If you thought aircraft flying to and from Australia are getting more crowded, you were right.
New government statistics released on Monday show airlines filled more seats on planes flying to and from Australia in 2015-16 as passenger traffic grew by a healthy 7 per cent compared to the previous year.
The statistics show the increase in demand, fuelled by lows air fares that are cutting airline yields, was greater than the 6.1 per cent increase in seats, pushing overall seat utilisation from 79 per cent in 2014-15 to 79.7 per cent last financial year.
The increase came as seven airlines started or restarted international services to or from Australia to bring the total number of carriers servicing the country to 59, including five dedicated freight operators.
International passenger traffic increased by almost 2.4 million in 2015-16 to 36.2 million after growing over the decade from a 2005-6 base of 21.1 million.
At the same time, the mix of the most popular airlines changed markedly over the decade, according to the Bureau of transport and Regional Economics.
In the latest year, Qantas Airways had the largest share of the market with 15.9 per cent followed by Jetstar with 9.5 per cent, Emirates with 9.1 per cent, Singapore Airlines with 8.4 per cent and Air New Zealand with 7.1 per cent.
Compared to 2005-06, Qantas Airways’ share has decreased by 11.6 percentage points, Jetstar’s had increased by 8.6 points and Emirates’ was up by 2.6 percentage points.
Falls were seen by Singapore Airlines (down 2.6 percentage points) and Air New Zealand (1.8 points) while new entrants in the top 10 since 2005-06 included AirAsia X (3.4 per cent) Etihad (3.1 per cent) and China Southern (2.8 per cent).
The market share of Australian designated airlines was 29.4 per cent, down from about a third a five years ago, while the share of low-cost carriers rose from 16.3 per cent in 2014-15 to 17.5 per cent in 2015-16.
Australian Transport Minister Darren Chester said the figures indicated Australia’s reputation as a safe and attractive international destination would continue to grow.
Chester said the Australian Government was committed to supporting the growing demand , pointing to a $A181 million concessional loan to help fund a new runway in Queensland’s Sunshine Coast as well as decisions to grant regional gateway status to Brisbane West Wellcamp Airport, Melbourne’s Avalon Airport and Canberra Airport.
“The Government also recently introduced a more flexible policy for air services negotiations with our bilateral partners,’’ he said in a statement. “This in turn is delivering clear benefits to local export businesses, our tourism industry, and the broader economy.’’
Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment Steven Ciobo said the government was prioritising the negotiation of bilateral air services agreements to ensure we have the aviation capacity necessary to meet the Tourism 2020 goal of $A140 billion in overnight visitor expenditure by the year 2020.
This included tripling the gateway capacity between Australia and China, which saw spending by Chinese tourists surge 27 per cent in the last 12 months to reach $A8.9 billion.