This morning marks a new beginning for Tullamarine with the phased opening of the new Terminal 4 starting today.
According to a fact sheet posted on T4's dedicated website - www.t4you.com.au - the terminal is "the first terminal in the Asia Pacific region to open as a complete self-service operation", referring to the self-service check-in kiosks and automated bag-drop facilities.
There has also been a departure from the norm in terms of accessing the terminals as well: check-in / bag-drop and arrivals baggage claim are all on the ground floor rather than being split between ground and upper floors as is common in the three other terminals at Tullamarine and other airports around Australia. As shown in the video below, after check-in passengers are required to head to the upper floor for the security check and departure lounges.
According to a Melbourne Airport spokesperson, the existing Tiger terminal check in and baggage claim (the infamous tin shed) areas are now being refurbished and Tiger Airways will be moved back into its original home after the refurbishment has been completed. This new work on the existing Tiger terminals will see the original facilities seamlessly connected to the new T4 building.
Jetstar and Rex will be operating from T4 in the "coming months" according to the fact sheet.
The terminal has a capacity for 10,000,000 passengers per year (or roughly one third of the passengers that currently fly in and out of Tullamarine annually at present) and over 30 retail and dining outlets will be located in the terminal when it's fully occupied. The new car parking facility that was under construction at the same time as T4 will open in coming months as well.
It's not hard to see why Tullamarine Airport has felt like a perpetual construction site for the past decade - with T2 (International) expansion and now the brand new T4 low-cost terminal - one need only look at the data available for passengers movements at the airport.
In 1985 when the data series available on BITRE's website begins, there were 5.1 million domestic passengers, 1.2 million international passengers rounding up to a total of 6.3 million passengers. Interestingly international passengers at Tullamarine in 1985 represented 23% of all passengers passing through the airport.
Fast forward to 2014 and there were 23.3 million domestic passengers and 8 million international passengers totalling 31.4 million. In 2014 international passengers represented 34% of all passengers flying in and out of Tullamarine.
It took Tullamarine 12 years to move from 10 million passengers to the 20 million mark and it took nine years for Tullamarine to go from 20 million passengers to 30 million.