As the gateway to Australia’s premier tourist destination, Queensland’s Gold Coast Airport welcomes 6 million domestic and international passengers yearly, making it the state’s second largest airport.

In 2019, in response to increasing population growth, work commenced on a $260 million terminal expansion. Adding 30,000 square metres of space, the airport’s forecast to facilitate 10 million passengers by the end of the decade needed to reimagine how infrastructure and operations would support current and future capacity.

Our operational consultants worked closely with the airport as a trusted advisor and developed a detailed operational readiness strategy. The project management team supported the implementation by upskilling the airport’s operational team and managing a rigorous trial programme.

Arup took a broad-ranging approach, guiding governance, training, trials, activation and community engagement to seamlessly transition the new airport to live operation.

Gold Coast Airport’s Southern Terminal Expansion is the most significant change we’ve made to our operations in the history of the airport. In embarking on such a journey, we needed an experienced aviation ORAT specialist that could work as part of our team, supporting and guiding us through this transition. Arup has provided this and more.

Marion Charlton

Chief Operating Officer, Queensland Airports

Developing a new operational readiness strategy

With the Southern Terminal Expansion set to double the passenger footfall, the airport had to rethink how it would operate under this new model.

We designed a new operational readiness strategy, drawing on global and local project expertise, to detail how the airport would achieve readiness to transition from construction to operation. Working closely with the Gold Coast Airport team to understand the current operational model and their future operating vision, we collected diverse insights for strategic integration through a series of workshops with the airport’s operations team, border agencies and security.

These insights created an understanding of what readiness activity was essential to achieve its operational vision. Insights were documented and a strategy was designed for a successful implementation in time for the planned opening in November 2022.

Programme and project management to support delivery

Our next challenge was to support the Gold Coast Airport operational transition – turning their readiness strategy into an elevated operating model.

With the COVID-19 pandemic affecting staff numbers in the aviation industry, the airport faced the challenge of project managing a new operating procedure with many new team members. Our consultants worked closely with the airport’s operations team to train and coach staff on new operational processes throughout the governance strategy. Together, over 30 trials were conducted to test all aspects of the strategy in isolation to uncover risks, such as check-in and boarding.

The final test was a mass Gold Coast community trial, with a dress-rehearsal conducted to test the airport’s new operational strategy. Working with the community engagement team, we designed an interactive airport simulation, trialling all aspects of the terminal and passenger journey to provide essential feedback. This ensured the airport was ready to open and meet capacity demands by utilising feedback to optimise passenger flow and processing times.