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Sydney domestic passenger traffic continued to fall in September

written by Hannah Dowling | October 20, 2021

Sydney Airport’s domestic passenger figures continued to fall in September, after entering a freefall in July as half the country was plunged into lockdown.

Just 23,000 domestic passengers passed through Sydney Airport in September, down 97.4 per cent since June this year before the east coast’s Delta strain outbreak took hold in Sydney, and later Melbourne.

At 23,000 domestic passengers, this number is also down 99.0 per cent from pre-COVID levels, when well over 2 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.

Notably, this is the lowest figure for international passengers reported in the last 12 months. The average number of overseas arrivals coming through Sydney Airport per month over the last 12 months has been 43,000.

While this dramatic decrease is due in part to reduced arrival caps amid the current outbreak, the number of international arrivals fell 26.9 per cent between August and September.


This month-on-month drop could suggest some Australians stranded overseas are holding out until 1 November to plan their trip back to Sydney – now that fully vaccinated overseas arrivals will not require an exemption to enter or be required to quarantine.

It comes after Brisbane surprisingly took home the gold medal for the country’s busiest airport throughout the pandemic, surpassing rivals Sydney and Melbourne.

In the 12 months to 30 June 2021, Brisbane saw 7.31 million domestic passenger movements, according to a new report by the Bureau of Infrastructure and Transport Research Economics.

Despite reporting its lowest passenger figures since 1994, the numbers placed Brisbane Airport slightly ahead of Sydney’s 7.26 million passengers and Melbourne’s 5.89 million.

In the previous year, the Queensland capital came in third place, with 13.10 million domestic passenger movements, behind Melbourne with 18.98 million passengers and Sydney with 20.10 million passengers.

The feat was likely achieved as Queensland was able to avoid major COVID-19 outbreaks, while both Sydney and Melbourne faced extended periods of border closures due to the virus.

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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