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Why Badgery’s Creek
needs an Aerotropolis

Image source: Archdaily

‘The fastest, best-connected places will win in the new global economy.’- John Kasarda

Transportation infrastructure has always shaped business location, commercial activity and urban development. Just as highways were the main drivers of urban development in the 20th century, and railroads in the 19th century, airports are now becoming the main determinants of business location and growth in the 21st century.

Welcome to the age of the ‘Aerotropolis’, where the airport is placed at the centre of a city and strategic planning urban growth allows regions to capitalise on and increase their market reach and economic capacity. The airport becomes the destination rather than simply an interchange point along a journey, with economic benefits felt as far away as 90 kilometres at busier airport hubs.

We are seeing an increasing number of airport-centred cities adapting uses to meet the needs of travellers and future urban needs, with the concept gaining momentum as new greenfield airports are created throughout Europe, the Americas, Asia-Pacific, Africa and the Middle-East.

With Sydney’s Badgery’s Creek Airport now in the planning stage, Australia has a real opportunity to create a world-class Aerotropolis for the 21st Century.

The Aerotropolis age

In 2011 Time Magazine named the Aerotropolis “One of the Ten Ideas that Will Change the World.”

An Aerotropolis is at the centre of globalisation and increased connectivity. Just as railways and highways connect people regionally, airports connect people globally. Through technological development, opportunities have arisen to globally integrate different markets to reduce costs in the production process. The iPhone 6 is manufactured by six different companies across the world; the smart phone has become the definition of global integration.

An Aerotropolis is made up of three main components: the airlines, the airport and the economic region. The concept links these three components together and capitalises on their positive attributes to amplify economic growth and create business opportunity around the airport.

Airlines connect markets. Airline routes are developed depending on the volume of air traffic, including goods and passengers, which move between markets. Globalisation and the reduction of barriers to international trade plays a leading role in expansion of airlines with over 25 per cent of world trade and goods being transported by air.

Airports are the physical location where the exchange of goods and services takes place. As the amount of air travel and movement of product increases each year and the consumer population of airports increases, airports are positioned at the centre of the economic development of the wider region.

The economic region surrounding the airport provides the reason that people are drawn to the area. This is where the economic activity that funds the growth of the airlines and the airport occurs. Increased global connectivity through proximity to the airport and links to other markets in the region fuel development.

The figure below illustrates how all three components exist together. Within the airport, the Airport City typically constitutes retail, food and leisure activities, logistics and air cargo facilities, and short-term business and office space. The airside component of the Airport City is designed to serve the immediate needs of the airlines and those using them. Land uses adjacent to the airport are made up of hotels, entertainment, higher education and commercial office space to serve those staying longer.

Outside of the immediate airport city the wider Aerotropolis typically takes the form of spine roads and clusters forming along transportation corridors up to 30 kilometres from the airport city; the centre of the greater Aerotropolis. The economic impact of the airport has been measured up to 90 kilometres from the airport in some instances. Warehouse and logistics based businesses are still located within close proximity to the airport, but they do not define the predominant style of land use.

Figure 1 : The Aerotropolis Concept
Source: John D. Kasarda and Taoyuan Aerotropolis

The rate of global connectivity is increasing exponentially. The Aerotropolis concept capitalises on this to create an environment that increases competition and will lead to reduced costs and positive economic growth on all three components: the airlines, the airport and the region.

Why do we need an Aerotropolis?

The proposed airport at Badgery’s Creek has the potential to become Australia’s first Aerotropolis. However, careful planning is critical to getting the concept right. It starts with identifying the changing form of the airport and addressing the unmet needs of consumers and stakeholders. A robust strategic approach will help ensure the implementation is staged to meet future growth and reinforce the airport as a final destination and a catalyst to the region.

The Aerotropolis concept is directly linked to improving efficiencies in globalisation and international travel. According to the International Airports Council, by 2030 the number of passengers flying worldwide is expected to triple to over 13 billion people. This is the equivalent of over 30 million passengers a day. Cargo traffic is also expected to triple in value. Transport efficiencies have become exponentially important as passenger numbers increase and travel across a wider geographic location. Proximity, connectivity and speed in transport around airports and throughout a region have become even more significant.

Using a traditional model, the airport is seen as an interchange point on the way to a final destination. The land surrounding airports is often characterised by low-density warehouses, manufacturing and logistic based businesses. First impressions count. These uses typically give the impression that the airport is an interchange location of goods and services, not a final destination. The Aerotropolis concept aims to turn the airport into the final destination as business and leisure are centred at or around the airport.

There has been a significant shift in consumer patterns with an increase in business, workers and residents at and around airports. This has led to the emergence of the airport city which lies at the heart of the Aerotropolis model. Functionally, development within the vicinity of the airport city has been likened to an ‘urban central square,’ which aims to serve short stay visitors. The Aerotropolis model addresses the unmet needs of businesses by keeping business needs close to the airport due to frequency as well as providing fast access to suppliers, customers and the airport itself. The further away from the centre you travel, the services become more suited to permanent inhabitants with residential development located on the outer fringe of the Aerotropolis (see figure 1).  

