A whitepaper sponsored by Inmarsat Aviation contends that Australia was particularly hard hit by coronavirus related travel restrictions, and that the country needs a unified approach for air travel to recover.

The whitepaper, penned by independent aviation analyst Brendan Sobie, acknowledges that Covid-19 has impacted all markets, but makes the case that Australian air travel has been particularly damaged.

Sydney Opera House

Source: Greg Waldron/FlightGlobal

The Sydney Opera House. Qantas expects domestic tourism to rebound strongly as vaccinations roll out across Australia

“Australia has already been the most impacted of the major domestic air transport markets in the world, dragged down by internal border closures that have prevented most interstate travel during most of the pandemic,” says the whitepaper.

“In the first 19 months of the pandemic (April 2020 to October 2021), scheduled domestic passenger traffic in Australia declined by about 73%.”

The whitepaper estimates that Australian airlines have surrendered about A$16 billion ($11.7 billion) in domestic revenues during the first 19 months of the pandemic, owing to the loss of 71 million passengers.

One table highlights that in 2020, Australia was the worst performer in domestic passenger numbers among global peers. The year saw Australian traffic drop 68% from 2019 levels, compared with a 67% drop in Canada and a 59% drop in the USA. The average drop was 49%.

As for the international market, the whitepaper forecasts only a modest improvement, as it will be limited to a few states and mainly excludes anyone apart from Australians and their immediate families.

“A meaningful recovery cannot be achieved until all states reopen their international borders, quarantine is waived in all of Australia and all international visitors are again permitted to enter,” says the whitepaper.

The whitepaper notes that before the pandemic, overseas visitors accounted for 40% of Australia’s international passenger traffic, and 3% of the gross domestic product.

Finally, Inmarsat’s whitepaper calls for Australia to implement policies that will help both domestic and international traffic recover. It notes Australia’s high vaccination rates, which will enable passenger traffic to catch up with other developed countries.

“First and foremost, the current lack of consensus between states needs to be resolved,” it says.

“With a divided Australia, neither the domestic nor international market will be able to fully recover. Australia will continue to fall behind the rest of the world with huge long-term implications on the aviation and travel sectors. Hundreds and potentially thousands of companies will not be able survive. Thousands of highly qualified industry professionals, including pilots, will be lost to other industries or countries.”