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Sydney domestic travel doubles in December before borders shut

written by Adam Thorn | January 20, 2021

Australia's domestic carriers at Sydney Airport. (Seth Jaworski)
Australia’s domestic carriers at Sydney Airport. (Seth Jaworski)

Sydney Airport’s domestic passenger traffic more than doubled in December as all state borders briefly opened to NSW.

In a statement to the ASX, the business revealed the numbers travelling through were 659,000, up from 308,000 in November.

However, that figure would likely have been far higher had the ‘Northern Beaches cluster’ of COVID cases not caused states to reimpose restrictions just before Christmas. The positive domestic figures were also still down 71.9 per cent from December 2019.

Meanwhile, 44,000 international passengers travelled through the airport, a small uptick from 42,000 in November 2020.

The border between NSW and Victoria was lifted on 23 November while Queensland reopened to Greater Sydney on 1 December.

The large traffic numbers in December were expected after airlines landed record sales in late November as customers rushed to fly to see loved ones for Christmas.

However, a small outbreak in Sydney meant that by 21 December, the city was locked out from the rest of the country.


The moves also meant Qantas is now operating at 60 per cent domestic capacity, and not the 80 per cent previously estimated before the crisis.

Many of those restrictions remain, though Victoria earlier this week opened its border to many areas in Greater Sydney after downgrading 25 of 35 local government areas from high-risk “red zones” to lower-risk “amber zones”.

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said those areas would be reviewed on a daily basis.

“I think it unlikely that all 10 would flip to orange at the same time,” Premier Andrews said. “It may be that … one or two may change, and as soon as we can update people based on public health advice, and again, that further extensive work to determine exactly what the risk profile is, as soon as that changes, they will be designated red for not a moment longer than they need to be.

“It may be that some of them come off in a few days. Others may take longer. I know that that is frustrating and challenging not to be able to provide a definite answer on that, but again, you’ve got to be guided by the best public health advice, and that’s exactly what we’ve got in the public health team as led by the chief health officer.”

Premier Andrews also revealed he had texted his counterpart Gladys Berejiklian prior to making a public announcement. It follows Premier Berejiklian previously hinting at a lack of notice for last month’s changes.

“Again, we apologise and we express our absolute regret that this virus and the outbreaks out of hotel quarantine in New South Wales and in Queensland has disrupted the summer of many Victorians,” said Premier Andrews. “But the alternative … would be me ignoring the advice of the chief health officer and I don’t think that that would be a good thing to do.”

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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