Cardiff International Airport managers have said they plan to "hit above their weight" with a £100m strategy.
The terminal building would be reorganised and expanded
The 24-year masterplan could close the gap with the rival Bristol International Airport, which has its own long-term expansion plan.
The Cardiff plan envisages passenger numbers quadrupling from 1.9m a year to around eight million by 2030.
It would see an extension of the terminal building as well as a multi-storey car park.
The airport expansion plans were drawn up in response to a UK government White Paper on air transport.
Airport managers across the country had been asked to predict how they would cope with a rise in passenger numbers.
Announcing its proposals - drawn up over the last 12 months - Cardiff airport managing director Jon Horne said: "Unlike many other airports, we do not expect to need more land nor create significant environmental impact from our current premises.
"In addition, judicious use of public transport with intelligently developed road and rail access will also minimise the effects on our surroundings."
He added that planes taking off over the sea or agricultural land would mean noise levels would affect a limited area only and have no significant impact on local schools or hospitals.
The cost of the development has been estimated as being in excess of £100m which would be met by the airport's owner ACDL.
Mr Horne admitted Cardiff had existed in the shadow of the rapid growth enjoyed by Bristol in recent years but said they were moving forward and ready to "hit above our weight".
Mr Horner said Cardiff has key aspirations to develop new routes to Germany, Italy and Scandinavia.
The airport intends holding a series of public meetings over the next six weeks before its ideas are presented to the Department for Transport.
Access was a key component to the plan, with improved public transport and roads needed.
A spokesman for Arriva Trains welcomed the prospect of increased passenger numbers at Cardiff's airport. The rail firm introduced a rail link to the airport from Cardiff Central rail station in July 2005.
However Julian Rosser from the environment group Friends of the Earth Cymru said they were opposed to any plans of expansion to the airport.
"We are facing an international crisis of climate change and aviation is the fastest-growing source of carbon dioxide. We need to reduce it rather than increase it," he said.