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Sydney CEO says ‘perfect storm’ to blame for queues

written by Adam Thorn | April 8, 2022

Long lines form at Sydney Airport on Friday. (@jasminchill)

Sydney Airport’s chief executive has blamed a “perfect storm” of COVID isolation, holiday demand and rusty travellers for causing long queues at the domestic terminal today.

“We would like to apologise to passengers who are being inconvenienced and would like to thank people who are getting to the airport early, wearing their masks and making sure they are prepared for their check-in and security processes,” said Geoff Culbert.

“Traffic numbers are picking up, travellers are inexperienced after two years of not travelling, and the close contact rules are making it hard to fill shifts and staff the airport.

“We encourage everyone to get to the airport early and we ask everyone to be patient as the industry gets back on its feet.”

Angry travellers, however, have taken to social media to post photos and videos of the travel disruption, with many blaming the airport management for failing to anticipate the upcoming problem.

“Somehow @SydneyAirport has yet again failed to anticipate school holidays, with some security processing lanes still closed and queues to the door in both terminals,” said Twitter user Jasmin CHill.
“You’re blaming customers for being inexperienced?” said @esesesse. “What does this mean?”

Brisbane Airport is also expecting its busiest day for domestic travel in two years, with nearly 52,000 people flying within Australia.

It follows calls from the Australian Airports Association for passengers to arrive in good time for their flights and maintain respectful behaviour.


“There may be different processes in place since the pandemic began including different security screening and check-in procedures as well as state health requirements,” said the organisation’s chief executive, James Goodwin.

“People are reminded that they should not travel if they are unwell and government mandates to wear facemasks in the terminal and on the aircraft are still in place.

“As we all get used to travelling again it’s also important any frustrations are not taken out on airport staff who are working harder than ever to assist passengers.”

The AAA said there was a “noticeable increase” in reports of bad behaviour and frustrations spilled over during COVID.

On Thursday, Australian Aviation reported how 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 have come through Gold Coast Airport on Friday 1 April, making it the busiest day of the year and the best since mid-March 2020.

Sydney, Melbourne, Perth, Brisbane and Adelaide are still a long way off from returning to similar passenger or flight levels in total, with more usual reliance on international flying.



Comments (6)

  • hsfg


    All flights are booked in advanced as are staff rosters. So shouldn’t management have known how many passengers would be coming and how many staff were on? Where is the management accountability?

    And what does the claim about “rusty” and “inexperienced” travellers mean? Does it mean if you’re a experienced traveller you know how to cut the queue?

    • Himeno


      The airport wouldn’t necessarily know how many people are booked on flights, but they would know how many flights are scheduled and what type of aircraft are planned, and thus be able to work out the max amount of people who could be booked at a given time.

      If I knew there were flights planned capable of transporting 10,000 people in a given hour, and knew that travel demand was picking up, along with timing of school holidays and easter, it would be reasonable to assume at *least* 8,000 people passing through in that hour and plan staffing levels accordingly.

  • Chris Weavers


    Alan Joyce might been too busy snoozing his share holders, rather than taking care of his customers for a bit too long

  • Wayne Gobert


    Good to know that having only one security point open played no role on this! Seriously?

  • NJP


    I flew out of Sydney International on Friday night. None of the digital screens were being utilised to clearly identity which lanes were for pre-departure document checks versus actual check-in;

    “Aisle E for document checks”, “Aisle F for bag drop” on handwritten signs stuck to the queue bollards showed a lack of planning and foresight.

    There were plenty of unprepared pax without PCR results, documents, insurance etc. that’s 100% on the pax to be organised, not staff fault.

    Customer service from the ground staff was up to its usual standards and they shouldn’t be blamed for pax behaviour.

  • Td


    There is no excuse for the dismal array of excuses. If one was paying hundreds or thousands of dollars for a service one would expect it all the way until off airport grounds at the destination. The fare covers it all so it comes back to the provider of the fare to ensure it all runs smoothly. The blame game doesn’t cut it.

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