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Brisbane Airport more than twice as busy as Sydney

written by Adam Thorn | October 13, 2020

NEW RUNWAY @ BNE OPENS - VH-YFW - 1272020 737800 (Craig Murray)
A Virgin Australia 737-800 becomes the first commercial flight out of Brisbane Airport’s new runway, VH-YFW on 12/7/2020 (Craig Murray)

Queensland’s decision to reshut its border to NSW has bizarrely caused Brisbane to surge past Sydney and handle more than twice as many passengers per month as its larger rival, Australian Aviation can reveal.

The knock-on effect of Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk’s restrictions meant Brisbane clocked up 324,188 total passengers in August versus Sydney’s 129,000.

Significantly, the Queensland capital’s numbers were down only slightly from July (358,537) whereas the NSW capital’s collapsed 60 per cent (from 317,000).

“Brisbane is currently the busiest airport in the nation due to strong intrastate travel and an increase in domestic tourism,” said Australian Airports Association chief executive James Goodwin.

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 swing in numbers.


On Friday, Australian Aviation reported that total nationwide domestic passenger traffic slumped 40 per cent from 1,455,000 in July to a projected 850,000 in August.

“The slight recovery we thought we’d see in June and July was hampered in August because we lost key traffic to and from Victorian airports, which impacted heavily on the performance of Sydney and Canberra airports,” said Goodwin.

“What we need from state governments is more certainty around the border re-opening time frames because air travel has long lead times. There are dozens of aircraft sitting idle on tarmacs which will need to be recommissioned, pilots will need to get their flying hours up and travellers need time to plan and book.”

Despite the relatively positive results for Brisbane, numbers are still far lower than August 2019, when the city welcomed well over 2 million passengers.

In July, Brisbane Airport chief executive Gert-Jan de Graaff argued that passenger numbers are unlikely to return to pre-coronavirus levels for “many, many years”.

It comes as the industry is increasingly lobbying Queensland to drop its border restrictions to NSW.

A Qantas petition, which the airline has urged all its employees to sign, argues curtailing movement across states should be “risk-assessed” against an agreed definition of a COVID-19 hotspot.

The campaign launched alongside Qantas sending targeted letters to MPs in states it said did not agree to a road map out of “hard border regimes” during the last national cabinet meeting.

One passage of the correspondence read, “Arbitrary border restrictions are having a profound economic and social cost to communities, businesses, supply chains and jobs in Queensland.

“I ask that you closely consider these implications for the welfare and economic wellbeing of your community and join the call for a rational, harmonised approach to border management guided by the best medical advice.”

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Comments (5)

  • AgentGerko


    Hardly surprising, considering the size of the state. You can’t just hop in your car and nip off from the Gold Coast to Cairns or from Mt Isa to the Gold Coast. With Brisbane being in the far south east corner of the state, getting anywhere requires plane travel.

  • CT


    This cant be correct. “strong intrastate travel and an increase in domestic tourism,” REALLY?? How can Brisbane be busiest when They CANNOT fly to NSW, VICTORIA, TASMANIA, WESTERN AUSTRALIA. And NSW , VICTORIA cannot fly in there without 2 week quarantining. North Queensland and Gold Coast tourism is bleeding and going under. last month you couldnt even hire a car easily in Nth Queensland because the hire car companies said it wasnt worth paying an employee to be on duty. Sounds like a bit of political spin with an upcoming election in QLD. QLD government is helping to cripple the Aus Aviation Industry and economy (along with WA) Just my thoughts.

  • Norman


    Tourism in Queensland ‘s Outback is at record level. At the commencement of the off season, accommodation houses are fully booked. Why, because state borders are closed, forcing Queenslanders to holiday at home. It’s turned out to be a boom for the Queensland economy.

  • DUK


    CT, the travel currently within QLD is phenomenal to say the least. Having 2 weeks off recently, I struggled to get accommodation within SEQ as everything I was after was fully booked. Speaking to a number of friends, they too have experienced similar issues in Longreach & Cairns. As we can only travel within the state (up until recently), people have been doing just that to get out & about. School holiday period was very busy & accommodation providers told me the bookings are similar for Xmas.

  • Wayno


    I was on the Gold Coast last weekend and noted how busy it was. In speaking to a number of shopkeepers and they indicated the intrastate holidaymarket was much stronger than anticipated. Friends also travelling by road from Cairns to Central Qld also had struggles finding accomodation. I noticed a report on ABC Radio that accommodation houses in Bundaberg were also about 20% up on trade.

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