Sydney Airport has reported a double digit increase in international passengers in March thanks to the timing of the Easter holidays and fuller aircraft in the month.
There were 1.371 million international passengers at Sydney Airport in March, the company said in a regulatory filing to the Australian Securities Exchange (ASX) on Friday. This was up 11.1 per cent from 1.234 million a year ago.
Sydney Airport chief executive Geoff Culbert said the “exceptional international passenger traffic growth” was supported by more seats and increased load factors, as well as, in part, Easter falling in late March 2018 compared with 2017, when it was in April.
“During this period, we had capacity growth of 7.5 per cent (more than 120,000 additional seats) and a 2.3 percentage point increase in average load factors above the prior corresponding period,” Culbert said in a statement.
On March 26, Emirates introduced a fourth daily Sydney-Dubai rotation, operated by Airbus A380s. Sydney Airport said the new flight would be served with a combination of A380s and Boeing 777-300ERs depending on the time of the year and add about 300,000 annual seats on the route.
Meanwhile, Air India added a fifth weekly flight on its nonstop Delhi-Sydney flight with Boeing 787-8s starting March 30, representing an additional 14,000 seats a year.
There are more new services to come later in 2018, with Virgin Australia to start daily Sydney-Hong Kong flights with Airbus A330-200s from July 2. Sydney Airport said this new flight represented an 200,000 seats a year on the route, which is already served by Cathay Pacific and Qantas.
Virgin Australia and Air New Zealand have also announced additional trans-Tasman flights, including from Sydney to various points in New Zealand, from October, when the pair’s alliance ends.
Sydney Airport said the number of Chinese nationals travelling to Sydney rose 19.9 per cent in the month, compared with the prior corresponding period. China is Sydney Airport’s largest foreign source market.
India recorded the largest increase in March, climbing 28.2 per cent, while travellers from South Korea were up 15.2 per cent and the United States up 14.3 per cent.
“This is a pleasing performance from some of our largest markets and is a direct result of increasing seat capacity,” Culbert said.
Away from the international market, Sydney Airport reported a 3.5 per cent improvement in domestic passengers in March to 2.414 million, compared with the prior corresponding period.
Culbert noted the “robust” domestic growth was driven by a 1.4 percentage point lift in load factors, with capacity up 1.7 per cent in the month.
Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce noted in the airline group’s first half results in February there was “good growth” in the eastern states with financial services, construction and infrastructure sectors of the economy “doing very well”.
There was also encouraging signs in the premium leisure and resources sector.
“We are seeing really strong growth in the premium leisure,” Joyce said on February 22.
“The one part that was letting us down for the last few years was the decline in the resort sector which was significant.
“This is the first time now in over three years that we’ve seen growth in that sector. Small growth but growth and that’s a good indication I think that the Australian economy is starting to fire on all cylinders.”
Virgin Australia chief executive John Borghetti also noted a pickup in domestic activity at his airline’s 2017/18 first half results presentation on February 28, which showed a return to profitability at the underlying level.
“This result was driven by capacity and network optimisation, the benefits of our fleet simplification program and improved corporate demand, including a pick-up in the resources market,” Borghetti said in a statement.