Sydney Airport traffic boosted by tourists


The combination of a strong Australian dollar and an abundance of cheap flights between Australia and both the US and Europe has helped Sydney Airport’s passenger traffic figures rebound strongly in October.

Sydney Airport, the jewel in the crown of MAp (formerly known as Macquarie Airports), today reported almost a 13 per cent rise in international passengers in October, compared with the same month last year, and a near 4 per cent increase in domestic traffic.

It is the third month in a row both international and domestic passengers rose at Sydney’s Kingsford Smith. Total traffic increased by 6 per cent last month.

The monthly traffic figures are well above market expectations of a 2 to 3 per cent rise.

The boost in international passengers was also aided by the school holidays and World Masters Games. The number of Australian travellers rose by 13 per cent, while Americans increased by 36 per cent, Canadians by 49 per cent, Chinese by 27 per cent. Despite still weak growth in Europe, German passengers rose by 9 per cent and the British by 6 per cent.

But some Asian markets are still performing poorly – Koreans visitors dropped by almost a quarter in October.

An Austock analyst, Andrew Chambers, said Sydney Airport was benefiting from a high Australian dollar and strong competition on international routes, especially those to the US and Europe, after having been adversely affected by the global economic slowdown and swine flu earlier in the year.

The value of the Australian dollar against the US greenback has risen by 52 per cent over the last year to just over 92 cents in trading today.

‘‘Anecdotal evidence is that there were a lot of people cutting travel at the start of the year … and now they are saying that it’s time to travel again,’’ Mr Chambers said today. ‘‘Growth in overseas travel is encouraging for [Sydney Airport] given that the charges are double that for domestic travel.’’

But shares in MAp fell 4 cents, or 1.4 per cent, to close at $2.77 at midday, in line with the decline on the Australian sharemarket.

The trans-Pacific route between Australia and the US has become one of the most competitive this year after Virgin Blue’s long-haul carrier, V Australia, and Delta Air Lines joined Qantas and United Airlines in offering services.

The kangaroo route to Europe has also been competitive due to Middle Eastern airlines such as Etihad and Emirates either boosting or maintaining flights despite other carriers shedding capacity.

MAp’s airports in Europe continued to record falls in traffic but at markedly less severe levels than earlier this year at the height of the global financial crisis.

Copenhagen Airport posted a 3 per cent fall in passengers in October, while Brussels was down by 6 per cent. Copenhagen is MAp’s biggest asset after its 74 per cent stake in Sydney Airport.