Why Australian Airlines Canceled So Many Sydney Christmas Eve Flights

Several Australian domestic airlines have adjusted their schedules and canceled scores of flights out of Sydney on Christmas Eve, disrupting the holiday plans of thousands.  However, it appears very few flights are being canceled at the last minute, and reports of passengers turning up to the airport to find flights not operating are exaggerated.

Qantas & Jetstar are two of the airlines that have canceled some Christmas Eve flights out of Sydney. Photo: Getty Images

Minimal last-minute cancelations

In Virgin Australia’s case, the airline canceled seven flights from Sydney to Melbourne, six flights from Sydney to the Gold Coast, and four flights from Sydney to Brisbane across Friday. Virgin Australia also canceled some return flights to Sydney from these northern airports. However, the airline canceled these flights days ago, and alternative arrangements were made for all impacted passengers. Virgin Australia says there is no spike in same-day cancelations.

Sydney was also the focus of canceled Qantas Group services on Friday. Between Qantas and Jetstar, 14 flights between Sydney and Melbourne are canceled on Friday, as are four flights between Sydney and the Gold Coast and ten flights between Sydney and Brisbane.

A Jetstar spokesperson told Simple Flying that many frontline employees are now required to test and isolate as close contacts, given the increasing number of COVID cases in Sydney.

Omicron stay at home orders prevent airport workers from working

In the 24 hours through to Friday morning, New South Wales and its capital city, Sydney, reported 5,612 new cases of COVID. That has a lot of people in a spin, and muddled health advisories and constantly changing rules aren’t helping matters.

Because of the close contact isolation rules keeping Jetstar employees at home, they’ve had to make some adjustments to their schedules.

“We appreciate the frustration this causes, especially as customers are traveling for Christmas, and sincerely apologize for the impact these changes are having on travel plans,” Jetstar’s spokesperson said.

“We are working to minimize any delays and re-accommodating passengers on flights as close as possible to their original departure times across both Jetstar and Qantas services.”

A Regional Express (Rex) spokesperson advises all their flights are operating normally on Christmas Eve.

While nobody likes a canceled flight, it’s not a case here of people turning up to the airport to find their flights canceled.

But there are plenty of reports of unhappy passengers at Sydney Airport. It’s peak holiday period, and lots of people are on the move. After several states recently reopened their borders to interstate travelers, people are jumping at the chances to visit friends and relatives for Christmas.

No-show PCR test results cause problems at Sydney Airport

However, multiple Australian states now impose PCR testing regimes for inbound interstate travelers. A positive result from a test taken with 72 hours of departure is a must if you live in Sydney and plan to head to states like Queensland, South Australia, or Tasmania anytime soon.

The problem is with record numbers of COVID cases in Sydney and record numbers of people lining up every day to get tested (much of it simply for travel purposes), the pathology labs are buckling under the pressure and not getting the required results back in time.

So Mum, Dad, little Jemima, and little Jimmy are booked on Jetstar to the Gold Coast and head to the airport, counting on the results coming back in time, and they don’t. Or they only come back in time for Mum and little Jimmy. So the holiday is a bust, and there are upset children and frazzled parents at the airport.

The problem here lies with government, not the airlines – although an upset kid photographed in front of an airline check-in counter is never a good look for the airline. As for the airlines, it appears they are as much a hostage to government ineptitude as the passengers.

One of the outcomes of this Christmas PR disaster for the Australian state governments is that they may drop their interstate travel PCR testing requirements in favor of faster and more travel-friendly rapid antigen tests.

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