Nine News Melbourne reported some travellers had slept at the airport overnight to ensure they could board their flight, while others missed out on flying altogether after getting stuck in long queues.
Felicia Mariano, chief executive of the Victoria Tourism Industry Council, said the tourism industry was suffering from staffing challenges across the board.
“About eight months ago, movements at the airport were probably as low as about 600 passengers a day, and in the past couple of days, we’ve seen 85,500 to 87,000 movements through the airport,” she told radio station 3AW.
“When we lost JobKeeper in March last year, we knew that we were going to lose staff as a consequence of that because we couldn’t continue to keep people, and now everyone is actually really struggling.”
Federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said airlines and airports needed to employ additional staff to cope with the demand.
“It’s been a difficult time for our airline industry because of COVID, and we were there to support them financially through that,” Frydenberg said.
“But it’s clear that now, as the health restrictions have eased, Victorians, Australians are travelling much more freely and airports are buzzing again … both the airports and the airlines need to react appropriately and ensure that they’re appropriately staffed.”
New South Wales moved to exempt aviation workers from close COVID-19 contact rules on Saturday after a critical shortage of security screening staff caused major delays at Sydney Airport.
Thousands of people were trapped in long queues at the airport on Friday, as domestic travellers headed interstate for the school holidays and to the Formula One Grand Prix in Melbourne.
Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce said blamed the woes on inexperienced passengers, newly hired security staff and a “high level of absenteeism” as a result of the COVID-19 close-contact rule.
Qantas and Virgin were contacted for comment.
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