Melbourne and Sydney airports prepare for busiest week in years

Easter weekend and school holidays will bring the highest travelling numbers in years to Melbourne and Sydney airports, but with workforces below pre-COVID-19 levels, passengers face major delays. 

It will represent the first time Sydney Airport’s domestic terminals have had more than 80,000 passengers since 6 March 2020, and will surpass the previous post-COVID peak of 78,000 domestic passengers on 8 April. 

Melbourne Airport is expecting the Easter holidays to be the busiest travel period in two years, with 1.4 million travellers expected over the next two and a half weeks. On April 8, the airport is anticipating 78,000 domestic passengers, which is 107 per cent of an average day in April 2019. 

The aviation industry, which took significant blows over the COVID-19 pandemic, are still working towards rebuilding their workforces efficiently without compromising on safety and security.

Sydney Airport’s staffing levels remain 30 per cent compared to pre-COVID-19 numbers. 

Sydney Airport, CEO, Geoff Culbert, said recruitment for the security contractor, Certis, began recruiting in December, but onboarding employees has taken longer than expected and COVID illnesses are impacting the workforce. 

“We’re working to rebuild our workforce in a really tight job market,” Mr Culbert said.

“We continue to have up to 20 per cent COVID-related staff absences on any given day.”

Labour shortages across security personnel, ground handlers, and airline staff means queuing will likely occur in the domestic terminals, and passengers are encouraged to arrive two hours prior to the departure of their domestic flights.

The process to train screening staff to an accredited level takes two months, meaning staff who are coming online today joined the security operator in mid-February. 50 new screening staff are currently undergoing accreditation and will gradually become available for shifts in the coming weeks. 

Mr Culbert said there is “no avoiding the fact that significant queuing may occur over Easter.”

Mr Culbert said Sydney Airport will deploy senior executives and staff into our terminals to manage queues and ensure people make their flights.

Melbourne and Sydney airports are asking their customers to be patient and respectful during the holiday period. Lorie Argus, Melbourne Airport’s Chief of Aviation, said travellers need to plan ahead to avoid arriving at the airport at the last minute.

“Processing times may be longer than usual, and we expect that there will be queues for check-in and security.

 “The road network will also likely be busy, and passenger drop-off points and car parks will be congested during peak travel times,” Ms Argus said. 

Both airports combined are expecting over two million passengers to travel over the duration of April. 

“We are extremely grateful to passengers for their ongoing patience and also to our airport staff who have been working incredibly hard in really difficult circumstances,” Mr Culbert said.

Travelling advice has been posted online for both Melbourne Airport and Sydney Airport.  

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