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International traffic blows past Airservices forecasts

written by Jake Nelson | December 7, 2023

A Virgin Australia 737-800 taxis past Melbourne’s international terminal. (Image: Jake Nelson)

Australian aviation network traffic has hit 98 per cent of pre-COVID levels as international travel continues to exceed expectations.

In its Australian Aviation Network Overview report for November 2023, Airservices Australia said international traffic is accelerating ahead of its forecasts, a notable difference from the early stages of the pandemic recovery which were mainly fuelled by the domestic rebound.

While domestic traffic was at 103 per cent of 2019 levels in November, compared to 92 per cent for international, this represents a plateau in the domestic recovery, which has generally hovered around forecast levels for the past few months; by contrast, international traffic is well ahead of Airservices’ predictions.

“This recent development reflects rapid traffic recovery from China and expansion of services from international airlines across the Asia Pacific region, the Middle East and United States,” the air traffic control body said.

“International capacity at Sydney and Melbourne Airports is close to pre-pandemic levels, and strong demand is expected to continue into the Christmas holiday period. In contrast, the rate of domestic traffic growth is slowing, constrained by ongoing workforce and supply chain challenges and unpredictable demand outlook due to cost-of-living pressures.


“While industry performance has stabilised over recent months, delays and cancellation rates are still notably higher than pre-pandemic levels.”

According to Airservices figures, the international recovery is being led by China, the United States and Other Asia markets, which were respectively up 28 per cent, 18 per cent and 14 per cent in November compared to the previous month.

“International demand has been bolstered by strong inbound travel for visiting family and relatives, and visa changes to boost tourism from markets such as India, China, Malaysia and Vietnam,” the report read.

Sydney Airport last month reported a strong international recovery, doubling its international traffic in a year, while Melbourne predicted it would be the first Australian airport to exceed its pre-COVID international traffic.

“Sydney and Melbourne Airports are reaching pre-pandemic level of international activities. Strong international demand is expected to continue into the Christmas holiday period,” Airservices said.

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