australian aviation logo

Sydney and Melbourne break 80% pre-COVID international capacity

written by Jake Nelson | April 24, 2023

Rob Finlayson shot this Qantas A330 in Sydney

Sydney and Melbourne airports are both now operating at 80 per cent of pre-COVID international capacity in a new sign the sector’s sluggish recovery could be improving.

Sydney saw 1,086,000 passengers through T1 International in March 2023, representing an 82.7 per cent recovery on March 2019 levels, while Melbourne saw 721,496 international passengers, representing 80 per cent of March 2019.

In total, Sydney notched up its strongest post-COVID performance yet with 3,166,000 domestic and international passengers – an 86.7 per cent recovery on March 2019 – while Melbourne also notched up a post-pandemic record of 2,711,528 total passengers, an almost 88 per cent recovery.

“For the first-time since the Australian border reopened to tourists, international passenger numbers have cracked the 80 per cent recovery mark, with many airlines increasing capacity,” said Sydney Airport CEO Geoff Culbert.

“With China now open for business, and the European and North American summer almost here, we anticipate our international traffic will continue to pick-up in the coming months.”


The ongoing restoration of capacity is likely to put downward pressure on fares, said Melbourne Airport Chief of Aviation Jim Parashos, particularly with the entry of low-cost carriers like Bonza and Vietjet into the market.

“Every extra seat and service is important to help push ticket prices down and keep Australians connected. The Easter long weekend has shown that people still have a real desire to travel, and we expect fares will continue to moderate as more capacity is added to the market,” he said.

“We have been working closely with the airlines and their ground handlers to improve their operational resilience and reliability, and overall we’ve been pleased with how they have performed so far these holidays.”

The news comes as Sydney notches up its fiftieth concurrent airline, low-cost Vietnamese carrier Vietjet – a new high water mark for the airport, which prior to the pandemic had seen a maximum of 48 airlines at any one time.

Over the last 12 months, Sydney Airport has onboarded six new airlines – Batik Air Indonesia, Bamboo Airways, SriLankan Airlines, Thai AirAsia X, T’way Air, and now Vietjet – bringing its total number of airlines above even the 48 it saw pre-pandemic.

“This is an incredible achievement when you consider air travel was almost non-existent through COVID. Attracting airline networks to rebuild capacity to Sydney is key to supporting the recovery of international tourism, business travel, student travel and the broader New South Wales economy,” said Culbert.

You need to be a member to post comments. Become a member today!

You don't have credit card details available. You will be redirected to update payment method page. Click OK to continue.