Flight delays and cancellations are still plaguing travelers weeks before Christmas, and one expert is now warning the international and domestic airport chaos is set to linger for some time to come.
Last Friday, Anna* experienced two flight cancellations on Virgin Australia while attempting to travel from Sydney Airport to the Gold Coast for the weekend.
She never reached her destination – not even with a 24-hour delay.
“I was at the airport on Friday for a 2pm flight to the Gold Coast,” she told 9news.com.au.
“We saw it was canceled on the departure board and were told to wait for a text message.
“This news put us on a flight 24 hours later.
“Hardly ideal for a weekend getaway.”
Anna said scenes at the airport were chaotic as customers became increasingly upset about the delays.
“The line at the Virgin Australia counter in the departure terminal was crazy and customers were angry,” she said.
“I ended up exiting security and going outside to the check-in counter.
“We were put on a 5pm flight to Brisbane which was also canceled after the gate opened and just as we were about to board.”
Anna said she had no complaints with Virgin Australia ground staff as they tried to get her replies to no avail.
She received a full refund but expressed concern at what the delays and cancellations mean for Christmas plans.
“I asked the ground crew what’s going on and they said their staff had been transferred to another flight,” she said.
“I asked if it was related to COVID and they said they didn’t know.”
Virgin Australia told 9news.com.au that flights had been impacted by “weather events and operational reasons” over the past week.
“We sincerely apologize to all guests whose travel plans have been impacted and whose guests have not yet recovered. We are in the process of contacting them to offer alternative travel options,” a spokesman said.
“We’ve seen tremendous demand as Australians get back in the air to reconnect with friends and family and enjoy the wonderful travel experiences we’ve all missed out on during the pandemic.
“Where possible, we encourage our customers to book early to secure the best possible price.”
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The chaos at the airport is said to continue “for some time”.
With Australia’s first COVID-free Christmas in years, demand for domestic and international travel is rising and domestic economy fares have risen to record highs.
In a report released in September, Australia’s Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) found that domestic flight costs were skyrocketing as airlines cut flights to ease the pressure.
“Mid-year there was a significant increase in canceled and delayed flights, as detailed in our September 2022 report on Australia’s flight competition,” a spokesman told 9news.com.au.
“In October 2022, 2.9 percent of domestic flights were canceled compared to 3.4 percent in September and compared to the long-term average of 2.1 percent.
“(But) delayed flights remain a problem, with 30.1 percent of flights arriving late in October, up from 31.7 percent in September and compared to the long-term average of 18.2 percent.”
International aviation consultant Neil Hansford told 9news.com.au high flight costs and delays will continue “for some time”.
He explained that there are several bottlenecks affecting airports.
One of the biggest is the lack of staff due to a lack of applicants.
This is noticeable in all areas of aviation – from the pilots to security and baggage handling.
Major airlines such as Qantas and Virgin Australia have reduced flight availability due to these factors and consumer complaints, particularly in June and July.
“Security guards and the airport can’t get enough manpower,” Hansford said
“And we all want to travel at the same time, so we get the queues.”
Hansford added that “dumb” holiday travelers who book on high-demand days to maximize their vacation time bear some of the blame.
“Everyone wants to travel on a Monday morning, Friday afternoon or Sunday evening for leisure — guess what, that’s when the business traveler is traveling,” he said.
“If they buy a ticket, it’s the company’s money, they don’t care, they pay the applicable price.
“If that leisure traveler were to fly on a Tuesday afternoon or Wednesday morning, surprise – those prices will be a lot lower.
“The other thing is they want to travel at the busiest times, so naturally the queues will be longer.”
Hansford said travelers should be flexible with the days they travel and check online for cheap flights in advance to avoid delays on busy travel days.
*Name changed to protect identity
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