A resurgence in intrastate tourism has helped Queensland’s regional airports begin to claw back passenger numbers in the last few months.
In particular, Longreach has bounced back from being 90 per cent down to operating at 50 per cent, while Mount Isa airport is now operating at 60 per cent of pre-COVID-19 levels, with 12,000 flying through last month.
The chief executive of Queensland Airports, which operates the facilities, said holidays and a strong resource sector had led the fightback.
“One of the interesting things we’re starting to see is the amount of interest in outback tourism,” Chris Mills told the ABC. “I’m expecting August to be better, and by September Longreach is probably going to be travelling pretty well compared to the previous year.”
“Mount Isa airport had been travelling really strongly in the lead-up to the virus, it was recording really strong growth year-on-year. The numbers of people were up almost 20 per cent on the previous January.
“I guess the positive is we are starting to see some recovery in those numbers.”
Earlier this month, Australian Aviation reported that Chris Mills appeared to attack state governments for providing a “lack of clarity” on border closures, which have stopped passengers booking flights.
The chief executive also said the decision to shut off the state from NSW and the ACT led to an immediate reduction in flight schedules.
“We understand the health concerns with community transmission in Victoria, and support the strong stance there,” said Mills. “But we were surprised about the ACT decision – it has been almost a month since a COVID-19 case was detected in the ACT.”
The closures appear to have hurt what was a small recovery for Gold Coast Airport – in July, passenger numbers leapt to 44,000 from just 5,390 in June, when restrictions were previously in place.