Canberrans are being warned of longer than usual queues at the airport as thousands prepare to take off for the Easter long weekend.
Canberra Airport has been welcoming about 9000 travellers through its doors each day, with numbers expected to peak this Thursday afternoon (14 April) and Friday morning (15 April).
“Over the past two weeks we’ve been at 75 per cent our pre-pandemic levels, and expect that to reach 80 per cent over Easter,” Canberra Airport managing director Stephen Byron said.
“Compare that to five weeks ago, we were only at around 40 per cent (of pre-pandemic levels) and 25 per cent over Christmas.”
The influx of travellers is putting pressure on staff already stretched thin due to COVID close contact requirements.
“We’ve been planning for this increase (in travel) but close contact rules are causing havoc for us, just as they are in places like schools,” Mr Byron said.
“It’s very tough for a person to find out, say, that their child has COVID when they start their shift in half an hour.”
Last Friday (8 April), NSW Health added airport staff to its list of critical workers after delays plagued Sydney Airport.
This means they can avoid seven days quarantine and attend work if they have no symptoms, but must travel directly to and from work and wear a mask.
Mr Byron wants something similar to happen in the Territory.
“We’re talking with the ACT and Federal Governments about giving our airport workers an exemption from the close contact rules,” he said.
“It’s not just impacting security staff, it’s also check-in staff, baggage handlers and those in retail.”
Wait times through Canberra Airport’s security have been increasing, but Mr Byron said the challenge in planning to avoid this was that the times varied greatly.
“They’re averaging anywhere from a three-to-five minute wait up to a 30-to-40 minute wait,” he said.
“The peaks we’re seeing are for flights in the morning and late afternoon, but also at lunch-time as well, which creates the bottlenecks.”
In the meantime, travellers are being urged to arrive at the airport one to two hours before their flights to accommodate possible queues and delays.
“We don’t want to make trouble for people’s holidays,” Mr Byron said.
“But arriving earlier for your flight can help make everything much more stress-free for everyone.”