Easter weekend and school holidays brought the highest travelling numbers in years to Melbourne and Sydney airports, but with workforces below pre-COVID-19 levels, passengers faced major delays. 

It represented the first time Sydney Airport’s domestic terminals have had more than 80,000 passengers since 6 March 2020, and surpassed the previous post-COVID peak of 78,000 domestic passengers on 8 April. 

Melbourne Airport expected the Easter holidays to be the busiest travel period in two years, with 1.4 million travellers expected over the holiday period. On April 8, the airport anticipated 78,000 domestic passengers, which is 107 per cent of an average day in April 2019. 

The aviation industry, which took significant blows over the COVID-19 pandemic, are still working towards rebuilding their workforces efficiently without compromising on safety and security.

Sydney Airport’s staffing levels remain 30 per cent compared to pre-COVID-19 numbers. 

Sydney Airport, CEO, Geoff Culbert, said recruitment for the security contractor, Certis, began recruiting in December, but onboarding employees has taken longer than expected and COVID illnesses are impacting the workforce. 

“We’re working to rebuild our workforce in a really tight job market,” Mr Culbert said.

“We continue to have up to 20 per cent COVID-related staff absences on any given day.”

Labour shortages across security personnel, ground handlers, and airline staff means queuing occurred in the domestic terminals, and passengers were encouraged to arrive two hours prior to the departure of their domestic flights.

The process to train screening staff to an accredited level takes two months, meaning staff who were coming online on 14 April joined the security operator in mid-February. 50 new screening staff are currently undergoing accreditation and will gradually become available for shifts in the coming weeks. 

Mr Culbert said there was “no avoiding the fact that significant queuing may occur over Easter.”

Mr Culbert said Sydney Airport deployed senior executives and staff into their terminals to manage queues and ensure people made their flights.

Melbourne and Sydney airports askedd their customers to be patient and respectful during the holiday period. Lorie Argus, Melbourne Airport’s Chief of Aviation, said travellers needed to plan ahead to avoid arriving at the airport at the last minute.

“Processing times were longer than usual, and we expected that there would be queues for check-in and security.

 “The road network was also busy, and passenger drop-off points and car parks were congested during peak travel times,” Ms Argus said. 

Both airports combined expected over two million passengers to travel over the duration of April. 

We are extremely grateful to passengers for their ongoing patience and also to our airport staff who have been working incredibly hard in really difficult circumstances,” Mr Culbert said.

Travelling advice has been posted online for both Melbourne Airport and Sydney Airport.  

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