Airport Review: Cairns Domestic Terminal T2

THE AIRPORT

Cairns Domestic Terminal T2

THE FLIGHT

Qantas flight QF 927 to Sydney, economy class

THE ARRIVAL

It’s easy to stay relaxed until the last minute; just seven kilometers from the city of Cairns, the journey takes about 15 minutes. Options include taxis, carpooling, shuttle and private transfers or limo services. I have a rental car that I drop off at the return parking lot, a few steps from the departures.

THE LOOK

Thanks to a $55 million terminal upgrade and expansion that took 18 months and was completed in late 2020, the bright and airy terminal instantly connects visitors to tropical North Queensland. From larger-than-life sculptures of sea creatures (Maori wrasse, clownfish, sea turtle and reef shark) spitting luggage on baggage carousels to movie-size posters of the reef and rainforest, there’s no denying that you are in world heritage -listed territory. As a finishing touch to the renovated terminal, the airport worked with traditional owners to introduce Indigenous art and culture. The first of the new pieces will be several “ghost nets” from Pormpuraaw in Cape York.

REGISTRATION

Due to a last minute change in flights and airlines, caused by high winds in Sydney, I don’t have time (or free space) to check in online. When I arrive, I skip the self-service kiosks and head straight for the baggage drop counter. Thanks to the absence of queues and a friendly attendant, I have a boarding pass in no time. Always a relief when you had to reschedule.

SECURITY

Clearing security is a snap; partly because of the redesigned and more spacious projection area, partly because of the tropical climate, which means there’s less time wasted removing sweaters, coats, boots or hats.

FOOD AND DRINK

The terminal expansion includes an additional 2,000 square meters of retail and restaurant space. I head to Icons Cairns, which serves light meals and snacks as well as an array of local gourmet food, wines and spirits, including Wolf Lane gin, which is distilled in Cairns. They also sell craft beers from Hemingways Brewery, a Cairns institution that donates part of its profits to the Great Barrier Reef Legacy. Other outlets include a taphouse, espresso bar, sushi bar, Hungry Jack’s and Oporto. More restaurants are expected to open.

RETAIL THERAPY

All the bases covered: Tech2Go for last-minute cables and chargers (guilty); Lego Kaboom for the grandkids (guilty) and World of Chocolate for the sweet tooth (guilty). There is also Relay selling books and travel accessories, Billabong, a sunglasses store and The Cairns Store for local gifts and souvenirs.

PASSING TIME

Plenty of seating, free Wi-Fi, and wide communal work benches (with plenty of power outlets) make it easy to refill in case of downtime. Don’t miss the Aviation Pioneers Display on Level 1 near the entrance to the Qantas Club Lounge (Qantas is the only airline with a lounge in the domestic terminal). The terminal also has a “rest room” to assist passengers with sensory or hidden disabilities.

THE VERDICT

Two large ticks. A well-designed layout, which allows for good passenger flow, and stores featuring a high proportion of local and artisan produce, giftware and iconic brands from Tropical North Queensland. See cairnsairport.com.au

OUR SCORE OUT OF FIVE

★★★★

Commented by Kerry van der Jagt, who was a guest on Tourism and Events Queensland

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