Passenger traffic at Melbourne Airport has dropped by about 38 per cent in just one week, after airlines were forced to slash capacity amid an ongoing surge in COVID-19 cases.
According to Melbourne Airport chief of aviation Lorie Argus, the number of passengers travelling through the airport dropped from about 50,000 people on average per day last week, down to 31,000 on Wednesday.
The drop largely coincides with rising COVID-19 cases, and both Qantas and Virgin revealing they have been forced to cancel flights and consolidate their flight schedules, to account for isolating staff and passengers alike.
Despite the recent drop-off in travel demand, Argus is confident that by Easter, the aviation industry should be able to breathe a sigh of relief, as Australians get back to living – and travelling – as normal.
“People are ready to get on with things and people are starting to learn to live with COVID-19 in their travel plans,” Argus told The Australian Financial Review.
“We’re hopeful that leading up to Easter is, if all states can stay consistent and open, that we will have a lot of pent-up travel demand.”
Despite both Qantas and Virgin announcing that they will cut flight capacity by 30 per cent and 25 per cent, respectively, through to March, Argus stated that passengers haven’t appeared too disrupted by the slimmer flight schedules – largely due to the fact that many passengers are similarly forced to cancel their bookings due to COVID isolation.
“We haven’t seen any [negative] sentiment around disruptions for travellers,” she said.
Argus noted that Melbourne is actively working with airlines to accommodate for schedule changes.
“We understand that they’ve got shortages on the ground and in the air, but we just work as closely as possible with them to make sure we are looking after the passenger.”
Meanwhile, Argus is also pushing for the federal government to drop pre-flight testing requirements for overseas arrivals, stating the practice has “no useful purpose”, and particularly in light of pre-travel testing requirements being largely dropped around the country for domestic travel.
“The federal government should now scrap the requirement for fully vaccinated international passengers to undertake pre-departure tests before flying to Australia,” she said.
“The fear of being stuck overseas because of a positive test result is a major deterrent for many Australians considering an overseas holiday, and it’s clear this requirement now provides no public health benefit and serves no useful purpose.
“Aviation’s recovery depends on passengers having certainty, and it is important that governments provide that at every possible opportunity.”