Sydney flight cancellations soar as aviation’s woes continue

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Qantas and Jetstar aircraft lined up together at Sydney Airport (Seth Jaworski)

Australia’s domestic aviation market continues to struggle under the weight of COVID-19-related absences and an underlying shortage of trained aviation staff as flight cancellations crept up again on Monday.

Flights to and from Sydney have been the most affected, with 25 domestic flights from Sydney cancelled so far today.

The majority of these flights were on the popular Sydney-Melbourne route, which remains the busiest sector in Australia.

Meanwhile, Brisbane has cancelled nine flights so far today, around half of which were bound for Sydney, while Melbourne has axed three Sydney-bound flights.

According to a report by The Australian, the latest round of flight cancellations has been caused by understaffing amid a new wave of COVID-19 infections that is sweeping across Sydney.

NSW reported another 90,000 new infections reported in the last seven days. There are now 175,083 active cases of COVID-19 in NSW, however, authorities believe the real figure could be significantly higher due to asymptomatic cases and individuals failing to report a positive result.

The disruption comes right off the back of a major nationwide “IT glitch” that saw Qantas flights around the country grounded and delayed by up to 90 minutes on Sunday afternoon.

Qantas confirmed that it had resolved the computer issue by 6pm Sydney time that had impacted departing flights, however warned customers that knock-on delays would be likely throughout Sunday evening as the airline attempting to catch up.

Last week, Qantas Domestic and International chief executive Andrew David again apologised to customers for flight disruptions and said the airline will slash flight schedules in July and August to avoid chaos in the months ahead.

Speaking on 2GB, David also defended the airline and blamed several external factors impacting the airline’s performance.

“We are the national carrier, people have high expectations of us and we have high expectations of ourselves. And clearly, over the law few months, we have not been delivering what we did pre-COVID,” he said.

Meanwhile, he also diverted blame for recent extensive delays and cancellations faced by travellers at Sydney airport over the last week, stating that errors with a baggage belt and the airport’s guidance system used to direct landing aircraft were behind the disruption.

David shrugged off suggestions that the cancellations and luggage issues were more significant than usual.

“I can tell you our cancellation rate is now back close to where it was pre-COVID. It’s not quite there yet. I can tell you our mishandled bags [rate] is almost where it was pre-COVID too.”

“On average pre-COVID we had about five mishandled bags in every 1000 … Yesterday was about seven, so we are close to that.”

It also comes after Sydney Airport ranked in the top 10 worst airports in the world for both flight cancellations and flight delays.

According to new released by FlightAware, Sydney Airport came in at number six in the top 10 worse airports for cancellations, after it clocked a 5.9 per cent cancellation rate over the last two months.

Australia’s largest gateway was also named number nine in the list of worst airports for flight delays, with 34.2 per cent of all flights delayed in the last two months.

The worst global contenders for cancellations included Shenzhen Bao’an International Airport, Newark Liberty International Airport, and LaGuardia Airport, which all saw more than 7 per cent flights cancellation since May. Toronto Pearson International Airport was named the worst airport for delays with over 50 per cent of all flights affected.

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