A closer look at Papua New Guinea’s new international airport, Nadzab Tomodachi


The major redevelopment of the airport that serves PNG’s second city, Lae, means the country now has a second airport – Nadzab Tomodachi – capable of welcoming international flights. Business Advantage PNG visits the new facility.

Photo of the outside of Lae Tomodachi International Airport, Papua New Guinea

The exterior of Nadzab Tomodachi International airport, now open. Credit: BAI

The K692 million rejuvenation of the former Lae Nadzab Airport, about 40 km from the capital of Morobe Province, should provide a boon for industry, commerce and tourism in the province and wider Papua New Guinea.

Prime Minister James Marape officially opened the renamed Nadzab Tomodachi International Airport in late 2023 and national airline Air Niugini took up occupancy in early January 2024.

New gateway

With the exception of charter flights, all international flights arriving and departing PNG currently pass through Port Moresby’s Jacksons International Airport. That is now expected to change, although there have been no announcements yet about when international services might commence.

“The new terminal is a world class facility. We’re looking forward to seeing the start of international flights,” John Byrne, President of the Lae Chamber of Commerce, tells Business Advantage PNG.

He notes that the works currently under way to upgrade the 35 kilometre highway connecting the airport to Lae City (part of the 700 kilometre Highlands Highway, which serves PNG’s populous interior), will complete the picture.


Construction work on the airport redevelopment started in 2016 and includes a new terminal for domestic and international flights, with 16 check-in counters, two lounges, the latest airport systems, immigration and quarantine facilities and aerobridges.

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The project also includes the expansion and reinforcement of runways and aprons to international aviation standards, with big jets such as the wide-bodied Boeing B777-200 now capable of landing in Lae.

Meanwhile, the airport’s old terminal has been repurposed to handle increasing volumes of air freight.

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International connections

The obvious first market for the revamped airport is Australia, enabling travellers from the Highlands, Momase and New Guinea Islands regions to fly directly to Australia, bypassing the need to go through Port Moresby. Japan, which has close ties to the project and was PNG’s largest export customer in 2022, is another market.

It will also be easier for international business travellers to visit PNG’s major manufacturing and logistics hub, as well as fostering greater labour mobility.

Additionally, international air traffic in and out of Lae will be able to support the Wafi-Golpu gold and copper mine (65 kilometres south-west of Lae), which is expected to open in the next few years.


The redevelopment of the airport was jointly funded by the PNG Government and the Japan International Cooperation Agency. The construction was led by Japanese contractor Dai Nippon-Nippo Joint Venture.

In Japanese, tomodachi means ‘friends’ who support each other, which is precisely what the new airport represents.

The redevelopment of Nadzab Tomodachi is part of an ongoing program by the National Airports Corporation to improve PNG’s aviation infrastructure.

The Asian Development Bank-supported Civil Aviation Development Investment Program, now entering its third tranche, worth US$213 million, has been gradually improving the safety and functionality of PNG’s 22 national airports since 2009.

Robert Upe is the Editor of Paradise, the inflight magazine of Air Niugini. 

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