Hai Ling Pole had a flight booked on Friday to return home to Brisbane from a work trip in Sydney.
- A 1.5-hour flight home from Sydney turned into a five-hour journey for Mr Pole
- Airports are under increasing pressure across the country due to pent-up travel and school holiday demand
- There are “record post-COVID numbers” of people travelling through Brisbane’s international airport currently
A few days earlier, he received an email that said his 3pm departure time had been moved forward two hours.
He didn’t think much of it.
The morning of his Virgin Australia flight, Mr Pole, who works in consulting, tried to check in online.
“It said ‘you can only check in 48 hours prior to your flight’, which I was quite confused about,” Mr Pole said.
“Honestly, I thought I’d done something wrong.
“Then I got an email [with the new flight details], I checked the date of the flight and it said 11th of July – next Monday.
“I was shocked. I’m OK with delays of a couple of hours in either direction, but three days is a bit excessive.”
Mr Pole said flying to the Gold Coast was his only option.
“I tried to get another flight later in the day but everything was cancelled,” Mr Pole said.
“There were pretty much no direct flights … there was only one flight available [that day] and that was $930.
“I managed to book a flight to the Gold Coast and from there … I had to catch a train to Brisbane.”
A 1.5-hour flight home from Sydney turned into a five-hour journey.
“It would’ve been nice to at least have some reason given, some explanation,” Mr Pole said.
“Virgin Australia’s call line is a real nuisance … the wait time was an hour, I just hung up.
“I was supposed to be working, but my entire day’s gone.
“I got to the airport at 9.30 in the morning … and I’m not getting into Brisbane until after 5pm.”
Flight cancellations, delays causing havoc for travellers
Mr Pole’s experience is not isolated, with airports under increasing pressure across the country due to pent-up travel and school holiday demand.
Brisbane Airport head of public affairs Stephen Beckett said weather disruptions in flood-ravaged New South Wales and COVID and influenza-related staff shortages were also contributing to flight delays and cancellations.
“Over the past seven days, there’s been 2,953 scheduled flights [in and out of Brisbane] and of that, 229 were cancelled, so that’s about 7-and-a-bit per cent,” Mr Beckett said.
“We’ve seen some of our airline partners have to cancel flights because of the impact on their crew.
“The impact is not great for those [affected].
“We understand when airlines cancel a flight or if there’s a long queue at the airport, that that can be quite frustrating.”
Mr Beckett said 50,000 passengers passed through the Brisbane domestic terminal on Friday and high demand was expected to continue over the weekend and into Monday.
“The airport’s really busy as Queenslanders return from school holidays and our southern friends head our way as their holidays are just starting,” Mr Beckett said.
“We’re recruiting extra people and putting extra staff on during those peaks, so that’s been serving us well.
“Please arrive early, pre-book your Ubers and taxis because we’re hearing people are being caught short with wait times, and consider using the air train.
“Turn up 90 minutes before your domestic flights … check in online and if you’re travelling with hand luggage, that’s one way to skip the bag drop lines.
Mr Beckett said there were “record post-COVID numbers” of people travelling through Brisbane’s international airport, but he said changes to COVID vaccination requirements for foreign travellers were “speeding up” wait times.
“Previously you had to prove your vaccination status, complete digital passenger cards and things like that,” he said.
“We’re now back to the same paperwork as what you needed before COVID, nothing else and that’s going to help processing times at the international airport.”
Demand ‘significantly higher’ than over Easter: Virgin
Virgin Australia said the number of travellers flying these school holidays was 15 per cent more than 2019 levels and was “significantly higher” than during the Easter break.
“Airports and airlines globally are experiencing huge demand as travellers return to the sky as pandemic restrictions ease,” a spokeswoman for the company said.
Virgin Australia customers can get a refund or travel credit if a suitable flight is not available to replace their booked one.
Passengers whose flights are delayed overnight can receive $220 for hotel accommodation, $50 for meals and get refunded for the cost of airport transfers and “reasonable personal items”.
“I’m lucky I could have stayed with family,” Mr Pole said.
“But I have a funny feeling that $220 wouldn’t have helped out too much for three more nights if I had to stay in a hotel.”
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