Canceled flights and delays reach record highs as airlines struggle to return from COVID

Australia has confirmed its worst flight cancellation and performance rate since records began.

Figures compiled by the federal government’s Bureau of Infrastructure and Transport Research Economics revealed that just 63% of Qantas, Virgin, Jetstar and Rex Airlines flights arrived on time in June, while just 61.9% departed on time. the scheduled time.

He said 5.8% of flights were cancelled, meaning June this year saw the worst performance figures since data logging began in November 2003.

The cancellation rate was more than double the long-term average figure of 2.1%.

Qantas fared worst with 8.1% of its flights cancelled.

This is followed by QantasLink at 7%, Virgin Australia at 5.8%, Jetstar at 5.5% and Virgin Australia Regional Airlines at 5.3%.

Rex Airlines appeared to be the most reliable last month, with just 0.7% of canceled flights.

The office said weather and COVID-19 issues contributed to the poor performance.

Qantas said a rise in cases of COVID and other illnesses among airline crews as well as the tight labor market led to flight disruptions for all domestic airlines in June.

Overall, airlines are struggling to return to pre-pandemic performance levels.(ABC News: Danielle Bonica)

Qantas said Sydney Airport was reduced to a single runway for five days due to high winds, including June 1, which was the worst day of the month for punctuality and cancellations.

He said there were also staff shortages across the aviation industry, including air traffic control, which reduced landing and takeoff rates seven days during the month in the country’s airports.

The airline said it had listed additional standby crew to mitigate the impact of COVID-related crew absences and said cancellations so far this month were down from those recorded in June.

“Everyone at Qantas and Jetstar is focused on improving this performance,” the spokesperson said.

“We are already seeing improvements and things will continue to improve month on month.

“Call center wait times are now better than they were pre-COVID and our mishandled baggage rates are close to pre-pandemic levels.”

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Virgin Australia echoed the reasons given for the poor performance, saying flights had been significantly affected by weather events in New South Wales as well as resource pressures associated with COVID and the large number of passengers returning to travel.

“Although this result is not where we want to be, this result is the result of the extraordinary efforts of our team who continue to work around the clock to help our customers get to their destination during peak periods,” said said a spokesperson.

Virgin said it recently made operational changes that had already reduced the number of flights it had to cancel this month.

He said his cancellation rate was heading in the right direction and fell to 2.4% this week.

Passengers from Sydney and Melbourne are the most affected

Cancellations by all airlines were highest on Sydney-Melbourne flights at 15.3 per cent, followed by the Melbourne-Sydney route at 14.9 per cent.

Flights between Sydney and Canberra and then the Canberra-Melbourne route were among the next highest to be cancelled.

Melbourne Airport’s aviation chief Jim Parashos said airlines had worked hard to rebuild their workforces after being completely closed during the 2020 and 2021 shutdowns.

He said flu season and the Omicron surge had hit operations hard, with federal regulations regarding minimum crew requirements routinely grounding an entire department.

“In some cases, it can be a single sick cabin crew which then results in a flight being cancelled,” Mr Parashos said.

Jim wears a navy suit and blue shirt and smiles as he stands in an airport terminal
Melbourne Airport’s aviation chief Jim Parashos said the federal regulations were compounding the hardship caused by staff shortages and illnesses.(Supplied: Melbourne Airport)

Delays hit airports nationwide

For the flights that took place in June, punctuality was an issue at all levels.

The on-time arrival figure of 63% for June was significantly lower than the long-term average of 82.1%.

Similarly, the bureau said the starting figure of 61.9% was also significantly lower than the long-term average of 83.3%.

Rex Airlines was the most punctual, registering 80% on-time arrivals, followed by Virgin Australia with 62.4%.

Jetstar has just overtaken its parent company Qantas, with a result of 59.5% ahead of the latter’s 59.1%.

Virgin had the fastest departures, with 60.4% of flights departing as scheduled.

Alice Springs had the best results for arrivals at 87.2% and Armidale Airport had the highest number of on-time flights at 81.5% of flights.

Mildura had the latest arrivals with only 47.2% of planes landing on time.

Australian Airports Association chief executive James Goodwin said the aviation industry had a lot of work to do to improve reliability.

“What we want to do is restore the confidence of the traveling public that they can get where they want to go, that they can do it in a pleasant way, that they can do it in a reliable way”, a- he declared.

“We want to get back to a normal period but at the moment with the uneven recovery, anything that will shake confidence is a challenge for everyone.”

Stranded passengers lose faith in airlines

Rachel Power has said she no longer has faith in Australian airlines after she and a plane full of passengers were recently stranded in a closed terminal at Cairns Airport overnight.

After she and her family spent the winter school holidays soaking up the warmer tropical air, their flight back to Melbourne was delayed an hour and then had to fly back to Cairns for a medical emergency.

She said after sitting on the tarmac late at night, the passengers were taken off the plane with no explanation as to why their service could not resume.

Ms Power said the airline told them there were no vacant hotel rooms in Cairns to accommodate them and the family had to spend the night in the airport arrivals terminal.

Their flight did not depart until the next afternoon.

Passengers sleep on baggage carousels in an airport terminal.
Rachel Power says she no longer has faith in Australian airlines after a plane full of Jetstar passengers was stranded overnight at Cairns airport.(Provided: Rachel Power)

She said the experience had made her “extremely reluctant” to book any further holidays.

“I felt incredibly sorry for the staff, I think the staff really bear the brunt of everyone’s anger and frustration,” Ms Power said.

“I just don’t have much faith in the big Australian airlines anymore.”

“You can’t book a vacation at a time like this if you’re going to fly unprepared for it to be canceled or delayed.”

Delays could last for months

Since Easter, Qantas and Jetstar have recruited more than 1,000 operational crew members and ground handling providers have increased their workforce by 15%.

Mr Parashos said while the hospitality industry could train a new worker in a week, pilots, cabin crew and baggage handlers need more rigorous training to meet regulated standards.

“They operate in very sensitive areas, their work is quite often very technical and of course they also need security clearances, so it can sometimes take two or three months to get people of that nature on board,” he said. -he declares.

A view inside Melbourne Airport, empty of people.
Activity at airports across Australia has fluctuated with COVID lockdowns over the past few years.(ABC News: Richard Willingham)

Mr Paroshos said boosting skilled migration would help, but it would still take some time before the industry rebounded to pre-pandemic levels.

“We’ll see an improvement in the coming months, and part of that is airlines building a little more resilience into their networks and schedules to meet last-minute demands.”

He said Australia was not alone, with the same challenges being faced around the world.

Meanwhile, Goodwin is urging the federal government to include the aviation sector in discussions at an upcoming skills summit.

He said it had been more difficult to attract staff to airports because of the 24-hour nature of work, “where you work shift hours, where you might have difficulty getting the doors open. daycares at say 4 or 5 o’clock in the morning or opening late is obviously going to be a problem”.

He said people in some parts of the sector were not eligible for JobKeeper payments during the lockdown so they found other jobs.

“We are now bearing the consequences of these decisions, but we have to move on,” Mr Goodwin said.

He said speeding up the background and security checks needed for airport jobs could help solve the worker shortage.

“We really urge the government to streamline some of these processes to ensure that anyone wishing to return to the aviation workforce or start working in the aviation workforce is given priority. ”

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