Melbourne Airport suddenly announced that it would hire 2,000 employees for Chinese tourists! The return of airlines, including China Southern, China Eastern and Air China, will bring the airport’s international capacity to 80 percent of its pre-COVID level within two months. This has boosted demand for a stronger workforce to avoid a repeat of the operational woes that plagued Australia’s airports during the 2022 peak.
Melbourne Airport CEO Lorie Argus said the airport is preparing to further increase the number of international passenger and cargo services as international airlines race to keep up with consumer demand.
Demand for international flights continues to grow and last month we saw incredibly high load factors for flights from Melbourne.
“With the resumption of flights to Melbourne by Chinese airlines, the introduction of direct service to Ho Chi Minh City by Vietnam Airlines and the return of Qantas to Hong Kong, we expect capacity to increase further in the coming months,” she said.
China Southern Airlines will be the first airline to resume daily flights to Sydney and Melbourne with daily return services to Guangzhou scheduled from February 1.
Melbourne Airport has employed more than 4,000 people since the reopening of Australia’s international borders, but the re-emergence of China after a three-year blockade amid record airport traffic means a further 2,000 staff are needed for ground handling, retail, cleaning and other operations.
More than 2.5 million passengers passed through the airport in December, the highest monthly total since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. This was due in large part to increased capacity by international airlines. the December figure was approximately 79% of the 3.3 million passengers that passed through during the same period in 2019.
Of the 2.5 million people who travelled over the festive period, 1.8 million travelled on domestic flights and 766,439 travelled on international flights. December’s total was higher than November’s by 120,000 as major foreign carriers including Qatar Airways and United Airlines continued to increase the number of flights to and from Australia.
The airport had more than 100,000 more take-offs and landings last year than in 2021 but remains about 20 per cent below pre-pandemic levels as some carriers remain cautious about increasing international services too quickly.
Carriers all over the world were scarred by the unrelenting operational problems that plagued the industry for a significant chunk of 2022 as the world’s borders reopened. Airlines struggled to keep up with the demand in the face of stresses which included crippling supply chain issues and surging staff shortages, which culminated in long queues, missed flights, lost bags and extensive delays.
That may now change as China’s major airlines begin to fly around the world. Industry experts predict that local airlines will act quickly in the face of competition. The return of Chinese airlines is expected to put downward pressure on local airfares which have soared to levels not seen in 15 years due to lack of supply and high jet fuel costs. Prior to the COVID-19 conference, Chinese airlines were responsible for about 30 percent of international capacity outside Australia before the COVID-19 conference.
China’s aviation regulator said this week that it expects international service to reach 80 percent of the country’s pre-COVID levels by the end of this year. Australia is unlikely to return to 100 percent of its 2019 capacity until 2024.
Five of the eight airlines that previously flew to Australia from China plan to offer scheduled service from February at Melbourne and Sydney airports, both of which are marked for the imminent return of other airlines.
So far, China Eastern Airlines, Air China and Sichuan Airlines will begin offering scheduled flights to and from Melbourne next month, while Xiamen Airlines – the only mainland Chinese airline to continue flying to Melbourne throughout the pandemic – will be the first to add to its existing schedule, starting with three flights to Xiamen next week.