Melbourne Airport (MEL IATA), also commonly known as Tullamarine Airport, is the largest and most important airport in Melbourne and the state of Victoria. As the city's major international airport, it is the primary port of entry for most overseas visitors to the city. It's 23 km north-west of the CBD in the northern suburb of Tullamarine, and hosts direct flights from dozens of locations in Australia and around the globe. It is a major hub for Australian flag carrier Qantas.
Melbourne Airport is curfew-free and operates 24 hours a day year-round. The terminals are contained within one building, or within easy walking distance of each other. As one of the gateways to Australia, it has many advantages over other capital cities that are curfew restricted and have complex or expensive arrangements to transfer from international to domestic flights (such as Perth).
The airport has four terminals. T1, T2 T3 are in the same building, and it is easy to walk between terminals, however each terminal has separate security screening, and access between terminals is not available once in the sterile area (airside).
- T1 (the "North Terminal") is used by Qantas.
- T2 (the "International Terminal") is used by all international airlines. It is the middle terminal of the airport.
- T3 (the "South Terminal") is used by Virgin Australia.
- T4 (the "Budget Airlines Terminal") is used by Jetstar domestic services, REX Regional Express domestic services.
Melbourne Airport has flights to all other state/territorial capitals: Adelaide, Brisbane, Canberra, Darwin, Hobart, Perth and Sydney. A number of regional airports have flight connections to Melbourne including Cairns, Gold Coast, Launceston and Uluru-Kata Tjuta. Some minor airports are also served including Albury, Burnie, King Island, Mt Gambier, Mildura and Wagga Wagga.
The Sydney to Melbourne flight route is one of the busiest in the world, with flights sometimes leaving at 10 to 15 minute intervals.
Internationally, Melbourne connects throughout Southeast Asia, China, South Korea, Japan, Los Angeles, Dubai and London (to name a few).
The Qantas Airbus A380 serves this airport on flights to Los Angeles and Singapore. Emirates also operates an A380 on routes to Dubai and Singapore.
Melbourne has no train service to its airport. Buses or taxis are the most common mode of transportation to and from the city.
Skybus, ☏ , runs a frequent 24/7 shuttle to and from the Southern Cross Station Coach Terminal on Spencer Street at the west end of the Central Business District, just north of Lonsdale Street. There are two airport pickup locations. One is outside the Virgin Australia (T3), 50 m from the international terminal (T2). The other is outside the Qantas domestic terminal (T1). There are electronic ticket machines for card purchases at the stops. You can also purchase online or at the ticket booths.
The trip takes between 20-40 minutes (in normal traffic, depending on the time of day) and runs directly using the freeway with no stops. It costs $18/36 adult one-way/return, $6 child one-way (4–14 years of age). There are also several family ticket options available. Frequency ranges from half-hourly 1–4AM, to every 10 minutes 5:30AM–11PM. They also run a connection service between the terminal and central hotels/hostels during the day (M–F 6AM–10:30PM, Sa Su 7:30AM–5:30PM), and this is included in your fare. Bookings are not needed for travel to hotels, but book hotel pick-up at least three hours ahead. Otherwise, you can catch a train from Southern Cross Station, or take a tram down Collins St through the city centre.
SkyBus has additional services to Dockland and St Kilda. Further afield it also runs to Frankston and Peninsula Airport Shuttle Service and to the Western Suburbs (Werribee). The St Kilda and Docklands services operate daily, with buses every half hour on weekdays and hourly on weekends. Prices for this trip are fixed at $19 one-way and $38 return for adults. The Frankston and Peninsula service operates daily (with a few exceptions) although is less frequent, with a timetable available on the SkyBus Website. Prices for this service vary depending on the final destination, with adult fares ranging from $21 to $53 one way.
There is free Wi-Fi on board the bus, if you're willing to trade your personal details for an internet fix.
By public bus
If money is more important than time and convenience, you can take public bus 901 (every 15-30 minutes) to Broadmeadows Station (travel time 20 min) and switch to a train (every 8-30 minutes) to the city (travel time around 40 min). Both buses and trains run from 5AM to midnight, although Broadmeadows is one of Melbourne's sketchier suburbs and you'll want to be careful after dark. There are now Protective Services Officers patrolling almost all stations nightly after 6PM, including Broadmeadows. The trip traverses Zone 1 and 2, and you will need a Myki smartcard to pay the fare ($4.50 from Jan 1, 2021). The smartcard itself costs $6 and is non-refundable. The SkyBus ticket office also sells the Myki Visitor Pack for $14, which includes $8 of credit. You can also buy a card from the Myki machine in the Terminal 3 baggage claim. The buses depart from outside Terminal 4, underneath the short term car park. Follow signage.
If you are using public transport to travel around Melbourne on the day you arrive, this method represents even better value. There is a daily cap of $9 on public transport fares, meaning you will never pay more than two fares per day in each zone, no matter how many trips you make. On weekends, the daily cap is $6 for unlimited travel across both zones.
The buses display the next stop, and there will usually be many others getting off at Broadmeadows Station. When travelling to the airport, the bus stop is immediately outside the station, and there is an electronic sign indicating the predicted arrival time of the next bus.
