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International passenger figures jump 85% in two months

written by Liam McAneny | July 25, 2022

International carriers at Sydney Airport. (Rob Finlayson)

Australia’s international aviation sector continues to see signs of improvement after nearly 1.3 million people travelled internationally in May, jumping 85 per cent in just two months since March.

According to new figures released by the Bureau of Infrastructure and Transport Research Economics (BITRE), international travel figures have continued to improve since the full reopening of Australia’s borders on 21 February.

While numbers remain 59.6 per cent short of the 3.2 million passengers seen in May 2019, the number is still a significant increase from reports produced earlier this year. February’s figures saw roughly 430,000 scheduled international passengers while March saw a rise to just shy of 700,000.

The total percentage of seat utilisation is also nearly back to pre-pandemic levels, with May 2022 seeing a seat utilisation percentage of 74.3 per cent, which is only 4.3 per cent short of the levels seen in May 2019.

This should be taken with a grain of salt, however, as the total number of seats made available on international flights in May 2022 was only 1.75 million, which is a 58 per cent decrease from the seats available in the same month in 2019.


Aside from increased international numbers, total passenger numbers have also been steadily increasing throughout the year. At the end of May 2022 the total passenger traffic for the previous year stood at just over 5 million, an increase of 2 million since the end of February this year.

Domestic flight numbers have increased across this period as well, although the rise has not been as significant as those seen in international numbers. The May period saw 4.66 million passengers travel carried on domestic routes, an increase of about 700,000. The numbers, while positive, are still about 500,000 short of pre-pandemic levels, with 5.13 million passengers travelling in May 2019.

Melbourne to Sydney remains Australia’s busiest air route to no surprise. However, Sydney airport overtook Melbourne Airport to reclaim its pre-pandemic position as the nation’s busiest airport with 1.84 million passengers during May. During the pandemic Melbourne eclipsed Sydney airport, with Melbourne airport seeing more passengers even as recently as March this year.

Singapore Airlines has continued to retain its position as the leader in terms of passenger carriage numbers throughout May, accounting for 16.9 per cent of total passengers. The airline barely beat out Qantas however, which accounted for 16.8 per cent of passengers in the May period. The two airlines were followed at some distance by Emirates with 10.5 per cent.

While Singapore Airlines has retained its position as the premier passenger carrier, the gap between it and its competitors has shrunk since earlier in the year.  The airline’s market share has dropped from 20.5% in February and to 18.9% in March as competitor airlines increase their capacity.

Australia’s designated airlines continue to struggle compared to their pre-pandemic levels, with Qantas Airways, Jetstar, and Virgin accounting for a total of 26.7 per cent of the total passengers in May, down from 33.8 per cent in May 2019 and 29.3 per cent in May 2021.

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Comment (1)

  • Ary P


    Surely SIA aren’t the top airline with the highest proportion of total seats in Australia! Maybe it’s most seats by an international carrier?

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