SYD clientele to do that walk for $15 would be similar to the same kind in MEL who uses the PTV MYKI bus taking suburban route from airport to CBD rather than the sky bus saving about the same amount albeit a far longer time spent 

Joe
Joe

03 May 2013

Total posts 591

Ill planned and embarrassing as a shared commuter service.  As most flights land at Sydney mornings that coincides with peak rush hour for local commuters as well meaning your dead tired after the 22 hours from London only to find you can't get on the train let alone bring you luggage on board! There should be dedicated train or at least a carriage for airport travelers otherwise what on earth is the point of the premium charged for this service?! Taxi isn't that much more expensive as Sydney airport is very close to the CBD, however you do run risk of being caught in peak hour traffic.

I couldn't agree more! As the airport train service is actually just a few stations on a regular domestic line to the south-west suburbs, which is a major line for commuters, it's insane to expect travellers arriving from overseas with luggage in tow to have to squeeze onto these trains in peak hours. There should definitely be one or two airport-only carriages!

Qantas

19 Apr 2012

Total posts 1263

Lost using suburban trains is normal most places. I can name Brisbane, New York (both airports), London (tube service), Milan, Paris ( both airports), Seoul, a d I could go on.

20 Oct 2015

Total posts 150

A few years back I think the NSW government or maybe the transport department actually proposed turning the airport line into a short-run service which would start at Sydney International and end at Central. The trains would be only four carriages but that was enough for the number of passengers at any time. They would start at Central, run through to the International Airport, then terminate and go back again. I think that would be preferable to what we have today.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

24 Jan 2018

Total posts 443

Absolutely.  It's a bit of a raffle that even when travelling Lite, the trains in peak are a crush.  Better if there was a dedicated train during peak at 20 minute intervals, even if only 4-5 carriages.

XWu
XWu

09 May 2020

Total posts 385

I do not think it will have enough ridership even if only using 4 carriages or automatic driverless train for it to be economical without actually increasing the station levy or decreasing the frequency which is 10 or 15 mins even at 10pm on a weeknight (shorter at peak hours which is packed I must admit but the next train is 5 minutes away)

Qantas

19 Apr 2012

Total posts 1263

I wonder how seniors and pensioner cards work. Presumably they pay only the access fee as public transport is free (or half price) outside of peak times.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

29 Jul 2014

Total posts 101

I travel  from a regional area using to opal $2-50   option  all the way by simply exiting  the train   at Mascot Station  and walking around the   corner -  2 minute walk and catching the 400  bus to the airport .Its adds no more than 15 minutes to the journey  to the terminals . There  is a taxi rank outside  the station  or you can call Uber   [ i paid $16  ] so if there are a few of you its worthwhile

Qantas

19 Apr 2012

Total posts 1263

And if you happen to be a senior the total fare is capped at $2.50 for the day if it’s a day trip.

United Airlines - Mileage Plus

20 Dec 2013

Total posts 33

I'll be catching the 400 bus to Mascot station thank you very much.

Obviously not anybody who is a business traveller or even values their time, but would rather go through all that inconvenience of walking with luggage for 15 minutes to save $15. I'll grant you that $15 sounds like a bit, in itself, I suppose it's a meal at the airport if you don't have lounge access, but I value my time and convenience at more than $1 per minute thanks all the same.

20 Oct 2015

Total posts 150

Still don't understand why there is no bus service from SYD to Central or a range of buses going out to say eastern suburbs, inner-west, inner-south, north shore.

Qantas

19 Apr 2012

Total posts 1263

Gold there are private buses to central and beyond, and public buses to eastern and south western suburbs. Most other places you name are serviced by train.

XWu
XWu

09 May 2020

Total posts 385

There used to be a airport bus to the CBD but it obviously became a cheaper competition to the airport stations with the added levy of $15 to which the state government also get a cut. So that bus service was taken away to encourage people to use the stations which I am under the impression has a ridership far lower than originally expected. 

The suburban can get the private shuttle buses which costs $50-100 depending on the area, but it can be frustrating if you are unlucky enough if they have to pick up or drop off a few others along the way, making it up to 30 mins longer trip or sometimes arrive just in time for the boarding (except if i am in terminal 2, I always get that group of casual travellers who say no to every screening question but have metal objects or liquid containers in every pocket and crevices on them) 

17 Jun 2020

Total posts 227

The guide to catching the Sydney Airport train could have been summed up in one word

“Don’t”

XWu
XWu

09 May 2020

Total posts 385

I do it quite frequently and I find it works well especially if only have carryon, your suburb is on any of the main line from central station and you have someone to drop you off or pick up at the suburban station to get home. 

The irony for me is I sometimes have to take a taxi (with the 20 min queue at 9.30 pm) to Sydney intercontinental hotel as I find it easier to claim transport costs with a taxi receipt than the train ticket, but I probably get to the hotel 20-30 min earlier by a simple train ride

XWu
XWu

09 May 2020

Total posts 385

ABC News today suggest MEL's proposed sky rail will take 29 minutes which is  a backwards step to Sky Bus which is 20 mins to Southern Cross non peak (30 mins peak) plus a complimentary to-door (major) hotel shuttle included.

And I suspect the cost of Sky Rail will include a levy not dissimilar to SYD's arrangement so its not going to be much cheaper than Sky Bus 

Qantas

19 Apr 2012

Total posts 1263

XWu the sky rail is only slower to southern cross in off peak, anywhere else in the city and many suburbs it is faster any time of the day.

jpz
jpz

13 Aug 2020

Total posts 6

The problem is, the airport line didn't construct a loop track (or siding) in airport stations to allow trains turning back. Airport trains heading to the CBD will continue its service as T2 inner west line so it's impossible to use exclusive airport line carriages.


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