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Flight of fancy or categorical possibility

Airport CEO predicts Aussie domestic travel back to full recovery by 2023

With Australian leisure and business travel combined now at around the 90 per cent of pre-COVID levels, Brisbane Airport CEO, Gert-Jan de Graaff has forecast the full recovery of Australia’s domestic travel industry in 2023.

Mr de Graaff, one of several keynote speakers at the forthcoming Illuminate Conference in Sydney on October 20,  said he believes that we will be back at 2019 levels in early 2023. 

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Brisbane Airport CEO, Gert-Jan de Graaff

“Airlines need time to restart, some countries are still closed or have restrictions, and we need to rebuild the confidence of passengers to get on flights again,” Mr de Graaff said.

“However, I am confident that we will see, from 2025 onwards, volumes that will exceed 2019 levels.

“International travel has also picked up at a slower pace than domestic travel. Currently, we’re back to around 50 per cent of pre-COVID levels.” 

While Brisbane Airport is seeing fewer corporates flying, Mr de Graaff  said he believes they will return strongly next year.

“What we are seeing now is that people really want to travel,” he said.

“They want to come to Australia and visit us for business and leisure. A lot of the corporates haven’t seen their customers and colleagues for the last two and a half years and they’re really keen to get on flights again, develop their businesses and seek new opportunities.”

Mr de Graaff said that Brisbane Airport has been able to shield itself from much of the capacity issues and disruptions at other domestic and overseas airports. 

“Fortunately, during COVID, we did make the conscious decision to not go to ‘rock bottom’ in terms of resourcing – we knew that the market would recover. Thankfully, given our foresight, we never saw wait times much longer than 20 minutes. From a global perspective, this is a great effort.”

Mr de Graaf will use his Illuminate address to detail the new Brisbane Airport taking shape ahead of the 2032 Brisbane Olympic & Paralympic Games.

“We are running out of domestic terminal capacity,” Mr de Graaff said. 

“New terminals will be critical. We are running out of domestic terminal capacity and my biggest prediction is that, when passengers travel in 2032, they will be travelling through a completely new state-of-the-art Brisbane Airport, net zero, or even climate positive Scope 1 and 2, with new mass transport solutions to and from each terminal.”

Brisbane Airport, he said, had recently started rolling out new security screening equipment to streamline the process for international passengers.

“The new equipment has a lot of advantages, namely, that passengers can keep laptops and liquids in their bags at security checkpoints. 

“In the next few years, passengers will also see significant upgrades in our domestic terminal. We are planning to build a mezzanine where our new security checkpoint will be located. 

 “We are implementing upgrades to allow passengers to move directly from our multi-level car park into the security checkpoint, offering a streamlined entrance into the terminal.

“A new baggage system will also be introduced, while self-service products and services, such as self-service check-in, are on the way.” 


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