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June 15, 2024
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The Board of Airline Representatives of Australia (BARA) told The Australian newspaper the government’s decision to reduce the number of overseas arrivals allowed entry to the country means up to a third of all international flights to Sydney would have no passengers on board.

Arrivals in Australia would be reduced by 50%, to 3,035 passengers per week from July 14. The reduced cut means the allocation for Sydney, Australia’s busiest international airport, would be 1,505 passengers a week, or 215 passengers a day. “The very low load factor and the very high fixed cost of operating long and medium-haul flights mean a lot of passenger flights will no longer be commercially viable,” BARA executive director, Barry Abrams, told the newspaper. BARA represents 33 airlines flying into and out of Australia; approximately 90% of all international passenger services operating into the country.

One-third of all flights into Sydney have been given zero passenger allocations, while the remainder will only be allowed to carry between 25-26 passengers. Sydney’s weekly flight cap will be halved to 1,505 from 14 July – the largest of any airport. Between 14 July and the end of August, a handful of flights into Melbourne will be cut to zero, with most flights limited to 11 to 13 passengers. Across Brisbane and Perth, passenger limits vary from as few as five passengers per flight, up to 12 passengers per flight for airlines that adjust their frequencies.

Airlines have even been allocated “zero” passenger allowances for some flights, meaning they will have to fly empty planes into Australia. Airlines flying zero passenger flights will have to rely on carrying cargo and outbound passengers to make the routes financially sustainable, however, some are expected to halt services to Australia entirely as a result of the new caps. Prices for one-way economy flights from London to Sydney on some airlines have skyrocketed to as much as $36,000  since the new rule will come into effect on 14 July, while other airlines have halted sales into Australia until further details about their passenger allowances become clear.

It is reported that spokespeople for All Nippon Airways and Cathay Pacific have said the disruption is imminent, while Etihad and Singapore Airlines spokespeople have indicated the airlines would continue flying to Australia despite the new limitations.

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) announced that both international and domestic travel demand showed marginal improvements in May 2021, compared to the prior month, but traffic remained well below pre-pandemic levels. Recovery in international traffic, in particular, continued to be stymied by extensive government travel restrictions. 

Asia-Pacific airlines saw their May international traffic fall 94.3% compared to May 2019, fractionally worse than the 94.2% drop registered in April 2021 versus April 2019. The region experienced the steepest traffic declines for a tenth consecutive month. Capacity was down 86.4% and the load factor sank 45.5 percentage points to 33.2%, the lowest among regions.

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Maggie Koh

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