10:31 PM, 21°C PARTLY CLOUDY. Tue 25 Apr 2017(SYDNEY TIME)

On-time performance

Issued: April 2013

Sydney Airport is Australia’s international gateway with 37 million passengers and 550,000 tonnes of freight a year, generating a contribution of $27.6 billion a year – equivalent to two per cent of the national economy.

Close to 40 international, domestic and regional airlines operate to Sydney and there are more than 28,000 people who work at the airport for around 800 organisations and businesses. On-time performance is therefore very important to all our customers – especially passengers and airlines – as well as to Sydney Airport itself.

We work closely with airlines and Airservices Australia to minimise delays and together in 2012, delivered an improved on-time performance on the previous year.

The east coast aviation network, comprising Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane, accounts for 65 per cent of national air traffic and includes two of the busiest air corridors in the world (Sydney-Melbourne and Sydney-Brisbane).

Many factors can affect on-time performance, including weather, air traffic management, engineering issues and late passengers, but by far the largest factor is the size and complexity of the network.

The economics of Australian aviation means that the typical scheduled domestic passenger aircraft flies around seven sectors a day to a range of destinations, with tight turnaround times. This means that Australian airports – particularly on the busy east coast – operate as a network where events at one airport can easily affect another. For example, where an aircraft departs late in the morning, a knock-on effect can occur that impacts many later flights across multiple airports.

In fact, knock-on delays are responsible for about half of all delays.

On-time performance at Sydney Airport compares favourably to other major Australian capital city airports like Melbourne and Brisbane.

Domestic on-time performance1 at major Australian airports2

Rank On-time Arrivals   On-time departures
1 Melbourne 82.3%  Melbourne 84.7%
2 Sydney 77.9% Brisbane 82.0%
3 Brisbane 76.1% Sydney 80.5%

Defined as arriving or departing within 15 minutes of schedule

Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics, Domestic airline on-time performance 2012

Availability of infrastructure at Sydney Airport is not a major cause of delays and is only cited as a reason two per cent of the time.

A factor unique to Sydney Airport affecting on-time performance is a government policy capping the number of flights to 80 movements an hour, despite the physical capacity for a greater number of flights.

Air traffic control, which monitors and manages the cap, is often required to hold flights in the air or on the ground until the next cap monitoring period in the following hour commences. This results in unnecessary delays across the network and unnecessary environmental emissions.

Sydney Airport has a strong track record in investing in infrastructure to meet growing demand to travel. More than $2 billion has been spent on new capacity since 2002, including to support larger aircraft, which are reducing demand for slots during peak periods. Over that period, we have carried 40 per cent more passengers very efficiently on virtually the same number of annual aircraft movements annually.

In 2012, five new domestic gates were constructed, providing 28 per cent more capacity. Despite the short-term disruption during the 12-month project, Sydney Airport managed to deliver an improvement in domestic on-time performance in 2012 compared to the previous year.

Domestic on-time performance at Sydney Airport 2011-12

2011 2012
On-Time Arrivals  76.4% 77.9% (+1.5%)
On-Time Departures  79.7% 80.5% (+0.8%)


Further projects in 2013, including an upgrade of the Instrument Landing System, implementation of high intensity approach lighting and construction of additional aircraft parking bays, are expected to improve Sydney Airport’s on-time performance going forward.