Australia’s domestic carriers collectively suffered a drop in punctuality in March as Tropical Cyclone Debbie played havoc with airline schedules and led to scores of cancellations, government figures show.
The Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics (BITRE) report said local carriers had an average on-time arrivals rate of 76.7 per cent in March, which was well below the 85.3 per cent in the same month a year earlier.
Similarly, the rate of on-time departures dropped to 78.3 per cent, compared with 86.3 per cent in the prior corresponding period.
And 3.1 per cent of all scheduled domestic flights were cancelled in March, more than double the 1.3 per cent in the same month a year ago.
Tropical Cyclone Debbie smashed into North Queensland in late March, causing extreme flooding and resulting in record rainfall.
It also resulted in airports such as Mackay and Townsville being closed during parts of March.
There was also heavy rains in parts of NSW in the month.
QantasLink had the highest percentage of cancellations at 4.2 per cent, while Virgin Australia cancelled 4.1 per cent of its scheduled services.
Four routes suffered a cancellation rate higher than 20 per cent, meaning more than one in five scheduled flights for the month did not operate.
These were Sydney-Hamilton Island (21.3 per cent), Brisbane-Proserpine (20.3 per cent), Brisbane-Hamilton Island and Proserpine-Brisbane (both 20.0 per cent).
“These high cancellation rates are most likely due to Cyclone Debbie which hit this region of Queensland in late March 2017,” the BITRE report said.
In terms of specific airlines, Virgin Australia Regional Airlines (VARA) topped all domestic carriers for on-time arrivals in March, with 82.6 per cent of its flights arriving within 15 minutes of schedule.
Next best was Qantas at 81.7 per cent, followed by QantasLink at 79 per cent and Virgin Australia at 78.9 per cent.
Meanwhile, VARA also took out on-time departure honours in March, with 84.3 per cent of its flights pushing back from the gate within 15 minutes of schedule. VARA was the only airline to report an improvement in punctuality for both arrivals and departures in March.
Qantas was second best for on-time departures at 83.7 per cent, with Virgin Australia (81 per cent) and QantasLink (80.2 per cent) not far behind.
The BITRE report said Jetstar and Qantas jet aircraft used ACARS (Aircraft Communication Addressing and Reporting System) to electronically measure on-time performance, while Regional Express, Tigerair Australia, Virgin Australia, Virgin Australia Regional Airlines and Qantas’s non-jet fleet recorded on-time performance manually using records from pilots, gate agents and/or ground crews.
On-time arrivals for March 2017
Virgin Australia Regional 82.6% (+0.9)
Qantas 81.7% (-5.9)
QantasLink 79.0% (-5.8)
Virgin 78.9% (-7.0)
Rex 72.1% (-7.3)
Jetstar 69.9% (-5.9)
Tigerair 66.2% (-1.5)
Qantas network 80.3% (-5.8)
Virgin network 79.1% (-6.6)
Figures in brackets indicates percentage point change from previous month)
On-time departures for March 2017
Virgin Australia Regional 84.3% (+0.5)
Qantas 83.7% (-5.9)
Virgin 81.0% (-6.6)
QantasLink 80.2% (-5.5)
Rex 76.8 (-6.7)
Jetstar 67.7% (-5.9)
Tigerair 67.0% (0)
Qantas network 81.8% (-5.7)
Virgin network 81.2% (-6.2)
Figures in brackets indicates percentage point change from previous month