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Gold Coast first major airport to beat pre-COVID traffic

written by Adam Thorn | April 7, 2022

Gold Coast Airport is set to become Australia’s first major airport to fully recover from COVID, with passenger and flight numbers on course to beat pre-pandemic records over Easter.

The business is expecting 24,000 passengers to fly on Easter Monday – more than the all-time record set in the aftermath of the city’s Commonwealth Games in 2018.

Queensland Airports chief executive Chris Mills said, “After a challenging two years, confidence in travel is returning, and the region is seeing the benefits of the leisure market recovery in particular.”

Already, more than 21,000 passengers through Gold Coast Airport on Friday 1 April, making it the busiest day of the year and the best since mid-March 2020.


Data from FlightAware, below, shows that the city is also likely to return to pre-COVID numbers of departures and arrivals imminently.

Sydney, Melbourne, Perth, Brisbane and Adelaide are still a long way off from returning to similar passenger or flight levels.

The news comes after Qantas said its domestic capacity is set to reach 110 per cent of pre-pandemic levels at Easter and data showing overall flight numbers recovering from the omicron surge.

Gold Coast’s news will raise more questions about the federal government’s decision to extend airport slot waivers, which has been criticised by the ACCC.

Australian Aviation revealed last month that airlines will only need to fly 70 per cent of their allocated take-off times to prevent rivals from taking over the service long into 2022.

Click to enlarge: FlightAware data shows the Gold Coast is nearing pre-pandemic levels of travel

The new rules, which have been condemned by entrants Bonza and Rex, will run from 27 March until 29 October this year domestically.

Australia’s slot system attempts to shield airlines from having to unexpectedly cancel flights as well as increasing competition domestically, ensuring no one operator holds a monopoly.

A slot is a literal time slot that allows an airline to take off at a specific airport at a particular time. Pre-COVID, if an airline held a slot, it could keep it to itself, but only if the business used it for 80 per cent of the time.

Those rules were hugely relaxed during COVID as lockdowns and border closures caused hundreds of cancellations, but have now been criticised by both Rex and Bonza as stifling their ability to run services at the most popular times.

The problem is thought to be most endemic at Sydney Airport, which is at near capacity and has an effective monopoly.

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