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Perth named busiest domestic airport in August, Sydney falls out of top 10

written by Hannah Dowling | October 20, 2021

Perth Airport became Australia’s busiest airport for domestic operations in August 2021, while the usual pre-COVID number one, Sydney, fell out of the top 10 entirely.

According to recent data released by the Bureau of Infrastructure and Transport Research Economics (BITRE), Perth welcomed over 269,000 domestic passengers in August – despite Western Australia implementing some of the harshest domestic border restrictions in the country.

Brisbane Airport came in at number two, with over 241,000 domestic travellers passing through, while Cairns took home the bronze with 89,000.

Meanwhile, the usual contender for Australia’s busiest airport, Sydney, fell out of the top 10 busiest airports completely in August, after it saw just 26,000 domestic passengers.

It’s not surprising that Perth managed to take home the gold in August, given that Perth accounted for eight of the top 20 most popular domestic flight routes in August, nearly all of which were intrastate flights as Western Australians welcomed the opportunity to explore their own backyard, while much of the east coast remained off limits.

In fact, flights connecting Perth and Broome, Perth and Karratha, and Perth and Port Hedland, came in as the country’s second, third and fourth most popular for the month, beaten only by flights connecting Brisbane and Cairns.


Meanwhile, flights between Perth and Newman became the sixth most popular in August, while those between the WA capital and regional hub Kalgoorlie clinched number eight.

Queenslanders also took the opportunity to explore the Sunshine State in August, while borders to NSW and Victoria remained tightly shut.

While flights connecting Brisbane and Cairns were the country’s most popular, those between Brisbane and Townsville came in at number five.


Brisbane-Mackay flights were Australia’s seventh busiest, while those connecting the Queensland capital to Rockhampton came in at number 10.

For the full year to August 2021, Brisbane has remained Australia’s busiest airport.

It comes after Australian Aviation revealed last month that the Queensland capital had surprisingly taken home the gold medal for the country’s busiest airport throughout the pandemic, surpassing rivals Sydney and Melbourne, with over 7.4 million annual passengers.

Meanwhile, Sydney fell to number two with 7.0 million passengers in the year to August 2021, and Melbourne number three with 6.3 million.

Perth ranked number four with 3.5 million passengers.

The news comes as Sydney Airport reported its September domestic passenger figures, which fell to just 23,000 for the month, down 97.4 per cent since June this year before the east coast’s Delta strain outbreak took hold in Sydney, and later Melbourne.

This number is also down 99.0 per cent from pre-COVID levels, when well over two million domestic passengers were passing through Sydney Airport each month.

Meanwhile, 19,000 international passengers travelled through Sydney, down 98.6 per cent from pre-COVID traffic.

However, Sydney Airport will soon likely see its redemption, and return to the top spot, as NSW prepares to welcome an uncapped number of double-jabbed overseas arrivals from 1 November.

The announcement was made last week by recently appointed NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet.

The new policy appears to be a slight deviation from the national plan announced by Prime Minister Scott Morrison earlier this month, which specified a seven-day period of home quarantine for those returning to Australia.

The number of arrivals that are not yet fully vaccinated, and therefore need to enter 14-day hotel quarantine, will be capped to 210 people per week.

Perrottet also announced that regional travel between Greater Sydney and the rest of regional NSW will be allowed from 1 November.

Earlier this month, Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced that fully vaccinated citizens and residents will be able to leave the country freely and return without hotel quarantine in November.

The new requirements, which were set to kick in once states hit 80 per cent double-dose inoculation, notably specified that those arriving back in the country enter quarantine at home for seven days.

“It’s time to give Australians their lives back,” said Prime Minister Morrison. “Let’s get vaccinated and get on with it.”

Initially, the federal plan will apply to Australian citizens and permanent residents, with skilled migrants and international students coming in the next phase and tourists in the final phase, due for next year.

The federal government has said it will also soon announce a number of quarantine-free travel bubbles in the coming weeks, which will see the country able to welcome tourists for the first time in 18 months.

However, the Prime Minister later suggested that the government would not prioritise the mass return of international tourists until 2022.

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