Melbourne Airport has revealed that its monthly international passengers have increased by just 3 per cent compared to pre-COVID levels, even as foreign airlines have expanded capacity.
Business in October reached 65 percent of international traffic over the same month in 2019, compared to a relative 62 percent in September.
The new data supports industry-wide figures released by the Department for Transport, which suggest Australia’s international recovery is stalling, although domestically is recovering to near-normal levels.
Despite the sluggish recovery, Melbourne saw a total of more passengers – 2,570,990 – pass through its four terminals in October than at any time since COVID restrictions began nearly three years ago.
“The figure represents 78 percent of the 3,305,457 passengers registered in October 2019, with international travelers accounting for 65 percent of pre-pandemic levels and domestic travel accounting for 83 percent,” the airport said in a statement.
“October passenger numbers were boosted by major events in Melbourne including the T20 Cricket World Cup and Spring Racing Carnival.”
Chief Executive Lorie Argus said October was a significant month for international capacity expansions.
“We now have thousands more seats and additional cargo capacity after Qatar Airways added a second daily flight from Melbourne to Doha and United Airlines resumed flights to Los Angeles while increasing its San Francisco service to daily,” she said.
“This is the result of hard work by our aviation team and the state government in lobbying for airlines to fly their planes to Melbourne and not elsewhere.
“The 151st IATA Slots Conference, taking place this week at the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre, provides us with an opportunity to personally speak up for Victoria with hundreds of airline executives.
“A direct connection to our federal state is not only of crucial importance for our exporters, but also for tourism and education companies that depend on good accessibility.
“We are also pleased to have signed a three-year pricing agreement with our major airlines specifically designed to support the aviation sector’s post-pandemic recovery.”
The news from Melbourne about the slowing recovery of international aviation appears to reinforce predictions by Brisbane Airport CEO Gert-Jan de Graaff that total travel volumes will not exceed 2019 levels before 2025.
“Airlines need time to restart – some countries are still closed or have restrictions – and we need to rebuild passenger confidence to get back on flights,” he said. “However, I am confident that from 2025 onwards we will see volumes exceeding 2019 levels.
“International travel has also grown at a slower rate than domestic travel. We are currently back to around 50 percent of pre-COVID levels.”