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Sydney domestic traffic now at 65% pre-pandemic

written by Adam Thorn | May 21, 2021

Australia’s domestic aviation industry took another step towards recovery after Sydney Airport revealed passenger numbers for April were 65 per cent of the same month in 2019.

The business said the amount of people travelling through was 1,489,000, up 30 per cent from March and more than double December’s Christmas high of 659,000.

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International passenger numbers also saw the first significant rise since the start of the pandemic, with the launch of the trans-Tasman bubble lifting numbers from 33,000 to 53,000.

As quarantine-free travel only began on 19 April, numbers are likely to significantly increase when the next set of data is released next month.

It comes after domestic aviation received a huge boost with the launch of the federal government’s half price ticket scheme to 15 destinations.

The initiative, which launched in early April, offered an initial 800,000 cheap fares but most are now thought to have sold out.

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This week, the Australian Airports Association (AAA) called on the government to extend the offer to more destinations, alongside releasing new research showing 70 per cent of passengers would change their plans to travel from an unsubsidised to subsidised location.

AAA’s survey of 500 people who travelled by air in the past five years also found the main reason Australians are travelling via aircraft now is to visit family and friends (48 per cent) or go on a holiday (43 per cent), with business travel accounting for just 33 per cent.

“Given the success of the program, the government should consult with the tourism and aviation sectors and consider extending the half-price tickets to other destinations, many of which missed out on the first round of the program,” said AAA chief executive James Goodwin.

“Our consumer research found that around three in four people whose savings have increased during the pandemic are planning on spending these extra funds on domestic travel, which means the demand is there.”

In April, Trade Minister Dan Tehan said more than three-quarters of the 800,000 cheap fares had now been sold.

The federal government then issued a statement to the media hinted the program could be extended, including routes and ticket numbers.

The updated list of destinations included: Cairns, Townsville, Whitsunday Coast/Hamilton Island, Sunshine Coast, Darwin, Alice Springs, Hobart, Launceston, Devonport, Broome, Avalon, Merimbula, Adelaide, Kangaroo Island and the Gold Coast.

The fares are on sale until the end of July for travel until the end of September, with discounts applied automatically.

Both airline groups have also topped up the 15 locations with sales to other destinations and also extended fare flexibility in light of recent uncertainty.

Meanwhile, the two-way trans-Tasman bubble officially opened on 18 April at 11:59pm and on the first day Air New Zealand operated 30 flights, and Qantas and Jetstar 29.

Qantas and Jetstar will operate 83 per cent of their pre-COVID capacity to New Zealand now the bubble has launched, and also start two new routes from Auckland to Cairns and the Gold Coast.

In total, the Qantas Group revealed it will operate up to 122 return flights per week across the Tasman on 15 routes, or 52,000 seats each week. It has been operating at just 3 per cent pre-COVID capacity during the current one-way arrangement.

Air New Zealand’s 30 daily flights are set to grow to more than 300 per week operating from Brisbane, Melbourne, Gold Coast, Perth and Sydney into Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch.

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