Transiting through Sydney

How long does it take from Sydney’s domestic terminals to the international terminal?

Transiting through Sydney

Moira is booking a flight which transits through Sydney and would like to know how long it takes from the domestic to the international terminal.

Q. Moira

I’m planning on a booking an overseas trip but it seems that for most of the flights I would need to connect through Sydney. I’m not sure how long I need to give myself from when my domestic flight lands at Sydney to when I have to catch my international flight. And also, will I need to collect and check my bags in once I get to Sydney?

A. Most airlines will say that 90 minutes is sufficient to transit through Sydney but this is tight and relies on a lot of variables out of your control, such as, will your flight land on time and will the transit bus be available straight away. I would leave at least two hours, assuming your bags are checked right through.

If your bags are checked right through, which is usually the case if all flights are issued on the one ticket, then when you arrive in Sydney, you need to go straight to the airside transit desk. This is located near gate 15 in T3 (you can walk between T2 and T3). You will then board a bus, which operates every 20 minutes or so, and which will take you to the international terminal, where you’ll need to clear security and passport control.

On occasions where you need to collect and recheck your bags, i.e. if you’ve booked your flights separately and are flying separate airlines, then you’ll need to allow much longer than two hours. You will still have to collect your bags and transfer to the international terminal, which you can do by using the T-Bus ($5.50 one way), taxi (about $17) or the Airport Link ($5.40). You’ll also need to drop your bags 90 minutes before your flight is due to depart and clear security and passport control.

When returning to Australia, you need to collect your bags and clear customs at the first Australian port of call. So if you’re arriving in Sydney and transferring to a domestic flight, you’ll need to go through passport control, clear customs and then head to the transit lounge. Here you can simply drop your bags if you’re checked right through, or check in to an onward Qantas, Virgin Australia or partner flight (Qantas and Virgin have separate transit areas). A bus will then take you to the domestic terminal.  This can take as little as 40 minutes, but as long as one and a half to two hours, so again, allow yourself plenty of time to save you stress.

If your onwards flight is not with Qantas, Virgin or a partner airline, then you will need to follow the same process as above and use the T-Bus, taxi or Airport Link to transfer between terminals.


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    19th Sep 2015
    The last time I went through Sydney, it was a Saturday morning and was a nightmare. I had 2.5 hrs to get my connection and just made it to board my flight. The queues to get through passport control and security are horrific.
    19th Sep 2015
    Amber, what time of day was your inbound flight arriving? In 2013, we flew from SYD - LHR, & LHR - SYD. We arrived in Sydney @ 5.45am on a Thursday. Had nothing to declare, and were out of the terminal by 6.45am.
    19th Sep 2015
    The best advice I could give is to always book the domestic and international flights as a package direct with the airline then you won't have to worry about delays, transfer times or how you're going to change terminals.
    It has been my experience that booking with a travel agent is no cheaper, and definitely not more secure, than booking direct with the airline and with the airline you will have a hold on them.
    19th Sep 2015
    When we were going to the UK in July 2013, I did some very in-depth web searching for our flights. We flew Virgin Atlantic (now not departing Australia), and the morning of our ticket purchase, I did a final check of the prices of Virgin Atlantic, Webjet & Flight Centre. Virgin Atlantic was the cheapest, but had higher credit card fees. We walked into the local Flight Centre and asked if they could match or beat the quote, and we received a $200 discount and no fees for Credit cards as we paid by EFTPOS. We saved over $300 in fees and paid $12,602.66 for Upper Class (First Class) in the February before we left. We had already arranged for my car to be looked after by my cousin on the South Coast, therefore didn't need any return flights from Albury.
    19th Sep 2015
    Definitely book the complete flight as a package. I have only once had to go through Sydney on a flight to London departing from Brisbane. It was actually better having the domestic leg from Bris to Sydney as I didn't have check in so early. Transit from Sydney domestic to international terminal was no problem, done with ease. For the return trip however I was able to get a flight direct to Brisbane (via Singapore) and much preferred that than having to go through Sydney after a long flight. I was with Qantas but for the return trip the London to Singapore leg was with British Airways; but I did book through a travel agent to get the option that suited me best.
    19th Sep 2015
    The problem with booking through a Travel Agent is that if something goes wrong with the flights the Airline is likely to tell you that they are not responsible as your contract is with the Travel Agent, not them. If you book direct with the airline they can be held liable although the problem might not be of their making (That's who your contract is with).
    My next return flight to London (LHR) is from Brisbane (BNE) via Sydney (SYD). BNE to SYD with Qantas, SYD to LHR with BA. I had two options of flights from BNE to SYD both with the same flight SYD to LHR. I opted for the later flight because I don't want to spend too much time in an airport terminal. If my Qantas flight is delayed or cancelled and I miss the London flight BA will have to get me on the next available flight and pay any expenses I incur because I've booked the 'package' with BA. I would not have the same safeguard if I'd booked through a Travel Agent.
    I can see your point Jude but things might be different for me as I fly Premium Economy and there is only one (I think) airline that flies out of BNE with PE, and that's Cathay with a long layover in Hong Kong, hence my booking with BA. However the same would apply if I flew Cathay; I would book direct with Cathay.
    Golden Oldie
    19th Sep 2015
    When I came back from Hawaii my luggage was booked through to Melbourne via Sydney. I thought that I would be coming through Customs in Melbourne. Not so. I found out in Sydney that I had to collect my luggage in Syney for customs check. Had I not talked to a worker at Sydney airport I would have been in a lot of trouble for not knowing the correct proceedure. My travel agent had not advised me of this, and it could have resulted in unckaimed baggage in Syney with me waiting in Melbourne for a missing suitcase.
    20th Sep 2015
    I would suggest that you check all information with the airline irrespective from where the ticket was purchased or alternatively the Governments website. When I've taken Chef's Knives and Seeds into Australia I've always written and asked if they were allowable and have always complied with the relevant Departments advice, which I've taken a copy of. On both occasions I've had trouble getting them through the 'items to declare (red)' channel until I've produced the copied emails!!
    Like most things, preparation is the key to success.
    20th Sep 2015
    Not withstanding, SuziJ, that your flight to the UK was two years ago I'm having difficulty in reconciling your figures which seem to be saying that because you paid through EFTPOS your saved over $300 in credit/debit card fees. Even at Australian prices I find this difficult to believe.
    However, here is a link to Flight Centre's T&C's which I would suggest people should study in depth.
    As an alternative source of flight costs one might like to look at the website for comparison prices

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