Santa is coming and so are the planes!

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The first sign of tinsel in the shops, empty shelves where the Christmas lights once were. The signs are unmistakable: Santa is coming, and so are the planes back to our skies.

According to Airservices Australia, the organisation responsible for safely managing 11 per cent of the world’s airspace, Christmas 2022 is going to be a lot different this year.

Airservices Australia CEO Jason Harfield said Christmas 2022 marks the first time the entire country has the green light to celebrate Christmas just like every other year before the Pandemic.

Australians are returning to the skies in droves.

“You only have to look up any time from now to see the signs of Christmas coming this year,’’ Mr Harfield said. “Christmas is coming with our friends and relatives flying in to stay, the gifts purchased well in advance coming from interstate and overseas, and the last-minute updates arriving in time for Christmas dinner.’’

Mr Harfield said this Christmas will be the busiest in three years, with an expected 20 to 30 per cent more flights across the four major aerodromes – Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth – compared to last year.

However, air travel is yet to return to pre-Pandemic levels in the major capitals. Expected air traffic at those destinations is forecast to be around five per cent below 2019 levels.

“International traffic is still recovering, so we are seeing traffic levels in the major cities still somewhat below pre-COVID levels,’’ Mr Harfield said.

Airservices projections show that traffic into regional airports including Rockhampton, Townsville, Canberra, Newcastle and the Sunshine Coast will continue to surpass pre-COVID levels by up to 44 per cent.

Traffic at Ballina-Byron Bay is expected to come down from the 2021 peak , which was likely driven by state border closures and restrictions between Queensland and NSW.

“Since the onset of the Pandemic, traffic to regional destinations has starkly increased, partly due to international borders being closed and people holidaying at home,’’ Mr Harfield said.

“State borders were also closed, and people were not willing to travel via major hubs. Consequently, there has been a lot more direct traffic to and from regional centres. Despite now being in COVID-normal, these trends have continued throughout 2022. The exception is Ballina, where traffic is still up from pre-COVID, it is not at the peak it was in 2021.’’

Airservices has developed WebTrak a website where travellers, Christmas fans and anyone interested in air traffic movements can go to see where aircraft fly at different locations around Australia. On WebTrack, you can also reflect on historical trends and patterns of aircraft movements.

Five days to Christmas 2022, Australian air traffic projection figures

Airport2022 movements (5 days to Christmas)Compared to 2021Compared to 2019
Alice Springs68110%78%
Gold Coast649117%95%
Sunshine Coast19898%138%

About Airservices
Airservices Australia is a government-owned organisation responsible for the safe and efficient management of 11% of the world’s airspace and the provision of aviation rescue fire fighting services at Australia’s busiest airports. We connect people with their world safely – linking family and friends, generating economic activity, creating jobs and facilitating trade and tourism.

Posted on: November 29, 2022

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