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Sydney domestic recovery lags international for third month

written by Jake Nelson | October 24, 2023

Victor Pody shot these Qantas aircraft at Sydney Airport.

Sydney Airport’s international recovery has outpaced domestic for the third straight month as Chinese numbers continue to grow.

The international terminal saw 1.27 million passengers last month, a 93.1 per cent recovery on September 2019, while the domestic terminals saw 2.10 million passengers, a 91.7 per cent recovery. Total numbers recovered 92.3 per cent, the airport’s strongest post-COVID-19 month yet.

New Zealand and Chinese passengers were the two highest foreign nationalities to use the airport in September, with NZ at 99 per cent and China at 78 per cent of pre-COVID-19 figures. The Chinese recovery is up from 67 per cent in August.

Travellers from South Korea and Vietnam were above pre-pandemic levels, with 48 per cent and 33 per cent growth over September 2019 respectively, though Vietnamese travel may suffer in future months amid reports Bamboo Airways is axing Australian services.

According to CEO Geoff Culbert, the airport is now “within touching distance” of a full recovery.


“Increased capacity from China, boosted by the return of group travel, and a big jump in trans-Tasman travel over the school holiday period helped the airport record its strongest international passenger traffic since the border reopened,” Culbert said.

“Seat supply continues to be the lead indicator of market recovery. Pleasingly, we continue to see strong demand from international markets where capacity has returned to, or is above, pre-Covid levels.

“However, where seat supply is still lagging well behind 2019 levels, market recovery is tracking with seat supply. This includes some key markets like the Middle East, North America, Hong Kong and Taiwan.

“Domestically, we continue to see reduced seat supply across Sydney Airport’s busiest routes, which is reflected in the domestic recovery lagging internationally.”

The surge in international travel is a similar story to Melbourne Airport, whose CEO Lorie Argus has called for more competition from overseas carriers.

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