The 2032 Brisbane Olympics – Which Airlines Will Benefit?

The International Olympic Committee awarded the 2032 Olympics to the Queensland capital of Brisbane last week. The third modern Olympic Games awarded to Australia, Brisbane’s win follows a long campaign by the mid-sized capital of 2.3 million people. Already there is talk about the impact it will have on airlines and the broader tourism industry.

Brisbane has won host city rights to the 2032 Olympic Games. Photo: Brisbane Airport Corporation

The big winner is Brisbane Airport

Brisbane Airport (BNE) will be one of the big beneficiaries of the increased passenger and airline traffic the Olympics will bring. SIgnificantly impacted by closed international and local borders, BNE handled just 7.9 million passengers in the 12 months to June 30. The figure is the lowest since 1994.

“This is simply not sustainable,” said Brisbane Airport Corporation CEO Gert-Jan de Graaff last week about the depressed traffic. “It is essential that all levels of government recognize that as other parts of the globe normalize, the highly competitive international aviation sector may well leave Australia behind.”

The Canberra-based Australian Federal Government and Brisbane-based Queensland State Government have 11 years to sort out border and vaccination issues. Plenty of locals think that will be stretching the talents of both. Brisbane Airport has a large and modern international terminal. Separately, a large domestic terminal dates back to Brisbane’s last big party – World Expo 88.

Brisbane Airport will emerge as a big winner from the 2032 Olympics. Photo: Brisbane Airport Corporation

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Virgin Australia welcomes Brisbane’s Olympic Games win

Olympics generally bring a compressed flurry of activity to airports. Charters and VIP planes fly in. Passenger loads on existing flights improve. But the idea that the Olympics are a bonanza for airlines is largely a furphy. There may be a short-term fill-up for airlines on their BNE routes, but Olympics never have a long-lasting positive financial impact on airlines. Nonetheless, Brisbane-based Virgin Australia welcomed the win last week.

“As a proudly Queensland-based airline, I am delighted that the 2032 Olympic and Paralympic Games will be held in our backyard,” said CEO Jayne Hrdlicka. The CEO says past Olympics have shown host cities can expect up to 500,000 additional international visitors over the course of the games, with trailing effects.

While there are plenty of easy-on-the-eye tourist-friendly things to see around the Greater Brisbane region, Brisbane itself has never been a major tourist drawcard. If Virgin Australia is back to international flying by 2032, the Brisbane Olympics will help kick the airline along. In addition to international passengers, the airline will do well flying passengers into BNE from their other Australian ports.

Virgin Australia has welcomed Brisbane’s win and anticipates a tourism boost. Photo: Getty Images

A boost for Qantas’s normally sizeable Brisbane operations?

It is a similar scenario at Qantas. Australia’s biggest airline is Sydney-based but normally has substantial operations out of Brisbane. Until the airline suspended its international services, Qantas had a sizable international network out of the Queensland capital. Eventually, Qantas will restore and even increase those services. Qantas’ oneworld membership will also funnel Olympic passengers onto the airline. The Olympic fillup will be short-term but welcomed at Qantas.

Brisbane Airport handled 23.8 million passengers in the 12 months to June 30, 2019, including 6.2 million international passengers. In those heady days, there were over 100 daily international aircraft movements connecting passengers to 34 international destinations. Before the travel downturn, 29 international airlines flew into BNE. Now, it is down to a handful of airlines flying scaled back services – Qatar Airways, Emirates, Singapore Airlines, Air Niugini, Air New Zealand, China Airlines, and EVA Air have stuck with Brisbane.

Eleven years is many lifetimes in the airline industry. But airlines big and small that fly into Brisbane will hope the 2032 Olympics helps consign 2021 to a distant memory. Whether it makes much difference to the long-term operations of any airline is doubtful.

What do you think? Are Olympic Games a bonanza for airlines or simply a short-term pick-me-up? Post a comment and let us know.