australian aviation logo

COVID clusters send Sydney traffic down 70% in January

written by Adam Thorn | February 19, 2021

Qantas B737 VH-XZI reaches for the sky off 34L YSSY 12.2.21
A Qantas B737 VH-XZI takes off from Sydney in February 2021 (Justin McCoy)

Sydney Airport’s domestic passenger traffic slumped more than 70 per cent in January as states closed their borders due to COVID resurgence.

In a statement to the ASX, the business revealed the numbers travelling through were 196,000, down from 659,000 in December.

It follows the ‘Northern Beaches cluster’ of COVID cases causing states to impose travel restrictions in December, followed by a snap lockdown in Brisbane in early January.

Meanwhile, 33,000 international passengers passed through the airport, a small reduction from 44,000 in December and reflecting the temporary reduction in Australia’s arrival caps.

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


However, a small outbreak in Sydney meant that by 21 December, the city was locked out from the rest of the country. This was followed by Brisbane entering a three-day lockdown on Friday, 8 January.

The news comes after the chief executive of Melbourne Airport, Lyell Strambi, said snap lockdowns and border closures are wreaking havoc on passenger confidence.

“State governments have built robust tracking and tracing capacity, and we need to have the confidence that outbreaks can be managed quickly and effectively,” said Strambi.

“Even with the vaccine commencing in February, we expect that there will continue to be small outbreaks across the country.

“Unfortunately the ongoing approach of snap lockdowns and border closures continue to wreak havoc on traveller confidence. What we know is that domestically people are more nervous about quarantine or being stuck interstate than they are of the pandemic itself. The current conditions make it very difficult to forward plan holidays and trips to see family and friends.

“With vaccines starting to roll out in the coming months, it is time to start having a different conversation about how we manage borders as a nation. We support the national cabinet initiative to reconsider how they assess outbreak risk, and the policy responses governments then take given the low levels of infection, the maturity of our contact tracing and testing systems and the vaccinations of front line workers and vulnerable populations.”

The comments will be seen by many as a criticism of Premier Daniel Andrews’ approach, given they were released on Wednesday, 17 February, the final day of the Melbourne’s controversial third shutdown.

They also came as the airport revealed passenger numbers in January were down 80 per cent on the same month in 2020.

You need to be a member to post comments. Become a member today!

Comment (1)

  • Patrickk


    The definition of a small outbreak is interesting. Close on 200 hundred cases is anything but small. Lockdowns ensure good contact tracing which can’t be done on the run

Comments are closed.

You don't have credit card details available. You will be redirected to update payment method page. Click OK to continue.