Brisbane Airport’s chief executive has said passenger numbers are unlikely to return to pre-coronavirus levels for “many, many years”.
Gert-Jan de Graaff’s warning came as the business reported a 25 per cent decrease in people travelling through the airport during the last financial year.
The gloomy figures compare to a more positive picture at Sydney Airport, where domestic numbers more than doubled in June compared to April.
“We have kept the lights on and our airfield fully operational during the darkest of days, ensuring essential health, repatriation and freight flights could continue,” said de Graaff.
Overall, Brisbane Airport saw a record increase in passenger numbers in the first seven months of the financial year, followed by a dramatic downturn that coincided with state and national border closures.
International passenger traffic was down 25 per cent to a total of 4.6 million in that time period, while domestic traffic dropped 95 per cent in the month of April to 13.2 million overall in the financial year.
“What was to be a historic and momentous year for Brisbane Airport with the opening of our new runway became a year we will never forget for quite different reasons,” said de Graaff.
“While we are seeing a glimmer of hope with slowly growing schedules and passengers, full recovery to pre-COVID-19 passenger numbers will take many, many years.”
However, Sydney Airport recorded slightly more positive data, with domestic passenger numbers in June more than doubling those in May.
However, the 140,000 people making intra- and interstate journeys were still down 93.3 per cent on the same month last year.
International passenger traffic remained relatively stable, with 32,000 in June compared to 29,000 in May.
That figure is likely to substantially drop soon after the state and federal government signalled it will limit the number of repatriation flights arriving in the country and charge arrivals for their mandatory hotel quarantine.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison previously said the decision was “in the national interest” and would also include a review of the isolation procedures to develop agreed best practice nationwide, overseen by former secretary of the federal Health Department, Jane Halton.
The government has to ask the airlines to make the reduction as, technically, they cannot turn away citizens at the border.
Chief medical officer Paul Kelly said, “There have been a lot of people [come through] hotel quarantine.
“There have been very few breaches but we have seen, as has been reported in Victoria, a single breach, even if it’s low risk, can lead to a catastrophic outcome. We absolutely need to know that this is working as best as it can.”