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Australia losing $319m a day in air travel

written by Adam Thorn | October 26, 2020

Qantas and Jetstar planes cross paths (Victor Pody)

A new report compiled by Ernst & Young has calculated that Australia is losing $319 million a day in domestic and international air travel.

The investigation was commissioned by the Business Council of Australia and shows the total economic fallout from the shutdown of domestic aviation over the past seven months is $17 billion and $61 billion for international flights.

“State border closures have seen passenger numbers on Australia’s busiest air routes plummet 91 per cent since March, crippling the aviation sector and causing harmful knock-on effects in tourism and hospitality,” said Business Council of Australia chief executive Jennifer Westacott.

“Every day flights remain grounded costs Australia $69 million or $2.1 billion a month. When you add in international aviation losses at $250 million a day or $7.6 billion per month we are talking about an enormous hit to our economy.”

Westacott called on states to agree to a national timetable and “transparent protocols” to remove domestic borders restrictions.


“We are not asking for a free for all – we need a highly-targeted, careful and gradual reopening of the economy based on health advice with robust, nationally consistent systems in place for departures and arrivals, quarantining, local containment, and digital tracking and tracing,” she added.

“We are calling on the national cabinet to announce a plan for domestic travel before December. Getting Australians flying again before Christmas would be a social and economic gift to the country, delivering an additional $3.3 billion.”

All states, bar WA, have committed to lifting restrictions by Christmas but many still remain in place with two months to go.

Earlier this month, Australian Aviation reported comments by Sydney Airport’s chief executive arguing he wouldn’t have had to make so many roles redundant if state borders remained open.

Geoff Culbert said that NSW’s alternative approach was the right way forward.

“The way that they’ve taken on the challenge – and it is a challenge – of keeping the economy open and not taking a zero-risk approach, really needs to be commended,” Culbert told the AFR. “I think that they’ve basically lapped every other state government in Australia on the way they’ve handled it.”

In August, the business announced it was to make 118 roles redundant, or around 20 per cent of its total workforce, following a half-year loss of $54 million.

It later emerged that domestic passenger traffic that month plunged nearly 70 per cent compared with July.

Queensland opened up to NSW on 10 July but closed to Sydney on 1 August and then to all of NSW and the ACT just a week later. As the NSW-Victoria border shut earlier on 6 July, the figures suggest Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk’s decision was the crucial factor behind the drop.

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Comments (4)

  • Patrickk


    I note they didn’t look at the cost of open borders and a single super spreader getting the disease out of control as happened with a Melbourne visitor to cross roads hotel in Sydney, or the more than one per cent of international travelers who test positive and the cost of one of them each day being a super spreader. That sort of analysis would have been very helpful.

  • Jason


    Poor airlines… So how much is a life worth Adam? 1 cent or 329 million?

  • Fentopa


    Australian citizens returning from overseas are tested on entry to quarantine, before departure from quarantine, and pay $3k for the quarantine. There is no risk or cost.

  • jsfgj


    PATRIKK, not to mention the virus spreading across USA and EU due to a lack of border controls. Those places have been rife with covid for months with little to no border controls and airline travel is down just as much there as it is here.

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