Brisbane International Airport
July 7, 2022.
Like all airports everywhere, Brisbane (BNE), on Australia's west coast, suffered at the hands of COVID-19, and as an acknowledged Global City, saw visitor numbers drop dramatically. Unlike elsewhere in the country however, it suffered a little less as the state the city is capital of, Queensland, was able to avoid the major outbreaks seen in Sydney and Melbourne. Consequently the airport overtook its major rivals and took the title of busiest airport in Australia.
A big plus throughout the pandemic has been a viable intrastate network, which meant BNE has been able to maintain a number flights that were not subject to state border closures. Even so, by July 2021, BNE recorded its lowest passenger numbers in a financial year since 1994.
International passengers plummeted a staggering 95 per cent year-on-year (-4.4 million passengers) to just over 248,000, with international borders remaining closed except for the trans-Tasman travel bubble with New Zealand that commenced in late April.
Repeated lockdowns and domestic border restrictions across the states and territories resulted in a 43 per cent decrease in domestic passengers year-on-year (-5.7 million passengers), with just under 7.6 million. Passengers flying within Queensland via BNE also fell 11 per cent year-on-year (-430,000 passengers), with 3.6 million travellers in FY21.
Gert-Jan de Graaff, Brisbane Airport Corporation (BAC) Chief Executive Officer, said in July last year that Brisbane Airport fared better than most in what was an incredibly difficult year for aviation.
“The COVID-19 pandemic is undoubtedly one of the toughest challenges the aviation industry has faced, but we managed the financial losses better than many due to our significant intrastate network.
“Brisbane Airport continued to connect to 27 destinations across the State, sustaining the valuable resources sector by connecting FIFO workers to regional Queensland.
“We remain thankful for the strength of our intrastate market which has demonstrated the essential nature of aviation to the Queensland community and economy,” Mr de Graaff said.
Nonetheless, as the hub connecting Queensland to Australia, Brisbane Airport has felt the impact of significantly reduced interstate passengers not only to Brisbane itself, but also connecting through to regional destinations.
de Graaff added that the impact of COVID-19 on international aviation was even more stark. “As an island nation a mid to long-haul flight from most of its trading partners, Australia is uniquely reliant on aviation. Whilst we have managed through the last 18 months of this crisis with airlines and airports prepared to maintain air connections at great financial loss, this is simply not sustainable,” he continued.
“It is essential that all levels of government recognise that as other parts of the globe normalise, the highly competitive international aviation sector may well leave Australia behind. Policies must be put in place to ensure Australia’s connectivity to the world is protected.”
Despite the trials of the past two years, BNE was celebrating last month (June) after claiming two prestigious global Skytrax World Airport Awards for Best Airport and Best Airport Staff (Australia/Pacific).
de Graaff said the awards reflected the dedicated hard work and passion of BNE’s people and partners, and he was proud the airport was recognised as the gold standard in aviation service throughout the region.
“It is humbling that these prestigious awards were decided by millions of passengers voting in the largest global airport customer satisfaction survey. These awards reflect BNE’s commitment to not just meeting, but exceeding, the expectations of our customers, with customer experience being central to everything we do."
“These awards are a public tribute to every member of the BNE family, from airline and ground handling crews, to cleaners, security, customs, immigration, ground transport, retail, and maintenance staff, and let’s not forget our amazing volunteer Ambassadors” he said. “These awards are a reflection of our people, and our unwavering commitment to serving our customers, from those who travel with us, to those who visit, shop and dine at BNE.”
“Brisbane Airport has a strong history of being recognised by Skytrax as a world-leading airport, which includes winning Best Airport in Australia/Pacific five times, Best Airport Staff in Australia/Pacific four times, and continually ranking among the top airports in the world for our size category. I cannot thank enough the thousands of passionate and dedicated team members at BNE, whose incredible efforts and commitment not only brought us safely through the pandemic, but laid the foundation for our very bright future.”
“The last few years have been tough for our people and for our industry, yet despite these challenges we are proceeding with some really exciting new leisure, retail and commercial projects on the Airport precinct. More than $2.5 billion (AUD) will be invested at BNE over the next 5 years, which will enhance our reputation as Australia’s vibrant, 24/7Airport City. ”
"We are so incredibly proud that the passengers travelling through Brisbane Airport have awarded us the dual honour of being acknowledged as Best Airport and Best Airport Staff in Australia & Pacific at the 2022 Skytrax World Airport Awards.”
