Friday, 16 May 2014

Perth Airport parking and travel options

I have an interstate trip soon. I will be travelling by plane for most of the way, but I started thinking about how to get from home to the airport. If travelling for work, I often leave before six in the morning and normally drive a car, then leave it at the airport. Starting early rules out most public transport options, and when someone else is paying for the parking, the car ends up being the easy option. However, on this trip I will be leaving in the middle of the day and I will be paying all the bills. 

Perth Airport Domestic Terminals T3 & T4

Lately, I have been making an effort to consider all transport options, for all journeys, and not do things simply by habit.

With Perth's limited bicycle paths, the bike is not always the best choice. But that does not mean the car is always the next best. I've managed to do a few 15 to 20km journeys across the Perth metro area using combinations such as walk-bus-train-walk with total travel times similar to car. And without the stress of having to drive. 

Here are the choices for travelling to Perth Airport:


Sorry, not until at least 2018, or maybe a few years later.  There are some more roads to be built first.
Tonkin Highway interchange


In a city of two million people, that doesn't have an airport train and loves big wide roads, you would expect a good shuttle-bus from Perth Airport to the city. A service designed for passengers with a lot of luggage. There is a shuttle-bus, however, it is almost useless. On weekdays it only runs once per hour, and stops completely for four hours in the middle of the day! Unbelievable, but here is the timetable. This privately run service charges $15 for the 30 minute journey from the city. I would still have to get to the city by some other means. It is interesting to contrast this dismal service with Melbourne Airport's Skybus which has a frequency of every 10 minutes except for the wee hours of the morning.

A better option is the standard Western Australian government bus service Transperth. They have buses that travel to the airport at a cost of $3.57 (each way) using a Smartrider card. Travel time 1 hour and 10 minutes including a short walk at each end.


Possible, it's about 16 km and would take about an hour. With a combination of using PSP shared-paths and recreational paths I would be separated from motor vehicles for about 80% of the time.
What about parking? There is nothing on the Perth Airport website about bicycles, so I called the airport to check. One of the "customer experience team" told me she thought there were some racks near the Qantas terminal, she was not sure if they are undercover because she hasn't actually seen them. She suggested I call Qantas. After putting down the telephone I realised finding a number for someone on the ground at the T4 terminal is not so easy. It was getting too hard. I left the bicycle idea for a few days, then, when driving near the airport for work, curiosity got me and I took a side trip to investigate what was available. After asking three different people I found them: six bicycle racks in a corridor, just to the right of the Qantas departure section of the T4 terminal building.

T4 Terminal bicycle parking

These vertical racks are not ideal. Most bikes with mud guards would not be able to flip on their end like this. They seem to be a design after-thought, the corridor appears to lead into administration offices. The positive aspects: they are very close to where you need to be if flying Qantas, they are undercover, and there is no charge.

T4 - Qantas departure area


15 km and 25 minutes plus waiting time. About $45 each way.


15 km and about 35 minutes travel time including the walk from the car park. There are 19,000 car parking bays at Perth Airport. This is obviously how we are expected to travel. For my five days away it would cost $93 for the cheapest option and if I prefer, I could choose more secure undercover parking and that would cost $215. The car parks are often nearly full, particularly around the domestic terminals. Someone is making a lot of money with this. If 80% of the bays earn about $20 per day, that would equal a turnover of $304,000 per day. Or about $111 million per year. Who owns the land around the airport? Is it the people of Western Australia? Yes, but the control and income has been transferred to a private company with a 99 year lease, Perth Airport Pty Ltd.


It will probably be the Transperth buses. The bike is a close second. I would have to park with two wheels on the ground. There are only six racks, and due to the awkward design, I am not sure my locks would be able to reach the bar if the racks were full with other bikes. The lack of security is also a factor.


It's obvious Perth Airport needs some better bicycle parking. The airport handles about 11 million passengers each year. A lot of the trips are made by FIFO workers who usually just have carry-on baggage. There are about 6000 people working there. I was told the few staff who ride take their bikes 'air-side' for added security. The T1 and T2 terminals are having a make-over, maybe there will be some better facilities built on that side. I will probably investigate this further when time permits.

Rail is expensive and will take several years of planning and construction before it is ready. But what about buses? With the airport's passenger volume at about 11 million, it is around one-third that of Melbourne Airport which handles 30 million. Using this basic one-third ratio, Perth should have an express bus from the airport to the city at least every 30 minutes, preferably more. Why don't we have it? We have a brand-new super-size highway leading to the airport and it even has bus lanes.

Great Fat Eastern Highway

Is it because the airport is controlled by a private company that is not concerned with integrating the transport options with the government-run transport systems? And is it because there is too much money to be made from car parking?

To give some perspective about how much car parking there is at Perth Airport, I did a quick map with the help of Mapfrappe and overlaid the area onto the Perth central city at the same scale. That's a lot of land for car storage.

Perth Airport car parking, compared with Perth city area


  1. Skybus is generally pretty great, but the price should be lower. It's very disappointing they don't do something similar in Perth. I would be pushing for a state-operated service to keep costs attractive for everyone. (I don't imagine a lot of Sandgropers would take it unless it is attractively cheap).

  2. Oh yeah, I hardly ever have to wait long, even in the wee hours of the morning. Also, Skybus are one of the only businesses here to park/stand in the street, and NOT in the bike lane! I have a lot of love for their drivers.