Melbourne Airport has revealed its number of monthly international passengers has crept up by just 3 per cent compared to pre-pandemic despite overseas airlines adding capacity.
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 new data backs up industry-wide figures released by the Department of Transport that suggests Australia’s international recovery is stalling, despite domestic bouncing back to near-normal levels.
However, despite the sluggish recovery, Melbourne saw more passengers overall pass through its four terminals in October — 2,570,990 — than at any time since COVID-19 restrictions began nearly three years ago.
“The figure represents 78 per cent of the 3,305,457 passengers recorded in October 2019, with international travellers at 65 per cent of pre-pandemic levels and domestic travel at 83 per cent,” said the airport in a statement.
“October passenger numbers were bolstered by Melbourne’s major events, including the T20 Cricket World Cup and the Spring Racing Carnival.”
Chief executive Lorie Argus said October was a significant month for international capacity increases.
“We now have thousands more seats and extra cargo capacity after Qatar Airways added a second daily flight from Melbourne to Doha, and United Airlines resumed flights to Los Angeles while increasing its San Francisco service to daily,” she said.
“This is the result of hard work from our aviation team and the state government, who have been making the case for airlines to fly their planes to Melbourne rather than anywhere else.
“The 151st IATA slots conference being held this week at the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre provides the opportunity for us to make the case for Victoria to hundreds of airline executives in person.
“Having direct connections to our state is vital not just for our exporters, but also for businesses in tourism and education that rely on ease of access.
“We’re also pleased to have been able to sign a pricing agreement with our major airlines for the next three years that is uniquely targeted to support the post-pandemic recovery of the aviation sector.”
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.”