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Melbourne Airport soars above pre-pandemic cargo levels

written by Jake Nelson | May 27, 2024

Victor Pody shot this DHL 767-300 freighter, G-DHLP, in Melbourne.

Melbourne Airport has claimed the title of Australia’s biggest air freight hub, surpassing pre-pandemic levels.

More than $1.8 billion of locally-made produce was flown internationally from Melbourne in the first three months of 2024, with 44,700 tonnes of local cargo exported, translating to 40.2 per cent of Australia’s total volume of export air freight.

Fresh meat was the top product exported by volume, at 15,649 tonnes, while pharmaceuticals were the most valuable at more than $258.4 million.

According to Melbourne Airport chief of aviation Jim Parashos, the data shows that much of this freight was carried in the holds of passenger planes, emphasising the role the airport plays for industry in the state.

“It underlines the importance of the airport’s curfew-free operations for Victoria, with the average daily international flight worth $154 million to the state economy,” he said.


“Every new airline, route or increase in frequency we can bring to Melbourne Airport represents jobs right around our state because of the extra cargo capacity it enables.

“To ensure Melbourne Airport has sufficient capacity to cater for the state’s growing population and support our key industries, Melbourne Airport submitted a plan for a third runway to the Federal Government in February 2023.”

In terms of passengers, 885,365 international travellers passed through the airport in April 2024, up 14 per cent on last year and representing a 94 per cent recovery on 2019 levels, while domestic passengers continued to grow sluggishly at just three per cent year-on-year.

Melbourne in December became the first Australian airport to exceed pre-pandemic international capacity in a month that saw it break 1 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.

The airport in March set a new monthly record for international travellers at 923,065, fuelled by the arrival of Turkish Airlines, which began its Istanbul service at the beginning of that month.

It has yet to exceed its total pre-pandemic passenger figures, however, with Perth Airport in January becoming Australia’s first major gateway to surpass pre-2019 passenger movements, fuelled primarily by a surge in intrastate travel.

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