Sydney (Kingsford Smith) International Airport or Sydney Airport is located in the Sydney suburb of Mascot. It is the major airport serving Sydney, and is a major hub for Qantas. Sydney (Kingsford Smith) International Airport is the world’s oldest continually operated commercial airport, and the busiest commercial airport in Australia, handling in excess of 26 million passengers per year, which is expected to rise to over 68 million by 2020.
Situated next to Botany Bay, Sydney (Kingsford Smith) International Airport is accessible by road and via the Airport line underground rail link. In terms of land area, it is the smallest capital city airport in Australia. Kingsford Smith has three runways, colloquially known as the “East-West” and two “North-South” runways.
Originally declared an aerodome in 1920 (then known as Sydney Airport), it was renamed Sydney (Kingsford Smith) International Airport in 1953, in honor of Charles Kingsford Smith, a pioneering Australian aviator.
Sydney (Kingsford Smith) International Airport’s first runways were built in 1933, all in gravel. By the 1960s the need for a new international terminal had become apparent, and work commenced in late 1966. The new terminal was officially opened on May 3, 1970, by Queen Elizabeth II. In the 1970s the north-south runway was expanded to become one of the longest runways in the southern hemisphere.
In the 1960s, the limitations of having only two runways that crossed each other had become apparent. Various governments grappled (or failed to grapple) with the issue of Sydney’s airport capacity for decades. Eventually the highly controversial decision to build a third runway (parallel to the existing main “North-South” runway, but entirely on land reclaimed from Botany Bay) was taken, and the much-anticipated proposed new airport on the outskirts of Sydney was shelved indefinitely.
Even once the “parallel runway” (as it is universally known to Sydneysiders), had been built, it remained a political hot potato because of increased aircraft movements, especially over many of Sydney’s inner suburbs.
In 2002 the Australian Government sold the Sydney Airports Corporation, the management authority for the airport, to Southern Cross Airports Corporation Holdings Ltd. This is majority owned by a number of Macquarie Bank infrastructure investment funds. It holds a 99 year lease on the airport which remains Crown land. This has resulted in significant cost increases to airport users. More recently, the entity has been renamed to Sydney Airport Corporation Limited (SACL).
Since the international terminal’s original completion, it has undergone two large expansions, and the entire airport is currently undergoing a large expansion stretching over twenty years (2005 – 2025). This expansion will include the addition of a high-rise office block, the construction of a multi-level car park, and the expansion of both the international and domestic terminal. This latest expansion – and other plans and policies by Macquarie Bank for airport operations – are seen as controversial, due to the fact that the local councils, which usually act as the local planning authority for such developments, have no jurisdiction over the airport. As of April 2006, some of the proposed development has been scaled back.