The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has seen record low passenger numbers at Melbourne and Brisbane airports in the second half of the financial year (FY).

The Brisbane Airport Corporation (BAC) said it achieved record high passenger traffic in the first seven months of the FY, starkly contrasted with an unprecedented overall drop of 24.6 per cent in the last five months of the year.

Of the overall 17.9 million passengers that travelled through Brisbane Airport, only 4.6 million were international travellers, a 25 per cent decrease from the previous FY.

State border closures from March 2020 onwards and resulted in 95 percent drop in domestic passengers by April.

Gert-Jan de Graaff, Brisbane Airport Corporation (BAC) Chief Executive Officer, said, “What was to be an historic and momentous year for Brisbane Airport with the opening of our new runway became a year we will never forget for quite different reasons.

“The impact has been very significant for airports as well as for airlines and the millions of people whose livelihoods are reliant on the services provided by the aviation industry.

“While we are seeing a glimmer of hope with slowly growing schedules and passengers, full recovery to pre-COVID passenger numbers will take many, many years.

“While COVID continues to present much uncertainty in terms of border closures and travel restrictions, there is one thing I am certain of, the resilience of the aviation industry, and the adaptability of our team.

“With the recent opening of our new runway giving us the most efficient runway system in Australia, Brisbane Airport is without a doubt the most important driver and catalyst for the city and state as we move together towards industry and economic recovery.”

Melbourne Airport said its passenger numbers had fallen to the same level they were ten years ago.

Melbourne airport experienced an overall 27.2 per cent drop to passenger volume compared to the previous FY. 

For the month of June, international figures decreased by 98.3 per cent and domestic numbers were down by 93.7 per cent compared to June 2019.

Melbourne Airport said prior to the COVID-19 aviation impacts, the airport was welcoming on average 100,000 passengers and facilitating 670 aircraft movements per day.  

Pre-COVID the airport also experienced its busiest month on record, welcoming more than 3.3 million people overall in December 2019.

Melbourne Airport Chief of Aviation, Shane O’Hare, said the coronavirus health pandemic was the biggest crisis to hit the aviation industry.   

“Australia has had a difficult twelve months. First it was ravaged by bushfires – starting way back in spring for some states, then the COVID-19 health pandemic,” said Mr O’Hare.

“To deal with the impacts to our operation, our response to the pandemic needed to be safe, sensible and sustainable as we continued to support commercial flights and freight movements.

“Now the immediate priority is curtailing the spread of the virus to allow businesses to restart, so the economy can begin to recover and importantly for our business, so people can return to the skies. 

“Victoria has performed strongly as the growth engine of the nation in recent years, and it’s vital that our state’s economy is re-integrated as soon as it is safe.”

Mr O’Hare said Melbourne Airport has a strong liquidity position and was prepared to weather the crisis through very careful management of costs.

“Our business is as well positioned as it can be to face the uncertainty that lies ahead. We anticipated from the outset that the return of travellers will lag the easing of restrictions.

“We’ve taken a very conservative approach to modelling what we think a return to the skies might look like for Melbourne and Victoria. The aborted July restart was disappointing, but not surprising. We will need to learn to adapt to the prospect of further outbreaks.

“Where possible we have continued to work on major projects that will set us up for future success such as the expansion of our International Arrivals Hall to improve the inbound traveller experience, extension of our taxiway network and construction of a new 464-room hotel.

“While we know we will be dealing with a reduced flight schedule for the foreseeable future, we will continue to enable flights 24/7 and hope to see an uplift in domestic flying as the spread of the virus is suppressed in Australia.”

JobKeeper extended to support aviation roles

The Australian Airports Association (AAA) has welcomed the extension of the JobKeeper program to the end of March 2021, saying it will help support thousands of essential aviation positions.

AAA Chief Executive, James Goodwin, said, “Aviation was one of the first sectors to be significantly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and will be one of the last to fully recover.

“The extension of JobKeeper is welcome and will help support close to 4,000 direct and indirect airport jobs.”

“Airport employees are highly trained, so it is essential we retain those important skills and experience within the sector.”

“Airports have been heavily exposed to the fallout from the pandemic.”

Mr Goodwin said that although the JobKeeper extension was good news for urban airports, many regional airports would be ineligible for the supplement because they are operated by local councils.

“The airport sector is disappointed that in revising the eligibility criteria, the Government has missed an opportunity to extend JobKeeper to hundreds of skilled airport workers in regional communities,” Mr Goodwin said. 

“Regional airports are the backbone of many communities, so it is important to ensure they are able to maintain essential services, retain their skilled workforce and contribute to the health of regional economies.”


Brisbane Airport passenger statistics

Passengers FY19 FY20 Year-on-year growth
International arrivals and departures 6,193,332 4,658,603 -24.8%
Domestic-on-carriage 2,859 2,387 -16.5%
Total international passengers * 6,196,191 4,660,990 -24.8%
Domestic arrivals and departures 17,587,600  13,298,324 -24.5%
Total passengers 23,783,791 17,959,314 -24.5%

*Excludes transits and transfers


Melbourne Airport passenger statistics

Passengers FY19 FY20 Year-on-year growth
International 8,212,350 11,441,671 -28.2%
Domestic 19,015,026 25,954,321 -26.7%
Total (ex transits) 27,227,376 37,395,992 -27.2%
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