Our Story

The journey to becoming Tasmania's busiest gateway.

From when Joseph Fossey first laid eyes on a heart-shaped landmass in 1827 to the rise of David Walsh’s visionary and game-changing MONA in 2011, Tasmania is an endless tale of discovery, invention and creation and our airport is part of the state’s ever evolving story.

Hobart Airport has grown to become a crucial thread in the social fabric of Tasmania, having played a proud role in the state’s evolution from an isolated island at the bottom of the world to a top travel destination among visitors from across the globe.

From humble beginnings opening on the rural property of Llanherne in 1956, through to the unprecedented demand for travel and local produce the state is experiencing today, Hobart Airport has become Tasmania’s busiest gateway with 60 per cent of visitors now passing through our terminal.

With deep roots in the southern beaches of Tasmania and a history extending more than 60 years, the airport has seen Tasmanians through defining moments in our state’s history.

In 2011 Tasmanians witnessed somewhat of a rebirth of their island home, with the opening of the now world-renowned museum, MONA.

While MONA may have been the draw card, it didn’t take long for the secrets of Tasmania’s picturesque scenery, world class walking tracks, pristine beaches and unmatched local produce to get out with Lonely Planet naming Tasmania in it’s top ten destinations to visit in 2015.

Add to this a visit from Chinese President Xi Jinping in 2014, which sparked a love affair with Tasmania among Chinese visitors, and demand for travel to the state skyrocketed.

With a renewed focused on creating a uniquely Tasmanian experience for guests and continuing to grow with the changing needs of the island state, Hobart Airport underwent a complete rebrand, and released their new Master Plan in 2015.

Key components of the 2015 Master Plan were the proposed runway extension and terminal expansion to cater for forecast passenger growth as well as facilitate direct flights from South-East Asia for passengers and freight to service the Antarctic sector.

The tourism boom saw Hobart Airport outgrow terminal plans within its first year of implementation and work on a new plan began almost immediately.

Today, Hobart Airport is Australia’s ninth busiest domestic airport with passenger numbers increasing by six per cent year on year for the last five years and more than 2.6 million passengers passing through the terminal gates in the past 12 months.

Our relationship with the people around us is crucial to the success of our operations and it gives us great pride to contribute to the employment of more than 700 Tasmanians.

As we grow, it’s our responsibility to ensure we never lose sight of who we are and all that we stand for.

Representing all that it means to be Tasmanian, we believe in being a genuine member of our community and contributing in ways that make an impact where and when they are needed most.

Our airport is a critical piece of state infrastructure and a primary gateway into the city of Hobart and southern Tasmania and we look forward to sharing our journey of connecting one of the most isolated parts of Australia to the world, now and into the future.

 

Our history

The beginnings of air travel in Tasmania

Air travel in Tasmania dates back to 1868 when Richard Strahan, who is believed to be the first man to ‘fly’ in Australia took flight in a glider at his family’s property Bonnington in Cambridge, not far from the current site of Hobart Airport.

More than 50 years went by before Lieutenant Arthur Long of the Army Flying Corps performed the first flight across Bass Straight in 1919, departing from Launceston and arriving in Torquay Victoria six hours later.

By the 1940s demand for passenger and freight services was increasing rapidly and aircraft design and production had advanced to allow larger commercial flights to operate. The Federal Government set about finding a site that would meet this demand and allow for future growth in Tasmania’s aviation industry purchasing 1250 acres of privately owned land on Llanherne Estate in Cambridge.

In 1948 plans for the construction of an airport to accommodate these larger aircraft were announced. Works began in 1949 and the airport officially opened on 23 June 1956 with the arrival of the first passenger flight from Melbourne following a travel time of two and a half hours.

In it’s first year of operation more than 120,000 passengers passed through the airport as well as over 11,000 tonnes of freight, making it the fifth busiest airport in Australia at this time.

Following a runway extension in 1966 to accommodate all commercial aircraft flying at the time the airport quickly began struggling to cope with demand. By 1974 plans for a terminal expansion had been announced by the Federal Government that would see the original terminal demolished and replaced with a new 3500 passenger capacity terminal. The new terminal was more than two and a half times the size, connecting more Tasmanians with the rest of the country than ever before.

The new terminal was opened in 1976 offering a concession area, general lounge, VIP lounge and the installation of the first baggage carousel.

An international venture

Following this expansion, direct international flights to New Zealand were trialed in the early 1980s with a dedicated international terminal opening on 3 June 1983. Shortly after in December 1985, a $6 million upgrade that would allow wide body jets to fly direct from Hobart to Auckland, Fiji, Singapore and Bali was completed and the site was formally opened as Hobart International Airport. Despite the new facilities, international airlines were reluctant to commit to flights out of Hobart preferring Sydney as an international flight destination.

While international flights brought new tourism opportunities for the state and had the potential to place Hobart as a key international destination in Australia, regular international flights were suspended and eventually ceased operating in 1998.

