Melbourne Airport will need to fill almost 2000 jobs to cope with an expected surge in international arrivals as China’s main airlines ramp up services as the economy of Australia’s biggest trading partner reopens.
The return of the airlines, which includes China Southern, China Eastern and Air China, will bring the airport’s international capacity to 80 per cent of its pre-COVID levels within two months, boosting the need for a stronger workforce to avoid a repeat of operational difficulties that plagued Australia’s airports during peak periods of 2022.
Melbourne Airport chief executive Lorie Argus said the airport was preparing for more increases to the number of international passenger and freight services as international airlines race to keep up with consumer demand.
“Demand for international flights keeps growing and last month we saw incredibly high load factors on flights departing Melbourne.
“We’re expecting further capacity increases in the coming months as Chinese carriers resume flights to Melbourne, VietJet launches direct services to Ho Chi Minh City and Qantas returns to Hong Kong,” she said.
China Southern will be the first airline to resume daily flights to Sydney and Melbourne, with returning services to Guangzhou scheduled every day from February 1.
Melbourne airport has hired more than 4000 people since Australia’s international border reopened but the re-emergence of China after three years of lockdown amid record airport traffic means 2000 more staff are needed across 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 beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in large part due to international airlines increasing capacity. The December figure is about 79 per cent of the 3.3 million who travelled over the same period in 2019.
Of the 2.5 million people who travelled over the festive season, 1.8 million were on domestic flights and 766,439 on international services. 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.
The bulk of consumer frustration around these issues was directed at Australia’s largest carrier, Qantas, which has since returned to pre-pandemic performance metrics. Many global carriers, including Qantas, have since prioritised operational performance over rushing to service every route.
This may change now that China’s major carriers are beginning to fly all over the world, with industry experts predicting local carriers will move quickly in the face of competition. The return of Chinese carriers is expected to put downward pressure on local airfares, which have rocketed to levels not seen for 15 years due to insufficient supply and the steep cost of jet-fuel. Before COVID-19, Chinese airlines were responsible for about 30 per cent of international capacity out of Australia.
China’s aviation regulator said this week it expected international services to reach 80 per cent of the country’s pre-COVID levels by the end of the year. Australia is unlikely to return to 100 per cent of its 2019 capacity until 2024.
Five of the eight carriers that previously flew to Australia from China have regular services to Melbourne and Sydney airports scheduled from February, with both airports flagging an imminent return of others.
So far, China Eastern, Air China and Sichuan Airlines will begin regular flights to and from Melbourne next month while Xiamen Airlines – the only mainland China carrier which continued to fly to Melbourne throughout the pandemic – will be the first airline to ramp up its existing frequency, with three services to Xiamen beginning next week.
Source: Thanks smh.com