Domestic border closures significantly dampened the first promising signs of recovery of passenger numbers in December 2020 at Melbourne Airport.
Last month, the Airport welcomed 746,369 passengers – the highest number since the pandemic first hit back in March 2020 supported by the reopening of borders with Queensland, Western Australia and the Northern Territory. However, domestic numbers were still down by more than 66 per cent on December 2019.
While the start of the festive season saw bookings significantly increase to states including Queensland, Western Australia and New South Wales, COVID cases in New South Wales and Victoria impacted demand towards the end of the month as domestic border restrictions were reimposed at short notice.
Melbourne Airport Chief Financial Officer Grant Devonport said that while it was positive to see passenger numbers pick up in the beginning of the month, the impact of border restrictions demonstrates that the recovery is likely to be variable.
“December presented the first real opportunity for Victorians to travel restriction free to anywhere in Australia. It was great to enable connections for people who had been separated for months on end,” said Mr Devonport.
“Travellers were clearly eager to fly and displayed great confidence in the aviation industry’s response to COVID-19. However, as COVID cases emerged in New South Wales and later in Victoria, various border restrictions across the country impacted flights and passenger volumes.
“In total, there were 6,348 domestic flights for the month, up from 1,248 in November. Although the numbers increased significantly, we were still only operating at around 40 per cent of our pre-COVID seat capacity levels.

 “We know these border closures work and we support the objective to keep our community COVID free. However, we need to develop a more consistent response, supported by the now vastly improved testing and contact tracing capability. Continued rolling border closures will crush traveller confidence and will stall Australia’s economic recovery.”

 Passenger figures for December 2020:   

PassengersDecember 2020December 2019Growth (%)*
Total (ex transits)763,9423,322,940-77%
Total (ex transits)763,942

*Monthly percentage growth compared to December 2019

Passenger figures for Financial Year to December 2020/21

PassengersFinancial Year 2020/21 (‘000)Financial Year 2019/20 (‘000)Growth (%)*
Total (ex transits)1,066,31019,309,348-94.5%
Total (ex transits)1,066,310

*percentage growth compared to FY 2019/20