The Aerotropolis concept also addresses the unmet needs of consumers through the creation of non-aeronautical revenue. This is usually in the form of retail, hotels, office blocks, leisure and recreation zones and can also include logistic and distribution facilities. For landside business development to occur, accessible and affordable land is needed to create viable opportunities for private investment. Further away from the core there is opportunity to develop large mixed-use residential zones close to airports, where its services can accommodate residents and has the potential to become growth nodes of the 21st century.

Connecting each of these elements using the Aerotropolis model enables efficient transport links and accessibility to key nodes both internally and externally, allowing the efficient flow and movement of people and cargo within the Aerotropolis. This supports economic growth and development and can influence the value of real estate in the vicinity, such as the Western Sydney region in the case of Badgery’s Creek.

Creating a Badgery’s Creek Aerotropolis

There is real opportunity at Badgery’s Creek to open up new markets and allow local economies to compete with the Asia-Pacific region into the 21st Century. To compete we need the ability to offer fast, efficient connections locally and throughout the region.

We have already seen some airports, both private and public, adapt their operations structure to address the growing demand of non-aeronautical roles. The regions surrounding these airports are providing good reason to draw people and business to the area for the benefits of economic growth.

In 2014, Dallas-Fort Worth had 63.5 million passengers and 697,000 tons of cargo. Given this, commercial activities account for 65 per cent of the airport’s revenue, including commercial real estate development at property owned by the airport in the immediate vicinity. To create further growth, the government invested in infrastructure surrounding the airport to help develop an Aerotropolis in the surrounds of Dallas-Fort Worth International. Last year, the airport’s impact has added an additional $31.6 billion in economic revenue for the broader metropolitan region.

The most ambitious development to date, based on the Aerotropolis model, is taking shape around Incheon International Airport in South Korea. This staged development will eventuate into a full Aerotropolis. ‘Pentaport’ will see the airport, business port, seaport, teleport and leisure port combine to incorporate three islands. 

As part of this, New Songdo has been built as a purpose-built airport edge ‘smart city’. Set on 1,500 acres of reclaimed land, this is the largest private real estate development in history. It has been built to fulfil a specific need of an integrated and hi-tech environment and environmentally sustainable city. From the airport, airport users are a 3.5 hour flight from one-third of the world’s population. By creating fast, connected links and by diversifying and broadening the non-aeronautical activities, the region has been opened up to new economic opportunities.

These examples show what can be achieved when the government and stakeholders are unified in taking a big picture view to airport and urban planning.

Figure 2 : Broader Western Sydney Employment Area (WSEA)
Source: A Western Sydney Aerotropolis

Sydney Deloitte Access Economics conducted a study that estimates that an additional airport in Western Sydney could add up to $15.6 billion to the Western Sydney economy. In the wider region, it is projected that an additional airport will create up to $25.6 billion of added economic benefits.

The future airport is set to be located adjacent to a 10,000 hectare area of land in Sydney’s west, identified as the Broader Western Sydney Employment Area (WSEA). This parcel of land has long been earmarked for employment development. With a total area equivalent to the entirety of the Sydney Region’s existing employment land stock, this project represents one of the most significant strategic planning projects for the economic future of Sydney.

This is a unique opportunity to create a new Airport City and Aerotropolis for the nation. It can be a place that, in association with the airport, there can be retail, hotels, office blocks, leisure and recreation zones; along with logistics and distribution facilities.

This source of land has the ability to tap into the commercial sectors pursuit of affordable and accessible land. Having an airport in close proximity to WSEA will act as incentive to attract private investment and opens the region to new economies. Attracting private investment and other uses to the airport and surrounding region will benefit both airport users and locals through increased employment opportunities and ensuring that the ‘airport city’ is built to be profitable and has the ability for continued growth.

Creating a robust strategic plan for Badgery’s Creek that includes improvements in road and rail capacity will be vital to the Aerotropolis model being successful, as connectivity is vital to ensure the smooth and quick transition of people and cargo. This underpins the concept of the Aerotropolis as the ‘physical internet.’

Currently there are plans to upgrade roads surrounding the planned airport, however, there is no rail connection planned which will make transition between the two airports and connection to central Sydney quite challenging. It is worth noting that a high-speed rail link could form part of the infrastructure offer supporting the new airport. The distance between Badgery’s Creek and Sydney CBD is the same as that between Kuala Lumpur International Airport and KL Sentral in the heart of Kuala Lumpur. In Kuala Lumpur these places are 47 kilometres apart, linked by a profitable high-speed railway offering a comfortable wifi connected, on time, regular passenger service.

At Badgery’s Creek, we have a unique opportunity to shape a new form of airport in Sydney. It needs to be done once – and done properly. We have successful examples of the Aerotropolis concept working world-wide. We need to take these learnings and create a strong implementable plan that will secure the future of the wider region economically and ensure that Sydney has an airport that delivers the needs of all users and stakeholders for the 21st Century.

Note: This is a revised version of article: 'The Aerotropolis - creating a destination.'


Kasarda, J 2010, Airport Cities and the Aerotropolis: The Way Forward, Global Airport Cities, Insight Media, London, UK, viewed 16 February 2016, <>.

Kasarda, J 2015, A Western Sydney Aerotropolis – Maximising the benefits of Badgerys Creek, NSW Business Chamber, Sydney, NSW, viewed 16 February 2016, <>.

urban design melbourne, david lock associates, visioning, aerotropolis, urban planning melbourne

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