Travelers faced long waits at Sydney airport for the second day in a row, with the Qantas chief executive, Alan Joyce, partly blaming customers for not being “match fit”, before later clarifying his statements.
Lines at the domestic terminals on Friday snaked all the way to the entry doors, spilling out to the taxi rank at times as more passengers came.
On Thursday night, the Sydney airport chief executive, Geoff Culbert, apologized for the delays, blaming “inexperienced” passengers and staff shortages.
“We’re facing a perfect storm at the point. Traffic numbers are picking up, travelers are inexperienced after two years of not traveling, and the close contact rules are making it hard to fill shifts and staff the airport,” he told.
Joyce made similar comments on Friday
Joyce made similar comments on Friday suggesting high “staff absenteeism” due to Covid being partly behind the delays. But he also said passengers were “not match fit” after an extended time of not traveling.
“I went through the airports on Wednesday and people forget they need to take out their laptops, they have to take out their aerosols … so that is taking longer to get through the queue,” he said. However, passengers pointed out that at least three out of eight security lanes were closed at terminal 2 on Friday morning.
Joyce later clarified his comments: “Just to be clear, I’m not ‘blaming’ passengers. Of course, it’s not their fault. I was asked what the factors were and why queues are so long at airports. And I defined the multiple reasons.
“I went through airport security this morning myself. Everyone is doing their best including passengers, who are showing incredible patience in these queues. We’re seeing these same pressures at airports around the world and it’s something we’re all operating hard to get through.”
The airport’s general manager of operations, Greg Hay, said the Easter holiday peak had come while the airport’s security partner, Certis Security Australia, was still rebuilding its workforce.
“Our security partner is building up their workforce to ensure smooth and secure operations at the airport as travelers return,” Hay told.
Joelene, who was flying to the Gold Coast, told suggesting customers had contributed to the problems was a “cop-out”.
“This is certainly not due to the customers,” she told.
“Never seen anything like that before and don’t really know how it happened because if they knew they booked this many people that should have prepared for it.”
Jackie Ong arrived an hour before her flight was scheduled to depart and would have missed her flight if she had not been able to skip the queue. She told passengers were not to blame.
Domestic travelers were advised to arrive two hours ahead of their scheduled departure to ensure everyone “gets away on time”. Airport staff handed out masks, water, and chocolates to those waiting in line and fast-tracking those caught out by the long wait times and in danger of missing their flights.
Shelagh Bleach, a tourist from the UK, made sure to come well before her flight to Brisbane on Friday morning after seeing the crowds on Thursday night.
“We came very early this morning because we saw on the television how it was,” she told. “So we’ve just come here at least three hours early. Now we’ve been pushed back another hour.”
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Matt, who was returning to Melbourne after a Sydney business trip, was relaxed about the long wait.
“I still have everything. I just decided to wait a long while. I came here really early, so I’m not in a rush, I just sat down and had a bit of a break and waited for the crowd to ease up a little bit,” he told.
“This is my first trip in two years. I’ve never seen it this busy. It was amazing. I think it’s the Melbourne Grand Prix. It’s encouraging to see people traveling and getting on with their lives.”
It was better news for people traveling overseas, with the large crowds largely confined to the domestic terminals and operations running as usual at the international terminal.
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