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 trip to Pole
- Airports are under increasing pressure across the country due to pent-up demand for travel and school holidays.
- There are “post-COVID record numbers” of people traveling through Brisbane International Airport today
A few days earlier, he had received an email informing him that his 3pm departure time had been brought forward by two hours.
He didn’t think much about it.
On the morning of his Virgin Australia flight, Pole, who works in consultancy, tried to check in online.
“It said ‘you can only check in 48 hours before your flight’, which really confused me,” Pole said.
“Honestly, I thought I did something wrong.
“Then I received an email [with the new flight details]I checked the flight date and it said July 11th – next Monday.
“I was shocked. I’m fine with delays of a few hours in either direction, but three days is a little excessive.”
Pole said flying to the Gold Coast was his only option.
“I tried to catch another flight later in the day, but everything got cancelled,” Pole said.
“There were practically 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 have been nice to have at least some reason given, some explanation,” Pole said.
“Virgin Australia’s hotline is a real nuisance… the wait time was an hour, I just hung up.
“I was supposed to be working but my whole day is gone.
“I arrived at the airport at 9:30 am… and I won’t be arriving in Brisbane until after 5:00 pm.”
Flight cancellations, delays wreaking havoc on travelers
Pole’s experience is not an isolated one, with airports under increasing pressure across the country due to pent-up demand for travel and school holidays.
Brisbane Airport’s head of public affairs Stephen Beckett said weather disruptions in flood-ravaged New South Wales and COVID and flu-related staff shortages are also contributing to flight delays and cancellations.
“In the last seven days, there were 2,953 scheduled flights [in and out of Brisbane] and of that, 229 were cancelled, which represents about 7% or so,” Beckett said.
“We have seen that some of our partner airlines have had to cancel flights because of the impact on their crew.
“The impact is not great for those who [affected].
“We understand that when airlines cancel a flight or if there is a long line at the airport, it can be quite frustrating.”
Beckett said 50,000 passengers passed through Brisbane’s domestic terminal on Friday and high demand is expected to continue through the weekend and into Monday.
“The airport is very busy as Queenslanders return from school holidays and our friends from the south are heading our way as their holidays have just begun,” Beckett said.
“We are recruiting extra people and putting extra staff during these peaks, so this is serving us well.
“Please arrive early, book your Ubers and taxis as we are hearing people are getting caught up in the wait time and consider using the air train.
“Arrive 90 minutes before your domestic flights… check in online and if you’re traveling with carry-on luggage, it’s a way to avoid the bag drop lines.
Beckett said there were “record post-COVID numbers” of people traveling through Brisbane International Airport, but said changes to COVID vaccination requirements for foreign travelers were “accelerating” wait times.
“Previously you had to prove your vaccination status, complete digital passenger cards and stuff like that,” he said.
“Now we are back to the same paperwork you needed before COVID, nothing more and this will help with processing times at the international airport.”
Demand ‘significantly higher’ than Easter: Virgin
Virgin Australia said the number of travelers flying these school holidays was 15% higher than 2019 levels and was “significantly higher” than during the Easter break.
“Airports and airlines around the world are facing enormous demand as travelers return to the skies as pandemic restrictions ease,” a company spokeswoman said.
Virgin Australia customers may obtain a refund or travel credit if a suitable flight is not available to replace the one booked.
Passengers whose flights are delayed overnight can receive $220 for hotel accommodation, $50 for meals and be reimbursed for the cost of airport transfers and “reasonable personal items”.
“I’m lucky to have been able to stay with the family,” Pole said.
“But I have a funny feeling that $220 wouldn’t have helped much for three more nights if I had to stay in a hotel.”