Domestic Australia loads down in 2013 as capacity soared

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An Australian government report has highlighted the intense competitive pressures on key domestic routes in the country.

The statistical report from Australia’s Bureau of Transport and Regional Economics for the 12 months ended in 30 June 2013 shows that passenger numbers grew 4.6% to 59.5 million passengers, up 4.6% from the same period a year earlier.

Traffic in RPKs increased by 4.4%, but capacity as measured by ASKs jumped 7.3%, resulting in load factor falling by 2.1 percentage points to 76.7% across the domestic network.

The Melbourne-Sydney route remained the country’s busiest with 10.3 million available seats between the pair, up 8.6% from 9.5 million a year earlier.

Available seats also rose on most key domestic routes. The Gold Coast-Sydney route (ranked fourth) saw capacity jump 20% to 3.2 million while Melbourne-Perth (ranked fifth) saw capacity jump 22.8% to 2.9 million.

As a result of the sharp capacity increases, load factors fell on the top six routes. The data shows load factors on Melbourne-Sydney falling 1.8 percentage points to 79.8. Australia’s second busiest route, Brisbane-Sydney, saw load factors fall 4% to 78.6%.

The figures come amid an acrimonious public relations spat between Qantas Airways and rival Virgin Australia. Qantas says its rival benefits unfairly from its foreign shareholders, which include Etihad, Singapore Airlines, and Air New Zealand. Qantas contends that the Qantas Sale Act should be lifted, allowing over 49% of the flag carrier to be held by foreign shareholders. It is also understood to have lobbied the government to provide some form of debt guarantee to boost its credit rating.

Virgin Australia, for its part, has lashed out at suggestions that Qantas should receive financial assistance from the Australian government, and instead says that any guarantee should be extended to all carriers.