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Airports gear up for more than 10m holiday peak passengers

written by Jake Nelson | December 22, 2023

Brisbane Airport set up temporary check-in desks to process extra passengers during the 2023-24 holiday season. (Image: Brisbane Airport)

Australia’s big three East Coast airports are collectively expecting around 10.5 million passengers across their respective holiday peak periods.

Sydney has forecast 2.6 million passengers through its terminals over the three weeks from 14 December to 3 January, while Melbourne is expecting more than 4.2 million between 20 December and 29 January, and Brisbane is tipping 3.7 million between 1 December and 28 January.

The forecast for Sydney is almost 500,000 more than last year, which saw a disappointing December with less traffic at Australia’s biggest airport than five other months of the year.

“While it’s great to see many Australians heading away on an overseas holiday, we’re also excited to welcome an influx of overseas visitors who are choosing to enjoy a summer getaway in Sydney,” said Scott Charlton, CEO of Sydney Airport.

“Airline capacity is now back to full strength, or beyond, to many key international destinations including the United States, China, South Korea, Indonesia and Vietnam.


“This is the first Christmas holiday since 2019 that the border with mainland China is open, and demand is strong, with seat capacity back to pre-Covid levels as we head into 2024.”

At Brisbane, airport CEO Gert-Jan de Graaff tipped 22 December to see more than 20,000 international passengers in a single day for the first time since the pandemic, with more than one million international passengers across the entire holiday period. The airport has set up 10 temporary check-in desks to process extra passengers.

“On those days when there were zero passengers in this terminal it was like the world truly was on pause. Today it’s alive with visitors arriving to experience Queensland and Aussies heading off to tick off their bucket lists,” said de Graaff.

“As for when our international capacity will exceed 100% pre-Covid capacity, for Brisbane we see that occurring consistently from November 2024, which will mark a 5-year road back to full recovery.”

Melbourne’s holiday season has been given a boost with the commencement of a new Air India route to Mumbai, said airport CEO Lorie Argus.

“It’s exciting that we will no longer be benchmarking ourselves against pre-pandemic levels in the international market, but instead setting new records,” she said.

“Unlocking a city of more than 21 million people is huge for our Indian community as well as the broader Victorian economy and wouldn’t be possible without the security of open skies agreements.

“Coming out of Covid the Indian market has boomed, with Melbourne Airport welcoming 433,000 Indian residents through the terminals last financial year, which is more than any other Australian airport.”

Airlines have also been preparing for the Christmas surge, with Qantas earlier this month announcing it was bolstering its reserve capacity across mainline, QantasLink and Jetstar services.

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