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Australian airports brace for a further school holiday rush

written by Adam Thorn | July 9, 2022

Brisbane International Departures (Jen Dainer / BNE)

Australia’s airports expect some of their biggest post-COVID traveller numbers this weekend as school holidays end in Victoria and Queensland and begin in South Australia and Tasmania.

Qantas and Jetstar expect to fly 350,000 people across the country between Friday and Monday, with 438,000 travelling through Sydney on the weekend and Monday.

However, terminals appear to be holding up far better than at Easter.

At Brisbane, the worst affected this weekend, just 7 per cent of flights into and out of the airport were cancelled over the last week.

The airport’s chief executive, Stephen Beckett, said 50,000 passengers are expected to pass through its domestic terminal on Friday alone.

“The airport’s really busy as Queenslanders return from school holidays, and our southern friends head our way as their holidays are just starting,” Beckett said.

“We’re recruiting extra people and putting extra staff on during those peaks, so that’s been serving us well.

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“Turn up 90 minutes before your domestic flights … check-in online, and if you’re travelling with hand luggage, that’s one way to skip the bag drop lines.

“We’re doing our best to get people on their way.”

Virgin Australia said the number of travellers flying during these school holidays was significantly higher than during Easter and more than 2019 levels.

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The airline admitted, however, that it has had to cut some services to minimise the disruption from sickness.

“Sometimes short-term unforeseen adjustments to the schedule are necessary but lead to some disruption, and we sincerely apologise to guests impacted by these events,” said the airline.

“Our crew continue to work hard, including picking up additional duties, to help our guests to their destinations during this busy period.”

The situation appears to be comparing favourably to the previous disruption. A later report revealed domestic flight delays in April were the worst since records began — with almost 40 per cent of arrivals and departures disrupted due to operational chaos during the busy Easter period.

The industry is also grappling with a severe talent shortage caused by COVID retirements and exacerbated by borders opening leading to overseas firms poaching employees.

In June, both Emirates and Sydney Airport made major attempts to woo prospective employees.

“Fifteen thousand jobs were lost at the airport during the pandemic, and even though everyone started recruiting heavily when borders looked like opening, we’ve still got 5,000 roles to fill,” said Sydney Airport CEO Geoff Culbert in June.

“Our security contractor and ground handlers have been advertising jobs since December and have brought 500 staff on board since the start of the year, but they have another 1,200 roles to go, which is incredibly challenging in this market.”

Meanwhile, Emirates held three open days across Australia to recruit cabin crew based in Dubai.

The airline said successful candidates would enjoy a tax-free salary, free accommodation, and excellent medical cover, with average starting pay of nearly 4,000 AUD per month.

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