Lockdown’s massive toll on Aust air travel

Easter Sunday this year summed up the impact of the coronavirus lockdown on Australian air travel.

Brisbane Airport saw about 39,000 passengers on Easter Sunday last year, but this year only 31 people passed through its terminals.

Transport Department Cecretary Simon Atkinson told a Senate committee on Tuesday a 40 per cent drop in air travel was initially predicted.

But the real figure is closer to 98 per cent, Mr Atkinson said.

Despite subsidies to people, businesses and airlines, domestic air travel was still only running at about three per cent capacity.

“The only thing that will restore the aviation sector to a normal commercial basis is the reopening of the economy,” he said.

Mr Atkinson said the department had been working with health experts to lay out air travel policy to get passengers back on planes.

The aviation sector has received a $1.2 billion support package to help it through the economic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic.

Virgin Australia went into voluntary administration in April.

“Subsidies … will taper off as routes become commercially viable,” Mr Atkinson said.

“Hopefully quickly as the Australian public realise they can travel in a COVID-safe way.”

The lockdown had disrupted supply chains, driven up air freight prices and hampered access to essentials from overseas.

Mr Atkinson said 80 per cent of international air freight travelled in the belly of passenger planes before the pandemic.

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