Alternatively, routes 478/479 (every 30-60 minutes, travel time 15 minutes) provide service to Airport West, where you can connect with Route 59 trams (every 8-30 minutes, travel time 50 minutes) to the city. The fare is the same ($4.50 from Jan 1, 2021) however if you touch on again more than two hours after your first trip, you'll be charged the daily rate of $9. The tram and bus stop in Airport West are adjacent to a large shopping centre. This is a good place to buy any personal items you forgot to pack.
Taxi ranks are found across from the terminals, and there is no need to book. A taxi into the Melbourne CBD will cost around $75 and take around 30 min. Ignore anyone soliciting fares inside the terminal, and proceed directly to the rank. It is illegal to solicit fares.
By ride-hailing services
Uber and DiDi operate from a designated pickup area of the airport for the services adjacent to the pick up area for public cars. Request a ride on the app and follow the signs to the pick-up area. An extra airport access fee (depending on your service) is added to your fare.
Alternatively, if heading to southern Melbourne (St Kilda and points beyond), the Peninsula Express (also by Skybus) runs roughly-hourly minibus services, advance bookings required either on-line or at +61 3 9783-1199. Full adult fares from $18, but there are group discounts and some hostels even offer free rides if you stay for three or more nights.
For Dandenong and surrounding areas Airport Bus Dandenong has services from $20 to the city centre and St Kilda and $25 to Dandenong. Eastern Express (yet again also run by Skybus) services the outer eastern suburbs and Gull services Werribee ($22) and Geelong ($32).
Some very well known car rental companies have offices and facilities on-site. All of them have information desks where bookings can be made in the domestic terminals. Considering the high cost of using taxis, it may be cheaper to hire for a few days if you want to really explore Melbourne and its surroundings - but also remember to take into account tolls and parking. Toll roads are clearly marked and easily avoided.
CityLink into Melbourne city centre is a toll road, cameras will scan your licence plate, and your car will be charged the toll (Tullamarine Freeway is still free to use, though). If you rented the car, the car rental company will in turn charge you, plus an "administration fee". All the on-airport rental car companies have some option to pay, or you have up to three days after you travel to buy a Tulla Pass for $5.25. If you are spending longer in Melbourne then you can buy another pass that will halve the price, but charge you a setup fee such that is it isn't worthwhile for a single trip to the airport and back.
Unless you require assistance, Melbourne Airport can only be navigated by walking. Expect it to take around 10 minutes to walk from one end of the main airport terminal to the other (Terminals 1 to 3). Another ten minutes to walk to Terminal 4.
This makes Melbourne the easiest Australian gateway port for transit, as Sydney, Brisbane and Perth all have awkward transfers between International and Domestic terminals.
- Terminal 1: Qantas maintains a Qantas Club and Qantas Domestic Business Lounge in this terminal for eligible flyers. The Business Lounge is in the Qantas Club Lounge. The lounge is to the right after going through security
- Terminal 2: Terminal 2 is host to a range of lounges for the various international airlines that operate from the airport. Lounges for eligible flyers include the Emirates First and Business Class Lounge, the Qantas First Class Lounge, Qantas Business Lounge, Air New Zealand Koru Lounge, Cathay Pacific First and Business Class Lounge, Malaysia Airlines Golden Lounge, Singapore Airlines SilverKris Lounge and United Club. For paid lounges, there is the American Express Lounge and the Plaza Premium Lounge.
- Terminal 3: Virgin Australia maintains a lounge in this terminal for eligible flyers. The lounge is landside and you must clear security after leaving the lounge.
- Terminal 4: REX has a small lounge in T4 for eligible flyers.
Eat and drink
There is a food court and bar immediately after passing through security, with those options being the main food and beverage available for purchase in the terminal. There are also some food options before passing through security, but with little variety.
A large Duty Free store is found immediately after passport control in Terminal 2 (international). You can't miss it as the path to the gates passes right through it.
Free and paid Wi-Fi is available in all Terminals 2-4 under the network name "Airport Free Wi-Fi" and "Melbourne Airport". Qantas provides complimentary Wi-Fi in Terminal 1. Thus, all Terminals have free Wi-Fi.
Terminal 4 is a terminal built for budget airlines with self-service check-in and bag drop facilities. Terminal 4 requires a fairly lengthy walk to the boarding gates from the security check-point and departure lounge. There are no travellators (moving walkways) and there is very little seating along the walk and at the boarding gate areas. The terminal centres around the departures lounge area, with screens not showing the departure gate until the flight is ready to board. Passengers should pass through security and wait in the departure lounge area until the screens indicate that it is time to go to the gate. The departure lounge has seating, a food court and various retail outlets.
Three hotels operate on the airport grounds:
- 1 Holiday Inn Melbourne Airport, 10-14 Centre Road Melbourne Airport Victoria 3045, ☏ , [email protected]. From $200.
- 2 Ibis Budget, Caldwell Drive, Melbourne Airport, 3045 Tullamarine, ☏ , fax: , [email protected]. Check-in: noon, check-out: 10AM.
- 3 Parkroyal Melbourne Airport, Arrival Drive, Melbourne Airport, Tullamarine 3045, ☏ , toll-free: , [email protected]. Connected to the terminals by two short pedestrian flyovers, hotel has 276 rooms of fairly high quality. Other facilities include a 24-hour gym, a heated pool, spa, sauna and paid Wi-Fi.
There are no places of interest in the surrounding area. If you need to stretch your legs and get some fresh air, walking between Terminal 4 and the main terminals is probably the best way of doing it.