In 1998 Hobart International Airport was among a number of Australian airports privatised by the Federal Government and was sold to Hobart International Airport Pty Ltd (HIAPL).

The turn of the millennium saw an increase in security measures following the terrorist attack in the USA on 11 September 2001 along with an increase in competition from new players in Australia’s airline industry.

The terminal was expanded again in the mid 2000s following an unprecedented increase in air traffic at the airport and by 2007 the terminal was equipped with new checked baggage screening facilities, a central check in desk that travellers will still be familiar with today and a retail precinct in the extended departures area.

The tourism boom

An unparalleled increase in tourism to the state sparked by the opening of MONA in 2011 and fuelled by Lonely Planet naming Tasmania as a top ten travel destination for 2015 saw Hobart Airport completely rebrand, and in line with the Airports Act 1996, release their new Master Plan in 2015.

The new branding saw a shift in focus toward creating a uniquely Tasmanian experience for guests and continuing to grow with the changing needs of the island state.

Key components of the 2015 Master Plan included the runway extension, which was completed in December 2017, as well as a terminal expansion to cater for forecast passenger growth and facilitate international flights for passengers, freight and servicing the Antarctic sector.

The tourism boom saw Hobart Airport outgrow this terminal plan within its first year of implementation and work began on a new plan almost immediately.

Today, Hobart Airport is Australia’s ninth busiest domestic passenger airport with a growth in passengers of 5.5 per cent in the 2016-17 period, more than double the national average of 2.7 per cent.

The airport has just experienced its busiest year ever with more than 2.6 million passengers passing through the terminal gates in the past 12 months.

While broader plans are being developed, Hobart Airport recognised the need to update the existing facilities to meet the needs and expectations of travellers with a number of developments now complete or underway.

Economic benefit

For an island community such as Tasmania, the airport plays a particularly important and essential economic and social role in the community. It is a critical piece of state infrastructure and a primary gateway into the city of Hobart and southern Tasmania.

With a diverse and vibrant economy, southern Tasmania is home to significant aquaculture and agriculture businesses, a strong base of professional scientific institutions as well as the University of Tasmania’s largest campus, public administration, health care, manufacturing and strong and vibrant tourism and arts sectors.

Hobart houses the Australian Antarctic Division’s aviation base and the world’s largest concentration of Antarctic and Southern Ocean research with the airport providing a key gateway for expeditions to the ice continent.

As Tasmania’s main arrival point, Hobart Airport plays an important role in developing the attractiveness of Hobart as a place to live, work and create business. 

The airport contributes to the employment of more than 700 Tasmanians and has a direct impact on creating employment opportunities for many more by providing connectivity and access to and from the state.

Tourism

Tourism is also a key strength in Tasmania, generating significant export earnings for the state and supporting the wider Tasmanian economy.

In 2017 approximately 1.26 million people visited Tasmania, generating employment for 38,000 people and contributing $2.33 billion in revenue to the state.

Over the five years to 2017 tourism revenue grew by over 10 per cent each year, driven by strong growth in visitation and an increase in average visitor spend. In the same period, more than half of the increase in total employment in Tasmania was contributed by tourism related sectors.

With the runway extension now complete and planning in progress for a terminal expansion with international capacity, Hobart Airport is expecting to facilitate a further increase in tourism revenue and employment for Tasmania.

Direct flights will reduce travel time for international visitors to Tasmania, boosting demand for visitation and supporting additional spending in the state.

The airport continues to work closely with airlines to explore prospects for international flights to New Zealand and Asia with flights to New Zealand expected to create an annual direct tourism benefit of around $52 million alone. Flights to Asia would generate an estimated $68 million of additional direct tourism revenue during each full year of operation.

Freight

When combined with Hobart Airport’s new freight handling facility, international flight capacity also opens up airfreight opportunities for Tasmania to Asia for high-value, perishable products, generating export returns for our local producers.

International airfreight from Tasmania will enable faster delivery to export markets and in turn, higher premiums for exports such as live seafood, cherries, berries, flowers, milk and meat.

Hobart Airport has a long history of creating opportunities for Tasmania and it’s people and is continuing to evolve with the local community allowing the Tasmanian economy to flourish. 

Key Dates

June 1956
Hobart Airport officially opened as Llanherne Airport
December 1973
The first walk through metal detector was installed in line with standards around the country
July 1976
The domestic terminal building used by passengers today first opened its doors
December 1980
International flights from Hobart to Christchurch began on a three-month trial
June 1998
Ownership was privatised with the site being sold to Hobart International Airport Pty Ltd (HIAPL)
December 2015
Latest Master Plan for Hobart Airport was approved informing all future development at the site
October 2016
The new arrivals hall was unveiled to reveal a uniquely Tasmanian experience for passengers
December 2017
A $40 million runway extension was completed giving the airport global reach
October 2018
Phase 1 of the new freight facility was completed opening up new opportunities for local producers
December 2018
A $4.5 million refurbishment of the departures lounge was completed to improve customer experience