A Day In The Life: Spending 24 Hours At Brisbane Airport

Landed planes on the airport tarmac

2.64min read

Published 13 April 2015


Welcome to Brisbane Airport, the second-busiest capital city airport in Australia by aircraft movements, and the third-largest in Australia by passenger numbers.

On its busiest day, the airport – designated BNE in the aviation world – handles more than 700 flights.

Operating 24/7, BNE’s two major terminals service 26 airlines flying to 67 destinations. More than 21,000 people work in and around what is the largest capital city airport in Australia by land size (2,700 hectares).

That makes BNE a suburb in its own right.

 Landed planes on the airport tarmac
Aircrafts line up on the tarmac in preparation for another busy day at BNE

This premier gateway to Queensland is operated by the Brisbane Airport Corporation – a proud, private, non-listed Queensland company that brings an estimated $4 billion a year in economic opportunities to the state and the city of Brisbane.

With passenger numbers forecast to more than double by 2034, the airport will see more than $3.8 billion invested during the next decade to build critical infrastructure including a third runway, new car parks and access facilities, terminal expansions, road upgrades, new aprons and aeronautical facilities.

BNE is recognised as a leading world airport with multiple awards including Capital City Airport of the Year 2014 (Australian Airports Association National Awards), Australia’s No. 1 airport for quality of service 10 years in a row in an ACCC survey, and third place in the 2014 Skytrax World Airport Awards for Best Airport in Australia/Pacific, Best Airport in the World (20-30 million passengers) and Best Airport Staff in Australia/Pacific categories.

 Brisbane Airport tarmac at night
The sun rises on a new day at Brisbane Airport (image: Daniel Foster)

Thanks to the assistance of the Brisbane Airport Corporation we can take you behind the scenes for this day in the life snapshot.


Early call – time to go home for Catriona and Stephanie after two months studying in Australia. Emirates flight EK433 will take them via Singapore to Dubai for connection to Glasgow.


The sun starts to peek over the horizon as the Airside Operations Team conducts a runway check in readiness for the influx of early morning international arrivals.

 Two girls posing at the Brisbane Airport
Catriona & Stephanie say goodbye before heading home (image: Daniel Foster)


Heading into peak hour – the rush is on at the domestic terminal automated check-in booths with a mix of business and leisure travellers heading off around Australia for work – or anything but.


The mining and gas boom means BNE is a major base for Fly In Fly Out workers.

This group is boarding Alliance Airlines flight QQ862 bound for Ballera in outback Queensland, near the border with South Australia.

 Passengers using external stairs to enter the plane
Miners board their alliance flight for Ballera

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Home from North America, Asia, the Pacific and the Middle East – the airport's international terminal is already a hive of activity courtesy of the morning peak-hour international arrivals.


Helping hand – Airport Ambassadors Jennie Antoniak and Bill Kranenburg are two members of a 130-strong team of volunteers that assists passengers on their journey through Brisbane Airport.

 Two volunteers smiling at the camera
Two volunteers at Brisbane Airport (image: Jen Dainer)


While passengers depart and arrive at BNE, work on the huge new parallel runway project continues 24/7.


Father and son team Andrew and John work on the tarmac as Virgin Australia ground crew, offloading luggage between flights.

 Two workers in front of a Virgin plane
A bit of family bonding goes on during work for father-and-son team Andrew and John


  • 21.8 million passengers in FY2014
  • 41 domestic destinations, seven carriers
  • 603 international flights a week
  • 2,700 hectares - the size of a suburb
  • 3 kilometres - the length of the new runway


Qantas pilots, Captain John MacMaster and First Officer Duncan Mitchell, on the flight deck of a B737-800 bound for Sydney.

The Brisbane to Sydney air route is the second busiest in Australia and ninth in the world.


Welcome aboard – Virgin Australia crew members Amy and Rose get ready to safely seat more than 160 passengers on the VA962 B737-800 service to Sydney.

 Three Virgin flight attendants wearing red, white and purple on the plane
The Virgin Australia crew gearing up for a full afternoon flight


Q Catering staff prepare meals in what is the most advanced catering centre in the southern hemisphere. The facility operates 24/7 to produce more than 20,000 meals a day for business and economy class passengers.


Always time to shop – duty free retail operates into the night.

Here customers explore one of JR/Duty Free’s flagship stores, which includes a luxury watch boutique offering some of the world’s most prestigious brands.


Full circle – Emirates flight EK432 arrives from Dubai via Singapore before turning into EK433, leaving at 2.35am.

 Duty Free storefront at the Brisbane airport
Duty-free shops serving into the late hours (image: Jen Dainer)

Visit your local Flight Centre or call 131 600 for more advice and the latest deals on travelling to Brisbane


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