Domestic aviation appears to be making a second attempt to bring domestic passenger numbers back to pre-COVID levels over Christmas – despite major delays in the last attempt earlier this year.
Brisbane Airport has revealed that the busiest times at its domestic terminal during the holidays will likely be 100% of passengers in 2019, with other major airports almost certainly making similar predictions.
It comes after the ACCC revealed in September how frightened airlines were significantly reducing capacity to mitigate delays and cancellations caused by staff shortages and illness. However, the news also follows a significant increase in performance from both airlines and airports, suggesting they can now handle an increased workload.
On Tuesday, Brisbane said it expects 55,000 people to pass through its domestic terminal on peak travel days, along with 14,000 international passengers.
So far, the busiest day at the airport since 2019 was in September this year, with 12,300 international travellers.
In June, the domestic industry peaked at 97 percent ahead of COVID numbers, but it came alongside all-time records for delays broken that month and in April and July.
Since then, the industry has hired thousands of additional staff and cut flights to improve the passenger experience.
Qantas alone said it would invest $200 million over the remainder of the fiscal year to hire additional staff, train new recruits and pay overtime at contact centers.
It said its new “conservative” approach to planning meant 20 per cent of available places would be kept in reserve.
Alan Joyce, CEO of Qantas Group, said: “It is clear that maintaining our pre-COVID levels of service requires many more operational buffers than it used to, especially when you factor in the sickness spikes and supply chain delays that the entire industry is grappling with .
“This means we have more crew and more aircraft on standby and will need to adjust our flight plan to accommodate this until we are certain additional support is no longer needed.”
That decision appeared to be paying off in October, when Flying Kangaroo made a remarkable turnaround from being the worst airline in the country to being the best.
Brisbane Airport itself reported a “very smooth period” during the state’s recent school holiday, with the maximum wait time to go through security being just 20 minutes.
The organization’s estimates supported an independent analysis by Australian Aviation, which showed Melbourne was coping well with the surge in numbers.
The total number of delays and cancellations is also down to 2019 levels, with on-time arrivals at 69.3 percent and on-time departures at 68.5 percent.