Melbourne Airport to experience busiest day since Covid began

One of Australia’s big airports is preparing for its largest crowds since the start of the pandemic, as delays and flight cancellations continue.

Melbourne Airport is preparing for its busiest day since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, with 100,000 people expected to move through its terminals on Friday.

It comes after the airport faced another day of big crowds and long queues on Thursday with 14 flights cancelled before midday.

Airports across the country have been struggling to keep up with demand since school holidays began nearly two weeks ago due to a combination of resurgent travellers, staff shortages and the weather in NSW.

Melbourne Airport chief executive Lorie Argus said it was pleasing to see people returning to the airport, but admitted there have been issues with delays and wait times.

“Tomorrow (Friday) is going to be our busiest day on record since pre-Covid levels and that’s 100,000 people travelling through the airport,” she said.

“Airports are busy places, so it’s not unusual to see queues and people moving through the airport during school holidays … but it is great to see those pre-Covid levels hit.

“There’s definitely on time performance disruption in the network; that’s certainly due to staff shortages – due to the weather with the challenges up in NSW.

“Predominantly we hope most of the carriers will be running on time for the school holidays.”

She also commented on the continued issue of lost or misplaced baggage after numerous stories have emerged from angry and frustrated customers.

“Mishandled baggage is unfortunately a reality for the aviation sector,” Ms Argus said.

“We do know that the airlines have committed to extra staff over the holidays and if baggage does get mishandled, it will be reunited with the customers as quickly as possible.”

She previously told customers to be prepared to ‘live without’ their luggage if it went missing.

Despite the 14 cancelled flights at Melbourne Airport on Thursday morning, the long lines reportedly moved smoothly throughout the day.

But the airport’s head of communications, Andrew Lund, conceded these continued issues are hard on travellers.

“It’s not a great experience for passengers when things don’t go right,” he told 3AW on Thursday.

“Particularly this week, we’ve had a lot of staff sickness with ground handlers – really bad weather in Sydney which has delayed a lot of aircraft.

“There’s just been a lot of things that have resulted in some significant delays for people.”

While Melbourne Airport’s crowds have been below pre-Covid averages throughout most of the school holidays, there has been a change in the way people are travelling.

The airport’s international terminal has been far quieter, while domestic travel numbers are exceeding pre-Covid levels.

Mr Lund said this “interesting situation” was also a contributing factor to the airport’s issues.

“It’s a really interesting situation that we’re in at the moment,” he said.

“Overall, we’re not quite back to international pre-Covid levels, but on a domestic front in some cases we’re back above where we were pre-Covid.”

Passengers travelling through Melbourne Airport are still being advised to arrive one to two hours before a domestic flight and two to three hours before an international flight.

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