Not only that but travellers received a boost with the decision to end mask mandates. The Brisbane Airport Corporation (BAC) welcomed the announcement by Minister for Health Y’vette D’Ath that Queensland will end requirements for face masks to be worn within airports at all times. The decision comes after moves by the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee to end the mandatory requirement.
“The Queensland Government’s decision to end the mask mandate while inside an airport terminal is welcome news, not just for passengers and airport visitors, but importantly for the tens of thousands of employees who work at airports, including cleaners, hospitality, retail, security. ground transport and check-in staff” said Stephen Beckett, Head of Public Affairs at Brisbane Airport Corporation.
“We’ve received feedback from those working in the terminal the requirement to wear a mask for a full 8-to-12-hour shift can be quite challenging. This now means that café workers at the Brisbane Airport can work mask free, just like those working in an indoor food court just up the road” Mr Beckett said. “We do hope that other States and Territories follow suit, and consistently remove mask mandate across all jurisdictions.”
As June neared its end, the airport also began gearing up for a school holiday travel boom, boosting capacity as passenger numbers hit fresh records with Queensland on track for a bumper holiday period. For the first time since the Covid-19 pandemic began, the International Terminal saw more than 9,000 passengers on the move. This was forecast to rise to 10,000 during July, as airlines resume Brisbane routes, and other new services begin. This is approximately 45%-50% of pre-pandemic levels. Services to New Zealand, Fiji, Bali and Europe are particularly full.
Beau Chenery via BNE
In more good news for Queensland’s tourism industry, domestic travel is also booming. Across July, Brisbane Airport will see peak days of 55,000 travellers which is approximately 95% of pre-Covid levels (July 2019.) Key destinations that have more seats than pre-Covid are Brisbane-Hamilton Island, Brisbane-Hobart and Brisbane-Launceston.
The first of what will be many peaks across the holiday period have begun and domestic passengers are advised to plan ahead to ensure smooth travelling by:
Arriving at the Domestic Terminal at least 90-minutes prior to departure
Booking taxi and rideshare transport in advance as some customers have reported delays
Jumping online and booking car parking as far in advance as possible, as parking demand at BNE has surged with more people opting to drive
Where able, take carry-on luggage only although BNE understands that is not always possible
Stephen Beckett said it is great for Queensland to see so many people on the move. “We are incredibly excited to see the terminals filling up and we have boosted the number of staff during peak times. We encourage people to arrive at least 90-minutes prior to domestic flight for a stress-free departure.”
“For international departures, we recommend arriving three hours before your flight. The International Terminal will set a new post-pandemic record on Friday with 9,000 travellers which is fantastic as 75% of international visitors to Queensland arrive via Brisbane Airport.”
On top of that, an early decision by new Prime Minister Anthony Albanese's government saw a relaxation of travel restrictions to boost tourism & speed up passenger experience. Understandably BNE welcomed the Government’s decision to make it easier for travellers to fly in and out of Australia.
Under changes announced, from Wednesday July 6 (yesterday):
- Passengers travelling to Australia will no longer be required to provide evidence of vaccination
- Unvaccinated visa holders will not require a travel exemption
- Passengers will not be required to complete the Digital Passenger Declaration (Air)
- Passengers departing Australia will not be required to provide evidence of their vaccination status
Gert-Jan de Graaff says the changes will have a two-pronged positive impact. “This removes another hurdle for international travellers as they weigh up which country to visit. Australia is competing for every tourist dollar, and for thousands of potential visitors, this will make us a more attractive destination.
“Once visitors land, these changes will also speed-up the time it takes for people to be processed through our terminals. We know the travel industry globally is facing staffing challenges as we gear back up to pre-Covid levels, and this will certainly help.”
Passengers flying to Australia will still be required to wear masks on all international flights, but In a move that demonstrated how things have improved, on Sunday Air Canada resumed services from Brisbane to Vancouver and in October United Airlines will launch the Brisbane to San Francisco route
As the primary gateway for overseas tourists entering Queensland, Brisbane Airport is now seeing daily passenger peaks of 10,000 people through its International Terminal and the airport is ready to meet the next set of challenges post COVID-19.
All images courtesy of Brisbane International Airport