Tricks To Cut Airport Transfer Prices

Tricks To Cut Airport Transfer Prices

Taking public transport to the airport is usually the cheapest option for solo travellers, but even with those cheaper prices there are some tricks you can use to cut costs still further.

Using a public transport option (train or bus) to get to Australia’s major airports is generally the most cost-effective (and almost always the greenest) option. We rounded up the options last year in a comprehensive listing of public airport transfer options for capital cities.

Several readers pointed out an important corollary to that principle: it applies more to solo travellers. Once you’ve got three or more people hitting the airport, getting a taxi often works out to be just as cheap, and gives you a door-to-door advantage. But if you’re on your own for business or for holidays, then public transport is generally the best choice.

Airport transfers almost always attract a premium (Adelaide and Perth being the honourable exceptions to this rule). For instance, a single ticket from Sydney Airport to my home costs $16.80 – at least $10 more than a similar distance journey that doesn’t include the Airport Line stations.

As regular readers know, I do a lot of air travel, and it turns out there’s a little-known option that can make it somewhat cheaper and easier if you do more than one journey a week. The airport line stations offer a 7 day gate pass which costs $18 if you already have a Travelpass (the general Sydney ticket which allows travel on trains, buses and ferries for weekly or longer periods). This ticket isn’t well-promoted (there’s no mention of it on the CityRail site), and you can only buy it at the airport stations. But under the right circumstances, it can save you time and hassle.

This week I’ll be making two return journeys to Sydney airport, which would cost me $67.20. Buying a Green Travelpass plus a 7 day gate pass costs me $66. This is cheaper, means I don’t have to buy four separate tickets, also allows me to use on other services on the days I’m actually in Sydney, and makes it easy for me to exit Central station for a coffee when there turns out to be a 29 minute wait for my connecting service. (Sydney’s ludicrous ticketing system means that this wouldn’t otherwise be possible.)

Admittedly, the number of people who need to visit the airport that many times in a week is quite low. But if you’re going to hit the airport that frequently, it’s a definite time and hassle saver. Even if I had just one airport trip during the week but otherwise needed the Travelpass, buying the 7-day version is cheaper and less hassle than buying two separate daily gate passes.

Got your own similarly sneaky airport transport money saver for another capital city? Tell us in the comments.

Lifehacker Australia editor Angus Kidman is spending quite a bit on carbon credits, in case you were wondering. His Road Worrier column, looking at technology and organising tips for travellers, appears each week on Lifehacker.


  • When I have to use the Sydney airport I never go there by train, I just use a bus because they don’t attract any fare hikes. The 400 goes past my house near UNSW and travels between the airport and Bondi Junction.

      • I still take the train — I just allow extra time for transfers, getting to the station etc. But I appreciate for a lot of people that’s the tipping point to using private transport, and of course my dedication to minimal luggage is pretty well documented around here.

    • I’d second the use of the 400 bus if you live conveniently close to the route. But it’s a well kept secret; the public transport planner will insist on telling you to take the train.

  • I cannot agree more about the value inherent in the Travelpass + 7 day gate pass combo. For weekend trips away (eg. Brisbane, Melbourne) it’s been a great saving. I already have the Travelpass by virtue of my regular commuter travel, so the gate pass is the best way to go.

    I guess the gate pass isn’t mentioned on the CityRail site because, technically, those stations aren’t own by the State government. Yes, it’s pedantic bureaucracy at work but a sound enough explaination I suppose.

  • Options I have found for one-off travel (besides SkyBus saver tickets)…

    In Brisbane you can purchase discounted AirTrain tickets from Rankin’s Newsagency in the middle of the Queen St Mall. Another tip which could possibly save money is to catch the train to Toombul or Eagle Junction station then taxi it (need at least 2 people cause this trick did cost me at least $20 when I tried it so divide by 2). Or even catch a bus into the airport precinct then there is an another bus from there.

    In Melbourne catch Airport West tram 59 to the end of the line then a taxi the last couple of km’s. There’s a metro bus service which goes there like twice a day, but there will soon be a SmartBus route from Roxsborough Park station to the airport.

    Or my favourite which I will try one day… cycle it!

    • Yep Brisabne airtrain tickets can be purchased for cheaper at the newsagent in the Queen St mall outside of Queens Plaza.

      They are also valid for 6 months or so (depends when you buy it – think current ones expire in June 2010) so you can buy ahead of time.

      There may also be a ten ticket book available at a cheaper price, or otherwise then that is available from the airtrain website (in which case it may still be cheaper to buy 10 singles from newsagent).

      Note that they are only valid for transfer between the airport and city stations (up to South Bank I think). So if you’re going to Gold Coast it may be cheaper to buy a ticket from the station.

  • In Perth catch the 37 bus from St Georges Tce, Perth to and from the Domestic terminal. This bus runs on weekdays and weekends.

    For the International terminal take Bus 298 from Esplanade Bus Station to “Arrive Abernethy Rd After Grogan Rd (Stop ID: 23681)” and then it’s a 2.5km walk or call a taxi.

    Look it up on Google Transit to see where the stop is. TransPerth’s own maps are useless.

    Unfortunately, it only runs three times a day at 1403, 1533 and 1715 on weekdays only.

    The bus into the city only runs at 0702, 0732 and 0926 on weekdays only.

    I’d probably catch the 36 (same timetable as the 37 above) or 37 to just before the turnoff to the Domestic terminal and catch a taxi along Tonkin Hwy. Unfortunately, it’s 9.5km.

    I’m sure there’s another option that runs more frequently and on weekends that goes closer to the International terminal. You’d still have to call a taxi for the final leg.

    I’ve never spent the time to track it down because we live in Perth and we can always (hopefully) find someone to take us to the airport. Even for those exciting 0600 departures.

    Most people end up taking the shuttle to the International terminal. Page down to see info.

    There is a free shuttle for transfers between Domestic and International and vv. It’s free on some airlines.

    You can’t use it if you’re starting your trip! How stupid.

    I hope this is of same assistance.

Log in to comment on this story!