Brisbane Airport records lowest passenger number in 26 years

Latest figures indicate a record 56% decline in passenger numbers compared to last year – the lowest in over a quarter of a century

Data released from the 2021 financial year shows a record low in passenger numbers for Brisbane Airport compared to last year.

Brisbane Airport (BNE) saw a total of just 7.9 million passengers in the latest financial year, a decrease of 15.1 million when compared to the busiest year on record in 2019.

To add to this, various national lockdowns along with domestic border restrictions within the Australian states and territories meant that domestic passenger numbers were also decreased by 43% year-on-year.

Brisbane Airport
Photo Brisbane Airport

Brisbane Airport recorded 7.5 million domestic passengers for 2021, with the least busy day being August 29, with 5,793 passenger movements. This was during a period where Queensland’s borders were closed to Victoria, New South Wales, and the Australian Capital Territory.

Gert-Jan de Graaff, Brisbane Airport Corporation (BAC) Chief Executive Officer, said: "The COVID-19 pandemic is undoubtedly one of the toughest challenges the aviation industry has faced, but we have managed the financial losses better than many due to our significant intrastate network.”

The lack of passengers led to most BNE airlines being unable to generate enough viable revenue to operate in 2021. However, a small quantity of airlines found operational viability at BNE, including Qatar Airways, Emirates, Singapore Airlines, Qantas and China Airlines to name a few.

Similar to most international airports these airlines were vital cargo couriers for Queensland’s mass producers and exporters. This allowed BNE to continue operating at some capacity freighting the State’s high-value products to markets around the globe. 

It also ensured the timely delivery of COVID vaccines to remote locations across the Pacific, including Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, and Fiji. Life-saving medicines and supplies sourced by the UN World Food Program, AusAID, and other donor countries were also exported by BNE. These airlines also enabled the importation of essential supplies and PPE into Australia.  

Towards the end of 2021 the much-anticipated quarantine-free bubble with New Zealand was available for passengers with two-and-a-half months of the financial year remaining. Further restrictions meant that this bubble was suspended by the New Zealand Government at the end of the financial year.

In the days immediately preceding the quarantine-free bubble with New Zealand, BNE showed signs of improvement with close to 2000 passengers per day – the highest number since the bubble opened.

BNE’s passenger numbers still remain vastly below pre-pandemic levels, but show signs of increasing as restrictions lift in Australia.