Melbourne—Gold Coast now Australia’s busiest air route
Melbourne—Gold Coast now Australia’s busiest air route

New flight route takes top spot

Pent-up demand for leisure travel made Melbourne-Gold Coast Australia's busiest air route in January, relegating traditional list-topper Melbourne-Sydney to 13th.

Domestic aviation statistics from the Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics showed almost 126,000 people travelled between Melbourne and the Gold Coast, placing the route ahead of Brisbane-Melbourne with 96,000 and Brisbane-Cairns (74,000).

In contrast airlines carried a mere 33,400 people between Melbourne and Sydney, down from 742,000 in January 2020, as a result of border closures triggered by the northern beaches COVID outbreak.

Gold Coast Airport CEO Chris Mills said they had seen capacity build steadily on the Melbourne route through December and January and were hopeful of getting close to pre-COVID levels by Easter.

Gold Coast Airport was on one end of Australia’s busiest air route in January as sun-starved Victorians flocked north. Picture: Scott Powick
Gold Coast Airport was on one end of Australia’s busiest air route in January as sun-starved Victorians flocked north. Picture: Scott Powick

"There has been a further surge in inquiry and bookings in the weeks leading into Easter with flight numbers increasing week to week," Mr Mills said.

"By Easter, the Gold Coast will be reinvigorated by the inflow of visitors from southern states over the holiday period."

He said new services operated by Rex from Sydney and Melbourne would provide a further boost to the airport which saw passenger numbers fall to zero last April.

Destination Gold Coast was also buoyed by the aviation data, as well as strong interest in the upcoming Easter long weekend and school holidays.

"Easter is a critical booking window for our 4600 tourism businesses to welcome more visitors and support an industry that's been doing it tough," said Destination Gold Coast CEO Patricia O'Callaghan.

Holiday makers Tyra Gabagas, Gisele Sekava, Lily Carnew and Kate Carnew paddleboarding at Tallebudgera Creek on the Gold Coast. Picture: Nigel Hallett
Holiday makers Tyra Gabagas, Gisele Sekava, Lily Carnew and Kate Carnew paddleboarding at Tallebudgera Creek on the Gold Coast. Picture: Nigel Hallett

 

"Anecdotally, Easter is shaping up to be solid but we aren't fully booked yet and there is availability for holiday-makers to snag a deal."

Other leisure routes to benefit from the pent-up travel demand included Sydney-Ballina which was ranked Australia's sixth busiest route in January, up from 12 a year ago.

The route was among only a handful to record more passengers in the month than in pre-COVID times, thanks to a 35 per cent increase in airline capacity.

Brisbane to Hamilton Island also saw a healthy leap in passengers year-on-year as a result of a doubling in seats, with just under 20,000 people making the trip to and from the Whitsundays.

Surging travel out of Melbourne saw the city's airport named the busiest in January, in an amazing turnaround for Tullamarine.

 

For several months in 2020, Melbourne Airport dropped out of the country's top ten busiest terminals altogether because of Victoria's devastating second wave of COVID-19.

Melbourne Airport CEO Lyell Strambi said the good result in January was not surprising, following on from the easing of border restrictions.

"Summer signalled the start of a domestic recovery, led by people visiting loved ones and travelling for holidays. But despite Melbourne welcoming more passengers than any other airport, the surge in traffic was short-lived as the state went into a five-day lockdown during February causing traveller numbers to plummet once more," said Mr Strambi.

"We're only now starting to see traveller confidence return after such an unstable start to the year, and we're hopeful Easter provides an opportunity for the tourism industry to recover."

Originally published as New route takes top spot


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