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International flights now 90% full as airlines slow to return

written by Adam Thorn | November 24, 2022

Victor Pody shot this Emirates A380-842 A6-EVK wearing special ‘journey to the future’ livery.

International flights are now jam-packed with 90 per cent of seats full in what is likely to be one of the highest occupancy rates in history.

However, the high figures are largely a result of airlines being slow to return in numbers to Australia, with capacity — or seats for sale— down 45 per cent on pre-pandemic numbers.

New BITRE figures released by the Department of Transport continue to show international aviation’s sluggish bounce back from the pandemic.

In September, 2,095,503 passengers travelled through the country — 40 per cent lower than the 3,496,774 passengers registered in the same month in 2019. The numbers are though 5 per cent better relatively than August.

There were 2,398,759 seats for sale last month, but that was well down on the 4,307,590 available in 2019.


The new report read, “In terms of passenger carriage, Qantas had the largest share of the market in September 2022 with 17.6 per cent of the total followed by Singapore Airlines with 12.3 per cent, Jetstar with 11.9 per cent, Air New Zealand with 9.7 per cent and Emirates with 8.0 per cent.

“The Qantas group — Qantas Airways and Jetstar — accounted for 29.5 per cent of total passenger carriage in September 2022. The group’s share was 0 per cent in September 2021 and 26.4 per cent in September 2019.

“Australian designated airlines, Qantas Airways, Jetstar and Virgin Australia (2.3 per cent) accounted for 31.8 per cent of total passenger carriage in September 2022. Their share was 0.0 per cent in September 2021 and 32.9 per cent in September 2019.”

It comes despite domestic airlines and airports gearing up to return to pre-pandemic travel numbers at Christmas.

Earlier this month, Australian Aviation reported how Melbourne Airport’s monthly international passengers crept up by just 3 per cent compared to pre-pandemic. The business in October reached 65 per cent of international traffic versus the same month in 2019, compared to being at 62 per cent relatively in September.

The news from Melbourne of international aviation’s slower recovery appears to back up predictions from Brisbane Airport CEO Gert-Jan de Graaff that total travel volumes won’t surpass 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.”

Adelaide Airport’s MD Brenton Cox has suggested Novak Djokovic’s treatment by Australian authorities earlier this year was one factor in putting tourists off visiting the country.

He earlier argued federal, and not state, governments should have decided whether or not to shut state borders.

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Comment (1)

  • teiemka


    In September, 2,095,503 passengers travelled through the country – 40 per cent lower than the 3,496,774 passengers registered in the same month in 2019.

    I don’t think Chinese visitors are too fussed about Djokovic’s treatment, but rather their continuing restrictive internal COVID protocols, unavailability of flights, and well some unnecessary Australian chest beating on the undercard of the main fight.

    You’ll find most of that delta in the numbers compared to 2019 is the aggregate of Chinese carriers and CX deliveries of self loading freight.

    Yields are sky high for airlines at the moment due to limited capacity, I was quoted a price 3 times what I usually pay, and no surprise that I won’t be adding to the 2022 visitor numbers.

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