Nearly a year and a half into the travel downturn, the number of international flight movements in Australia remains at near-record lows. This time last year, Australia saw around 300 international flights per day. The flight numbers are now down about 25% on that. Two years ago, Australia saw over 700 daily international commercial flights.
International flights in Australia hit near-record low levels
According to RadarBox.com data, Australia hosted a daily average of 231 international flight movements across its airports between July 9 and July 16. In the equivalent period last year, the average daily number was 302. In the same week in 2019, the average daily number was 728.
The current flight numbers are at near-record lows. Between mid-March and mid-April, average daily international flight movements dipped below 200.
Tough border restrictions and limits on how many people can arrive into Australia each week have resulted in airlines slashing their international flights to Australia. Aside from flights to New Zealand and some repatriation services, Australia’s national airline, Qantas, has halted its international passenger services.
Capacity is now provided by the big three Gulf airlines, the United States-based carriers, Air New Zealand, and stalwart Asian airlines like Singapore Airlines, Cathay Pacific, Japan Airlines, Garuda Indonesia, and Thai Airways.
Tighter passenger limits see scheduled flights arrive without passengers
The situation is unlikely to improve any time soon with the number of passengers allowed to land in Australia further reduced. This week, the Australian Government slashed the number of passengers allowed to arrive in Australia on regularly scheduled flights to just 3,035 per week. Normally Australia’s busiest international airport, Sydney (SYD), was allowed to let in just 237 international arrivals on Wednesday.
“Because of the particular virulency of the Delta strain, it is believed that is a prudent action while we remain in this suppression phase of the virus,” Australia’s PM Scott Morrison said last week when announcing the cuts.
According to Latika Bourke in The Sydney Morning Herald, six scheduled international flights arrived in Sydney on Wednesday without passengers. A further three planes flew in between 10 and 12 passengers each.
American Airlines continues to fly between LAX and Sydney using a Boeing 787-9. The airline says it will operate 20 empty flights to Australia over the next two months. To help clear the passenger backlog, American Airlines is not accepting any new bookings on this route until January.
Sydney will now take 1505 passengers per week. Melbourne (MEL) and Brisbane (BNE) 500 passengers will take each. Adelaide (ADL) and Perth (PER) will each accept 265 passengers per week.
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A hostile environment for international airlines in Australia
Allowing for adjustments to match daily flight arrivals, a typical international flight into Sydney will now fly in around two dozen passengers. Flights into Melbourne will arrive with about half that number. Flights into the remaining three entry ports will now normally carry between half a dozen and one dozen passengers. Authorities will incrementally adjust passenger numbers to allow for quarantine bed availability in the arrival city.
China Southern’s weekly A380 service between Guangzhou (CAN) and Melbourne flew in 14 passengers on Wednesday morning. In this environment, Emirates has indicated it plans to resume A380 services to Sydney and Melbourne later this year.
A local airline lobby group, the Board of Airline Representatives of Australia (BARA), this week said those airlines still serving Australia now had to bump booked passengers to accommodate the new limits. That’s bad news for the tens of thousands of Australians still stranded overseas. BARA also indicates many member airlines are reviewing the schedules and are likely to trim their Australian schedules further.
The Australian Government currently targets mid-2022 as a tentative border re-opening date. Until then, international flight numbers are likely to remain low, and most people needing to travel to Australia out of luck,