1 November 2021
International passengers arriving at Sydney Airport today will step directly into the arms of their friends and family for the first time in 582 days with the commencement of quarantine-free travel.
Sydney Airport CEO Geoff Culbert said: “Today some of the magic returned to our arrival halls; grandparents meeting grandkids for the first time, families reuniting, all of the scenes that have been absent for far too long.
Additionally, Australians who have been waiting to reconnect with friends, families and loved ones overseas can now go freely, without needing an exemption. “It’s also an incredibly important day for the 800 organisations and thousands of people who work at the airport. Quarantine-free travel means that shops can re-open, businesses can bring people back, and we can all start the process of recovering from the worst crisis in the history of aviation.
“Sydney Airport can now resume its contribution to the NSW economy. Every daily A380 service brings with it $200 million in annual economic activity and 2,100 jobs, and we are looking forward to welcoming plenty of them soon.
“We would also like to acknowledge the thousands of people who went into hotel quarantine and the agencies who oversaw the process. They played a crucial role in keeping NSW and Australia safe in complex and difficult circumstances, and we should all be incredibly grateful.
“We still have a long way to go in terms of the recovery of our sector, but allowing fully vaccinated Australians to travel without quarantine will provide the template for bringing back students, business travellers, and tourists from all over the world.”
Excluding passengers who entered under the trans-Tasman bubble arrangements, all international passengers since 29 March 2020 have been required to go into hotel-quarantine, with Sydney Airport processing more than 250,000 arrivals – over half of the national total.
A day ‘19 months in the making’
Preparations for the return of international travel have been underway almost since travel restrictions commenced, and the airport has taken advantage of the lack of passenger traffic to make improvements including:
- Reconstructing nearly 10,000 square metres of the main runway in a major runway safety project, at a total budgeted project cost of $14 million;
- Checking more than 30km of conveyor belts on the baggage system and replacing more than 100 gearboxes to cut energy use by 50 percent;
- Renovating the retail area in the T1 International Terminal, more than doubling the roof height from 4 to nearly 10 metres and reconfiguring the space to welcome 12 new luxury brands in 2022;
- Building a 15-room ‘Aerotel’ – Australia’s first in-terminal hotel due to open in 2022;
- Painting and cleaning more than 300,000 square metres of terminal space, and;
- Spending $8 million on passenger bathroom upgrades.
- “While the announcement about quarantine-free travel was made only a few weeks ago, this day has been 19 months in the making,” Mr Culbert said.
Today Sydney Airport will welcome 16 scheduled international flight arrivals and farewell 14 scheduled departures, up from a daily average of 10 international arrivals and 10 departures the week prior. More importantly, inbound services are able to carry significantly higher passenger loads with the abolishment of the 750-person weekly arrival cap.
Passenger services and volumes are expected to build in the months ahead. Of the 21 airlines who stopped flying regularly scheduled international services to and from Sydney since March 2020, 11 have announced they’ll be recommencing services between November 2021 and January 2022.
On an airline seat capacity basis, the recovery is expected to reach 16% of pre-COVID international seat capacity by the end of November, increasing to nearly 40% in January 2022. Domestic seat capacity is expected to grow from 25% of pre-COVID levels in November to 89% in January 2022. These figures are expected to fluctuate as domestic and international borders re-open.
“Aviation was the first industry into the crisis and will be one of the last to recover, but it’s terrific to say the start of that recovery is finally here,” Mr Culbert said.
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