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Melbourne breaks post-COVID record again as China flights surge

written by Jake Nelson | February 12, 2024

Victor Pody shot this Sichuan Airlines A350-900 in Melbourne.

Melbourne Airport has broken post-pandemic passenger records for the second month in a row.

January marked one year since the resumption of flights between mainland China and Melbourne and saw more than 3,136,944 people pass through the airport, up 16 per cent on January last year. More than six million people have transited Melbourne Airport over the December–January peak.

The airport saw 1,086,084 passengers in January this year, up 32 per cent year-on-year, plus 2,050,089 domestic passengers, up 8.5 per cent. In total, almost 21 million passengers have used Melbourne Airport this financial year, up 17 per cent on the same time last year.

Chinese carriers have continued to boost their services in Melbourne, with Xiamen Airlines increasing capacity by 61 per cent and Sichuan Airlines by 43 per cent over pre-pandemic levels.

Jim Parashos, the airport’s chief of aviation, said Victorian produce exports to China have also picked up ahead of the Lunar New Year. China is Victoria’s most valuable export market, at around $4.7 billion.


“While Chinese carriers transport hundreds of thousands of passengers through Melbourne Airport each year, they’re also carrying Victorian produce back to China in the bellies of planes,” he said.

“One of our airlines has increased the amount of lobster it is carrying this week by 233 per cent, while salmon has jumped from the usual 16 tonnes to 25 tonnes.

“Other products such as abalone, cherries and nectarines – all grown right here in Victoria – will be on Chinese tables as they celebrate Lunar New Year this year.”

This is the second consecutive record month for Melbourne Airport after December 2023 saw it break one million monthly international passengers for the first time since the pandemic, with the airport also setting a new all-time monthly record for international flights at 4,976.

Following Asiana’s commencement of services between Melbourne and Seoul on Boxing Day, Melbourne Airport now also has the largest number of international carriers in its history, with a total of 38.

“This is testament to the efforts of teams at both Melbourne Airport and the Victorian State Government, who have worked in partnership to secure capacity as airlines brought aircraft back into service,” said Parashos.

“This benefits passengers by helping to put downward pressure on airfares, and gives exporters more options when sending high value, time critical goods into foreign markets.

“Because of this, an average daily international flight is worth $154 million a year to the Victorian economy.”

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