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.”