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Domestic airline passenger numbers up

Written by on May 21, 2024

The number of passengers travelling on domestic flights has finally returned to a pre-pandemic level, according to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s latest domestic airline competition in Australia report.

The findings demonstrate a recovery for Australia’s aviation sector from the Covid-19 pandemic, with 4.9 million passengers flying domestically on Australia’s major airlines — Qantas, Virgin Australia, Bonza, Jetstar and Rex — in March this year, representing 98.8 per cent of the passenger numbers of March 2019.

The same airlines flew about 6.2 million seats in March this year, just below the seat capacity figure recorded in March 2019.

ACCC commissioner Anna Brakey said after four years of instability, the domestic airline industry had returned to “more typical seasonal levels that were last seen before the pandemic”.

“The increase to airline seat capacity has contributed to lower airfares for consumers on domestic routes,” Ms Brakey said.

“We hope to see this trend continue as the airline industry returns to a more stable market.”

The March figures come after domestic passenger numbers exceeded 2019 levels for the first time since the pandemic in February.

The surge in demand and spike in airfares in February was likely driven by major events including Taylor Swift’s Sydney and Melbourne concerts, and a World Wrestling Entertainment event in Perth, the report found.

The report also showed that in March 2024, average revenue per domestic passenger decreased both in nominal terms (by 1.4 per cent) and real terms (by 4.8 per cent) compared to March last year.

It revealed that while service reliability improved in recent months, it remained worse than the long-term industry average.

In March 2024, 2.8 per cent of flights were cancelled — a five per cent improvement from the December 2023 figures — while airlines reported that 77.2 per cent of flights arrived on-time in March this year, up from 63.6 per cent in December 2023.

The report also highlighted Bonza’s recent plummet into voluntary administration as a risk for regional connectivity, with the ACCC saying there would be less choice for direct flights to regional destinations if Bonza was unable to restart its services.

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“Since Bonza began operations, travellers benefited from more affordable airfares and the convenience of direct connections to various regional and holiday destinations otherwise not offered by other airlines,” Ms Brakey said.

“While Bonza’s impact on competition had been limited to date, its presence represented an opportunity for greater competition to emerge in the highly concentrated domestic aviation sector.”

As of March 2024, before Bonza entered voluntary administration, it offered 37 domestic routes, 35 of which connected regional locations and 30 of which were unserved by any other airline.