Purpose - This study aims to analyze the dynamic performance of aerostatic thrust bearing for different geometries of recess. Different geometries of recess of equal recess area, i.e. circular, elliptical, rectangular and annular, have been considered in analysis. The work also analyzes the influence of tilt angle on the performance of thrust bearing. To compute the unknown pressure field, the Reynolds equation governing the flow of compressible lubricant (air) has been solved using finite element formulation. Further, separate finite element formulations have been carried out to compute fluid film stiffness and damping coefficients directly. This method provides quick computation of stiffness and damping coefficients of aerostatic thrust bearing than the usual approach. Design/methodology/approach - As the Reynolds equation governing the flow of compressible lubricant is nonlinear partial differential equation, the computation of the stiffness and damping coefficient follows an iterative procedure. It requires a lot of computational energy. Therefore, in the present work, a novel technique based on finite element formulation is suggested to compute air film stiffness and damping coefficient in aerostatic thrust bearing. Findings - A novel technique based on finite element formulation is illustrated to simulate the performance of tilted pad aerostatic thrust bearing. On the basis of simulated results, following key conclusions may be drawn. The static and dynamic performance of a circular aerostatic tilted thrust pad bearing is significantly affected with a change in the value of tilt parameter and the shape of the recess. Research limitations/implications - Implications are as follows: direct computation of air film damping coefficient is performed without perturbation method in finite element method (FEM); influence of tilt on aerostatic thrust bearing is studied; influence of recess shape on aerostatic thrust bearing is observed; and finite element formulation of aerostatic thrust bearing is performed. Originality/value - The present work will be quite useful for bearing designer and academicians. © Emerald Publishing Limited.