Key points

  •  Melbourne Airport records lowest international passenger figure since June 2010
  •  Lowest domestic number since February 2004
  •  March passenger numbers down by -44% compared to March 2019
  •  End of March momentum down approximately -97%
  •  7.6 million travelling in Q1 down by -17.5% on Q1 2019

Melbourne Airport’s plummeting passenger numbers for March are a preview to the true impact COVID-19 is having on the airport’s operation. In March 2020 total traveller numbers were down by -44 per cent compared to the same time last year.

However, the March numbers mask to full extent of COVID-19, with progressive travel restrictions coming into effect through the course of the month. The trend for the end of March suggests April is on a trajectory for approximately -97 per cent compared to the same time last year.

International travel was hit the hardest down by -47 per cent compared to numbers in March 2019, down to around 474,000 people – the lowest international traveller figure on record since June 2010.

Last month, domestic passenger volumes decreased by -43 per cent compared to the same time last year and overall first quarter numbers fell by -16.7 per cent compared to January-March 2019.

Melbourne Airport CEO Lyell Strambi said the global COVID-19 health pandemic was the worst crisis to hit the airport in 30 years.

“The devastation that COVID-19 is having on the entire aviation industry is unparalleled. Tourism, particularly air travel, was one of the first sectors hit and we expect it to be one of the last industries to emerge from restrictions,” said Mr Strambi.

“Our latest passenger numbers paint a picture of  just how lean the airport is running, in March traveller numbers were down by -44 per cent on the previous month and by the end of the month numbers were down by 95 per cent on last year.  

“The international traveller market was completely devastated as we recorded the worst year-on-year international growth in the airport’s history, surpassing all other shocks to date including 9/11 and SARS.

“The decline in travellers not only affects airlines but airports as well, as airports collect aeronautical fees on a per-passenger basis, so experience the pain that comes with passenger risk. Of course, the loss in passengers is felt many times over, it’s not just one less person flying but also one less person buying a meal or coffee, one less purchasing retail items and one less catching transport.

“The Virgin situation is potentially another seismic shock to domestic aviation in Australia on top of the demand destruction brought about by COVID-19. We know aviation is resilient, but the combination of the health pandemic and the economic crisis is unprecedented. It requires an unprecedented response from our industry together with state and federal governments.

“As we work through the COVID crisis Melbourne Airport will remain open to support essential travel, we will help bring Australians home and we will ensure goods, including medical supplies, can move in and out of Victoria.

“Recovery is going to take some time but we will continue to work closely with all of our stakeholders to ensure we’re ready for the bounce back.”

 Passenger figures for March 2020:

PassengersMarch 2020March 2019Growth (%)*
Total (ex transits)1,730,2583,096,627-44%
Total (ex transits)1,730,258

*Monthly percentage growth compared to March 2019

Passenger figures for Q1 2020:

PassengersJanuary-March 2020January-March 2019Growth (%)*
Total (ex transits)7,642,6409,258,209-17.5%
Total (ex transits)7,642,640

*Monthly percentage growth compared to Q1 2019

 Melbourne Airport has been named Best Airport in Australia/Pacific for 2020, thanks to the feedback of millions of travellers taking part in the world’s largest aviation customer service poll.

 The top gong was awarded to Melbourne by aviation ratings giant Skytrax, recognising the airport’s efforts to improve customer service and facilities.

 Known as the Oscars of the industry, the 2020 World Airport Awards were a little different this year announcing winners online to accommodate the global COVID-19 restrictions.  

 Melbourne Airport CEO Lyell Strambi said he was pleased to win the tick of approval from travellers.

“I am extremely proud that Melbourne achieved best airport status for the region, especially given the award is purely based on passenger feedback,” said Mr Strambi.

“The traveller is always front of mind in everything we do and it is nice to see our work resonate with so many Victorians and visitors alike.

“We are fortunate to serve Melbourne and this award is another sign of our progress to make this an airport Melbourne can be proud of.

“Last year we poured significant investment into creating a more seamless traveller journey and that ranged from installing smart security screening technology – eliminating the need for people to remove laptops from bags – to adding self-service check-in kiosks to reduce queues.

“We also made a real effort to improve wayfinding, reduce congestion on our road network and create a sense of place by attracting local brands and hospitality venues to the airport.  

“Although we’re currently suffering from the devastating impacts of COVID-19 it is nice to reflect on the achievements made prior to the health pandemic, which saw Melbourne welcome more than 37 million people last financial year.

“There is still a lot of work to be done and we are powering forward despite the necessary distraction while we deal with the impacts of the COVID-19 crisis.” 

Edward Plaisted, CEO of Skytrax said: "We are thrilled to see Melbourne Airport winning this major accolade at the awards this year. Melbourne Airport should be delighted with this victory in what is a very competitive section of the survey.

“Most notably, the airport also improved its overall standing in the global survey to be ranked in the top 20 this year.

“Melbourne Airport also performed well in the Staff Service award for Australia/Pacific securing a fine third-place, and for airports serving 30 to 40-million passengers, Melbourne was in fifth position.”