SYDNEY, April 14 (Xinhua) — As Australians across the country rush to get away for the Easter holidays from Friday, airports have been overwhelmed by throngs of enthusiastic travellers.
On Thursday, Australia’s busiest airport, Sydney Airport, prepared to receive 82,000 passengers at its domestic terminals. Travelers were asked to arrive two hours in advance and seek alternative means of transport, as all parking spaces were reserved.
It represents the first time Sydney Airport’s domestic terminals have seen more than 80,000 daily passengers in over two years, the previous peak seeing 78,000 passengers pass through on Friday 8 April, a week earlier.
Sydney Airport CEO Geoff Culbert said the airport was facing an intense labor shortage with up to 20 per cent of staff absent due to COVID-19.
“Tomorrow and through the school holidays, we will do everything we can to help people travel safely, including deploying senior executives and staff to our terminals to manage queues and ensure people get on their flights,” Culbert said.
The story has been the same at Australia’s major airports as they have struggled to rebuild a workforce since the airline industry was decimated during the pandemic.
More than 56,000 customers were expected to pass through the gates of Brisbane Airport on Thursday, with 380,000 travelers expected to pass through Melbourne Airport over the long weekend.
While airports are struggling with the surge in travel, retailers and tour operators across the country are welcoming what is likely to be a next spending boom.
Data released on Thursday by the Australian Retail Association (ARA) showed that Australians are expected to spend a whopping 7.1 billion Australian dollars (about 5.3 billion US dollars) over Easter.
The report also showed that the vast majority of travelers were staying within Australia, with only three per cent of all travelers going abroad.
“Even Christmas last year was interrupted by the increase in Omicron cases and testing requirements to cross borders, forcing many people to cancel their plans at the last minute,” said ARA Executive Director Paul Zahra.
“This is the first real party since the pandemic started,” Zahra said.
Despite this new confidence in travel, coronavirus cases continue to rise across the country.
During the 24 hours to 9:00 p.m. on Wednesday night, the Australian Department of Health reported 54,146 new cases of COVID-19 across all states and territories.