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Sydney domestic traffic hit post-COVID high before borders shut

written by Adam Thorn | January 7, 2021
A Jetstar Airbus A321 flying over Sydney. (Seth Jaworski)
A Jetstar Airbus A321 at Sydney Airport. (Seth Jaworski)

Sydney Airport’s domestic passenger traffic hit a post-COVID high of 308,000 in November before borders slammed shut the following month.

In a statement to the ASX, the business revealed the numbers travelling through were up 65 per cent from the 187,000 in October. It was also slightly higher than the previous record of 276,000 in July, during the brief window when Queensland kept its borders open to Sydney.

“The modest recovery in domestic traffic in the month was driven by demand for NSW and Victoria interstate travel,” said the business. “Unrestricted travel between NSW and Victoria was permitted from 23 November.”

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Overall passenger numbers in November, including international, were 350,000, which is still down 90.6 per cent on the same month in 2019.

The numbers are likely to rise in the first half of December due to Queensland reopening to Greater Sydney on 1 December, then collapse owing to the subsequent border closures sparked by the Northern Beaches Avalon cluster.

The closure of borders to Sydney was an enormous blow for domestic aviation because it came only a week after almost all movement restrictions were lifted across the country.

In late November, Australian Aviation reported how Virgin Australia recorded its largest day of sales since COVID, shortly after Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said her state would open to Sydney.

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Yesterday, Australian Aviation reported that Victoria is unlikely to open its border to NSW until the end of the month.

On New Year’s Day, Victoria enforced the tougher restrictions with NSW, which ban even returning citizens from coming home unless granted an exception. On Tuesday, it was revealed 2,798 requests had been lodged but only 57 granted.

Victoria’s doubling down in its position despite declining case numbers in NSW and pressure from Prime Minister Scott Morrison.

“This is a fast-moving, silent virus that pays no respect to interstate borders,” Victoria Health Minister Martin Foley said on Wednesday. “The goal of the hard border with NSW is to minimise the risk of the virus reseeding back into Victoria.”

When states first closed their borders to Greater Sydney, NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian suggested it was not “proportionate”.

Premier Berejiklian said, “What I’m saying to my colleagues around the country is please think about the heartbreak and please think about the facts when you’re making these decisions.”

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