Travel chaos: extreme weather and school holidays cause long delays at Sydney airport

Extreme weather, school holidays and staff shortages have caused long delays at Sydney airport again on Monday, with queues stretching out the door for the third day.

The airport chaos comes as the State Emergency Service and the New South Wales government warned people not to travel on the roads if they don’t have to on Monday because of the flooding and inclement weather affecting swathes of the state.

The winter holidays for most schools in NSW began on Monday, as the latest major flooding event struck the greater Sydney region, with more than 30,000 people under evacuation orders across the city and surrounds.

“We’re working to get everyone on their way as quickly as possible,” a spokesperson for Sydney airport said on Twitter.

“Mondays are one of the busiest days at the airport. Our advice is to arrive as close to two hours for domestic and three hours for international as you may not be able to check in early.”

The airport is expecting an extra 3 million travellers to pass through its terminals compared with the 1.8 million who came through Sydney airport during the equivalent 21-day school holiday period in April.

Sydney airport has today also released its passenger traffic performance for May, showing total passenger traffic recovering to 69% of pre-Covid levels.

Travellers flying at peak times during the day – including between 5am and 9am and about 3pm in the afternoon are being told it is especially important they arrive on time.

Sydney airport boss, Geoff Culbert, said: “Our forecast shows the July school holidays are going to be even busier than what we saw in April.”

“It’s terrific to see the ongoing demand for air travel but we won’t sugar-coat the fact that the terminals will be busy during the school holidays, and there will be queues.

“We are doing everything we can to get people on their way, including bringing an additional 60 customer service staff into the terminals every day to help manage queues and bring passengers forward in order of flight priority.”

The airport is struggling to replace the 15,000 staff it laid off during the pandemic, with 5,000 roles open across the airport.

“The root cause of these challenges is that every business at the airport is rebuilding its workforce and doing it in the tightest jobs market in nearly half a century,” Culbert said.

“We want to thank passengers in advance for their patience and reassure them that if they get to the airport at the advised time, we will be doing our utmost to get everyone on their flight.”

Flooding brought about by an east coast low affecting the Sydney region, Illawarra and Hunter has contributed to the chaos, with the stormy weather meaning flights have been cancelled or delayed.

The SES commissioner, Carlene York, said travellers should adjust their holiday plans to stay safe and dry.

“We’re not out of the danger yet with the significant weather event,” York said.

“I would remind people please make sensible decisions that keep you and your family safe and sensible decisions that do not put the rescuer’s lives at risk as well in responding to your request for assistance.”

Adelaide airport also warned travellers that Friday 8 July would be its busiest day since the start of the pandemic, as school holidays start and 30,000 travellers pass through.

Adelaide airport’s chief executive, Brenton Cox, warned customers they would need to arrive two hours before their flights.

“Our security and customer care teams will be at full capacity to help facilitate customers from kerb to gate – we anticipate that check-in and security queues will be longer than people may have been previously used to,” he said in a statement.

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