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Melbourne nears pre-COVID levels as international surge continues

written by Jake Nelson | March 14, 2024

A file image of Melbourne’s international terminal. (Image: Melbourne Airport)

Melbourne Airport says it has set a new February record for international passengers as it falls just short of pre-COVID figures overall.

The airport saw 915,456 international travellers last month, 102 per cent of the previous record in February 2019, while total February passengers were at 2,859,942 people, or 99.7 per cent of 2019 levels, and domestic passengers reached 1,944,486, or 98.7 per cent of February 2019.

The passenger numbers were bolstered by three major concert events over the month – Taylor Swift, Pink and Blink 182 – as well as the leap year offering an extra day of travel.

According to CEO Lorie Argus, the continued recovery shows the need for further infrastructure investment at Melbourne Airport.

“We’ve already started work to upgrade our international facilities, including a $500 million investment in a new state-of-the art baggage system and a refresh of the arrivals hall,” she said.


“We know our international arrivals area can be busy during peak times, so we’re working with the Australian Border Force to streamline the experience as much as possible. We have also submitted plans for a parallel north-south runway, which will ensure we have sufficient capacity to accommodate international airlines and put competitive pressure on airfares.

“In recent months we’ve welcomed new services from Turkish Airlines, Asiana Airlines, Vietjet, Air Calin and Jetstar which mean more options for travellers and Victorian exporters, but our infrastructure needs to keep pace with demand.”

Melbourne in December became the first Australian airport to exceed pre-COVID international capacity in a month that saw it break one million monthly international passengers for the first time since the pandemic, with the airport also setting a new all-time monthly record for international flights at 4,976.

It has yet to exceed its total pre-COVID passenger figures, however, with Perth Airport in January becoming Australia’s first major gateway to surpass pre-2019 passenger movements, fuelled primarily by a surge in intrastate travel.

Regional traffic, including FIFO, has been the backbone of Perth’s recovery for some time, with the airport almost reaching 100 per cent of pre-pandemic passengers in the 2022–23 financial year off the back of surging regional numbers.

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