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International recovery stalls in August despite full aircraft

written by Adam Thorn | October 26, 2022

A Qantas 787-9, VH-ZNK, at Dallas Fort Worth Airport

Australia’s international aviation recovery stalled in August, with passenger numbers stubbornly remaining 45 per cent down on pre-pandemic 2019.

However, there was positive news as aircraft remained at near-record levels of being full. So-called ‘seat utilisation’ was at 83 per cent – a similar level as 2019 and only 3 per cent lower than in July.

It comes despite domestic aviation returning to near-normal numbers, highlighting how the wider industry is struggling to balance resourcing against two very different recoveries.

New BITRE data from the Department of Transport shows that passenger traffic in August was at 1.970 million compared to 3.569 million in August 2019.

This compares to 2.057 million in July 2022 vs 3.736 million in the equivalent month in 2019. The difference between the two months this year, vs 2019, registered at just 0.1 per cent.


The data mirrors a recent release from Melbourne Airport and appears to back up predictions from Brisbane Airport CEO Gert-Jan de Graaff that total travel volumes won’t surpass to 2019 levels until 2025.

“Airlines need time to restart — some countries are still closed or have restrictions — and we need to rebuild the confidence of passengers to get on flights again,” he said. “However, I am confident that we will see, from 2025 onwards, volumes that will exceed 2019 levels.

“International travel has also picked up at a slower pace than domestic travel. Currently, we’re back to around 50 per cent of pre-COVID levels.”

He added that while corporate travel is currently down, he believes it, too, will bounce back strongly in 2023.

“What we are seeing now is that people really want to travel,” said de Graaff.

“They want to come to Australia and visit us for business and leisure. A lot of the corporates haven’t seen their customers and colleagues for the last two and a half years, and they’re really keen to get on flights again, develop their businesses and seek new opportunities.”

Despite lower overall numbers, Australia’s three major airline groups are predicting a strong economic recovery.

On Sunday, Virgin declared it had returned to real profitability for the first time in a decade, which it put down to by removing $300 million worth of costs and re-contracting more than 450 corporate accounts.

Qantas this month also announced it had completed a turnaround that will see it target an underlying profit before tax of up to $1.3 billion in the first half of the current financial year.

Finally, Rex has said its 737 flights hit profitability in September for the first time since resuming full operations in February this year.

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Comments (3)

  • Jay Dee


    The fact that Business class fares have doubled mean that people such as myself and my wife, who normally travel to Europe with Qatar once or twice a year, are holding off. I realise the reasons for increases but also see there is ramoant gouging among airlines.
    For health reasons, we cannot fly in economy or premium economy on long-haul flights. But the difference between $17k and $30k is prohibitive.

    • Craithie


      Consider yourself lucky to have the funds to travel J Class, & to fly as often as you do.

      Not too many others’ have.
      Most people are living ‘hand to mouth’, & are trying to eke out just an existence in these hard times’.

  • Kevin Allan Ford


    If living in NZ is anything to go by, the passenger are there just not the aircraft and the crew to fly them, on top of that its three time more expensive than 3 years ago.

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