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Strong winds continue with 170 flights cancelled at Sydney Airport

written by Adam Thorn | July 1, 2023

Qantas and Jetstar aircraft on the tarmac at Sydney Airport. (Image: Qantas)

Strong winds have now caused 170 flights arriving or departing from Sydney Airport to be cancelled, with single runway operations continuing into Saturday morning.

Turbulence on a Hawaiian Airlines flight from Honolulu to the NSW capital even led to three passengers being hospitalised with injuries, including back pain.

The disruption follows Airservices Australia, which oversees air traffic control, switching the country’s biggest airport off parallel runway operations on Friday as winds peaked at 37km an hour.

Sydney operates two parallel runways at 1,037 metres apart that allow two aircraft to be on the final approach simultaneously – but only operating in visual meteorological conditions. Crosswinds, which can affect an aircraft’s flight path, make having two aircraft flying close together dangerous.

On Saturday afternoon, though, cancellations significantly reduced as conditions improved.


The disruption would have brought back memories of troubles at Australian airports last year when COVID-19 isolation and staff shortages led to the worst delays in history.

Airservices, however, denied the closure was a result of a lack of controllers, despite effectively shutting down much of its airspace along Australia’s east coast on Thursday due to what it termed a “short-term” and “unplanned” leave of controllers.

It comes after the airport revealed earlier this month that more than 3 million passengers passed through its terminals in May, representing an 85.7 per cent recovery compared to pre-pandemic May 2019.

More than 1 million passengers travelled through its international terminal, an 83 per cent recovery compared to the same month pre-pandemic, and 1.9 million domestic, an 87.3 per cent recovery rate.

Sydney Airport’s CEO, Geoff Culbert, said his business posted its strongest international traffic numbers since borders closed in March 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,” he said.

Sydney Airport’s problems with delays and cancellations are exacerbated by a lack of take-off and landing slots, with the facility effectively operating at near capacity.

The problem is likely to be eliminated with the opening of the new Western Sydney International, which will begin flying operations in late 2026.

WSI will see up to 10 Jetstar and five Qantas narrow-body aircraft within the first year, operating more than 25,000 flights carrying around four million passengers annually to destinations including Melbourne, Brisbane and the Gold Coast.

Qantas CEO Alan Joyce said he expects WSI to become the group’s sixth-biggest airport within its first year of operation.

“As we take delivery of more aircraft and expand our fleet, we see Western Sydney Airport as a significant growth opportunity for the Group, which will complement our existing operations in the Sydney basin and nationally,” he said.

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