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Melbourne beats pre-COVID international levels as Aircalin returns

written by Jake Nelson | December 11, 2023

Aircalin’s first flight from Noumea since COVID-19 arrives in Melbourne. (Image: Melbourne Airport)

Melbourne Airport has become, as it forecast last month, the first Australian airport to exceed its pre-pandemic international capacity.

More than 1.31 million international seats will be available to and from Melbourne this month, which represents 101 per cent of the 1.29 million seats available in December 2019. The news comes as Aircalin resumes services between Melbourne and New Caledonia after more than three years.

“COVID tested the fabric of every business and it’s a credit to the team here that two years after the Australian border re-opened, we are the nation’s first airport to exceed pre-pandemic international capacity,” said Melbourne Airport CEO Lorie Argus.

“This result was only made possible because of our close partnership with the Victorian government, and I’d like to thank them for the support they’ve provided to attract more airlines and aviation activity to Melbourne.”

This month also marked the first Aircalin services between Melbourne and Noumea since the pandemic, with flight SB110 touching down in Melbourne at 12:13pm on 8 December aboard the A320neo F-OTIB before returning to Noumea as SB111 at 2:10pm.


“The return of Aircalin means we are back to our pre-pandemic level of 36 international airlines flying to Melbourne Airport, and we look forward to adding to that number in the not-too-distant future,” said Argus.

“There is a huge demand for flights to tropical holiday destinations and given New Caledonia’s proximity, we expect these services will be very popular with Victorians.”

According to Argus, 10 per cent of Melbourne Airport’s current international capacity is being operated by new airlines or new routes.

“We know cost of living pressures are being felt by our passengers and the broader increase in capacity across our international network will assist in putting downward pressure on airfares,” she said.

“There is still latent demand in the market, and we believe a liberalising of the Bilateral Air Service Agreements with a move towards open skies policies would give airlines the certainty to expand operations into Melbourne.”

Airservices figures for November noted that Australia’s international traffic as a whole was at 98 per cent of pre-pandemic levels, well ahead of the ATC body’s forecasts.

“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 in its Australian Aviation Network Overview report for November 2023.

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