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Chinese market powers Sydney’s continued international recovery

written by Jake Nelson | June 21, 2023

Seth Jaworski shot this picture of Sydney Airport from above

China is fuelling a resurgent international market at Sydney Airport, with May 2023 seeing an 83.1 per cent recovery rate compared to May 2019.

Chinese passengers have recovered to 54 per cent of pre-pandemic levels in May, compared to only 22 per cent at the start of the year. Sydney’s international terminal saw 1,076,000 passengers over the month, while domestic traffic grew 5.5 per cent year-on-year to 1,934,000, or 87.3 per cent of May 2019.

In total, 3,010,000 passengers passed through the airport in May, an 85.7 per cent recovery.

According to Sydney Airport CEO Geoff Culbert, these are Sydney’s strongest international traffic numbers since the borders closed in 2020.

“In the first five months of this year, we’ve had 5.5 million international passengers through Sydney Airport, which is almost three times the number we saw in the same period in 2022,” Culbert said.


“The recovery of the China market continues to impress, with passenger numbers on the mainland route increasing seven-fold since the start of the year. Capacity in this market will continue to grow, with a total of seven airlines flying 48 return services per week between mainland China and Sydney in July.

“This is one of the strongest China recoveries of any international airport globally, which provides a critical boost to Australia’s tourism industry, and the economy more broadly.”

Sydney’s passenger figures are a further sign of Australia’s recovering international market, with Melbourne Airport last month also seeing a doubling of international flights year-on-year. Last month, Melbourne serviced 3,784 international flights, compared with 1,780 in May 2022, carrying 744,868 passengers – 87.6 per cent of the 2019 figure and 103 per cent of May 2022.

Culbert late last year called on airlines to operate more international flights to Australia after numbers in Sydney were down 30 per cent on pre-pandemic levels in 2022. Since then, international capacity has returned to the airport, which in March welcomed Vietnamese low-cost carrier Vietjet as its fiftieth concurrent airline – a new watermark in Sydney Airport’s history.

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