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Australia marks busiest single day for passenger flights in 4 years

written by Jake Nelson | January 15, 2024

Passengers in the security queue at Sydney’s Terminal 2. (Image: Sydney Airport)

Australian passenger flights have seen their best single day since before the pandemic.

Airservices figures showed 2,645 regular passenger transport (RPT) flights on 22 December, with 1,959 domestic and 686 international flights, the highest daily figure since 26 September 2019. On average, December 2023 saw 3,546 passenger flights per day, 97 per cent of 2019 levels.

The Airservices Australia Network Overview report for December showed a total of 89,929 domestic and 19,988 international flights over the month, translating to 98 per cent and 94 per cent of December 2019 levels respectively.

While international traffic grew 10.5 per cent over November 2023, domestic dropped by 9.8 per cent from the previous month.

“This Christmas holiday period recorded the strongest growth in international travel over the last four years, driven by popular tourism markets as well as China’s strong recovery. At Sydney and Melbourne Airport, international demand has surpassed pre-pandemic levels ahead of domestic recovery,” the report read.

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“The uptick in international traffic was nevertheless offset by a contraction in domestic traffic that reflects the cyclical trend in business travel and general aviation activities leading into the holiday season.

“As of December 2023, the overall number of flights across the Australian aviation network were 97 per cent of pre-pandemic levels, a slight reduction from the previous month.”

Ahead of Christmas, Australia’s three major East Coast airports all anticipated a busy holiday period: Sydney forecasted 2.6 million passengers through its terminals over the three weeks from 14 December to 3 January, while Melbourne predicted more than 4.2 million between 20 December and 29 January, and Brisbane tipped 3.7 million between 1 December and 28 January.

Melbourne Airport has since released its passenger numbers for December, which saw its busiest month post-pandemic as it broke one million international passengers for the first time since 2019.

According to Melbourne Airport CEO Lorie Argus, international travellers were up 35 per cent year-on-year as carriers including Jetstar, Aircalin, Air India, and Asiana launched or resumed services.

“Despite the current cost-of-living pressures, many families are prioritising travel and any extra capacity we can bring to the market increases competition and choice for travellers,” she said.

“These flights also provide local exporters with increased opportunities to send goods into foreign markets, with an average daily international flight worth $154 million to the Victorian economy.

“In 2024 we look forward to bringing more seat capacity to Victoria and opening up new markets to our state.”

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