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Easter COVID delays worst since aviation records began

written by Adam Thorn | May 20, 2022

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

Airline travel delays in April were the worst since records began – with almost 40 per cent of arrivals and departures not on time.

The results were poor among all major airlines, though across the entire month, Qantas – Australia’s only premium airline – slipped behind its cheaper rivals with on-time arrivals slumping to just 59 per cent, compared to Rex’s 74 per cent and Virgin’s 66 per cent.

Of the routes measured, the worst were Launceston-Melbourne, which dropped to just 37 per cent on-time arrivals, and Melbourne Perth, which dipped to 32.4 per cent on-time departures. The overall cancellation rate crept up to 4 per cent.

The new release from the Bureau of Infrastructure and Transport Research Economics (BITRE), reads, “For April 2022, on-time performance over all routes operated by participating airlines (Jetstar, Qantas, QantasLink, Rex Airlines, Virgin Australia and Virgin Australia Regional Airlines) averaged 63.6 per cent for on-time arrivals and 62.2 per cent for on-time departures.

“These are the worst on-time performance figures recorded since recording commenced in November 2003. This month’s figures were impacted by weather-related events, congestion (highest number of sectors flown since the commencement of COVID-19) and other COVID-19 related issues.


“The equivalent figures for April 2021 were 85.2 per cent for on-time arrivals, 83.7 per cent for on-time departures and 2.9 per cent for cancellations.

“QantasLink recorded the highest percentage of cancellations (at 5.4 per cent) during the month, followed by Qantas (at 5.0 per cent), Jetstar (at 4.9 per cent), Virgin Australia Regional Airlines (at 3.2 per cent), Virgin Australia (at 3.1 per cent) and Rex Airlines (at 1.1 per cent).”

The delays during the holidays attracted huge national media attention, with airports around the country seeing enormous snaking lines at check-in, bag drop and security.

At the same time, Sydney Airport was forced to cancel dozens of flights in the days leading up to Easter.

The chaos saw passengers grow increasingly frustrated, due to missed and cancelled flights and additional stress after two years without the ability to travel.

Both Sydney Airport and Qantas blamed the extensive wait times, in part, on travellers themselves, however, many passengers said that there was a visible staffing issue that saw security lanes and check-in desks closed and non-operational.

As reports first emerged of holiday-induced chaos in Sydney, Qantas CEO Alan Joyce blamed delays on “not match fit” travellers.

“I went through the airports on Wednesday and people forget they need to take out their laptops, they have to take out their aerosols … so that is taking longer to get through the [security] queue,” he said.

He added COVID close-contact rules were causing “high level of absenteeism” of up to 18 per cent, however NSW Health later eased close contact rules for aviation workers, allowing them to return to work with a mask if they show no symptoms and test negative to COVID, even if someone in their household has tested positive.

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