australian aviation logo

Melbourne Airport’s domestic recovery slips despite record numbers

written by Adam Thorn | August 14, 2023

Victor Pody shot this picture of Melbourne’s air traffic control towers

Domestic passenger traffic at Melbourne Airport slipped back to 90 per cent of pre-pandemic performance in July, presenting yet more evidence of the sector’s stagnating recovery.

However, in a significant moment, international travel rose to 92 per cent of 2019 figures, buoyed by the arrival of travellers from China, India and the UK.

It follows a similar situation in Sydney last month, which led to its CEO telling big airlines to use their take-off slots or gift them to smaller carriers to increase competition.

The new data from Victoria’s biggest airport shows it processed two million domestic passengers for the first time post-pandemic in July, but its 90 per cent monthly recovery rate is a significant slip from the 94 per cent recorded in June.

International numbers, though surpassed 900,000.


Melbourne Airport CEO Lorie Argus said more international competition would increase options for Australian travellers and exporters.

“We believe there is significant potential for improved access to Australia, and Melbourne in particular, through Asia-Pacific and the Middle East,” she said.

“Liberalising the Bilateral Air Service Agreements process through an open skies approach would significantly improve Australia’s connectivity with the world.

“The current framework adopts a ‘just-in-time’ approach to capacity decisions but given the long lead times required to establish new services, having negotiations undertaken well in advance would provide airlines with certainty and help improve viability.

“This would improve outcomes for passengers by encouraging international airlines to actively compete in our market to provide the best price, enhanced service and improved reliability for customers.”

The data reinforced a trend that has seen the domestic recovery slow as international travel bounces back quicker than expected, following more carriers returning flights and capacity.

The cost of living crisis, alongside the difficulty of new entrants Bonaz and Rex to secure airport take-off slots, has been blamed.

Melbourne’s numbers come after Sydney revealed last month that its domestic passenger numbers grew 1.2 per cent year-on-year in June.

Overall, its domestic recovery is at just 90.6 per cent of the numbers seen pre-pandemic.

CEO Geoff Culbert blamed steep airfares and “high cancellation rates on popular domestic routes” for suppressing passenger demand.

“In the 12 months to June, passenger numbers on the Sydney to Melbourne route were just 81 per cent recovered compared to pre-pandemic levels, while numbers between Sydney and Canberra were only 64 per cent recovered,” he said.

“It will be interesting to see if this is a long-term trend. If incumbent airlines have decided to fly less between key domestic markets, then they should relinquish slots to domestic and international carriers who want to operate out of Sydney Airport and provide more choice for customers.”

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.