Give us notice before opening more borders, urge airports

written by Adam Thorn | November 4, 2020

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The Australian Airports Association has urged politicians to give “adequate” notice before lifting border restrictions to ensure flying is safe over the holiday season.

“Before the influx of passengers over the Christmas break, the runways, aircraft and airfields need to be ready, including bringing staff who have been stood down back to work,” AAA chief executive James Goodwin told Australian Aviation. “It’s a big job that requires much co-ordination.”

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The intervention comes after the government handed airports just two weeks’ notice before the start of the one-way New Zealand travel bubble. It also comes on the day NSW announced it’s to open the border with Victoria on 23 November. 

“Airports want domestic borders to be open in time for Christmas but in order to maintain a safe and secure network there must be adequate time to prepare,” said Goodwin. “It takes dozens of people working on the ground to allow an aircraft to take off and land.

“At the moment, Australia’s airports are only operating at around 11 per cent capacity and are running on skeleton staff.”

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He also said he believed the “strong likelihood” of making the Australia-New Zealand travel bubble two way by the end of the year “indicates potential growth in 2021”.

Currently, Kiwis can travel to designated airports in Australia without having to isolate, though must quarantine on the way back.

Last month, Australian Aviation revealed how Queensland’s continued refusal to open its borders to Sydney caused the latter’s domestic passenger traffic to flatline in September after plunging 70 per cent the previous month.

In a statement to the ASX, the business said it welcomed 98,000 passengers in September, up only slightly from 91,000 in August and down significantly from 276,000 in 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 cause of the poor figures.

Australian Aviation also reported how border restrictions have caused Brisbane airport to become busier than Sydney by a huge margin. 

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

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