Passenger numbers at BNE hit a 26-year low in 2020

Thursday 21 January 2021: Total passenger numbers at Brisbane Airport (BNE) for calendar year 2020 were just over 8 million, a 26-year low and down 66% on 2019.

International traveller numbers decreased by nearly 5 million to 1.4 million passengers for the calendar year, resulting in a 78 per cent decrease on 2019. More than one million of these arrived in the first two months of the year.

Domestic passenger numbers were 6.7 million, a reduction of 62.5% or close to 11.1 million fewer passengers than 2019.

In total, BNE recorded 8.1m passengers for calendar year 2020, 66.6% down or 16.1m fewer passengers than 2019.

Gert-Jan de Graaff, Brisbane Airport Corporation (BAC) Chief Executive Officer, said COVID had impacted many sectors, but none more so than aviation.

“It will take many years for us to recover from the impacts of the virus, the resulting border closures and decline in consumer confidence,” he said.

In pre-COVID 2019 BNE averaged 55,000 domestic passenger movements per day. When interstate borders were closed, BNE averaged 11,000 passengers per day. 

“At the height of border closures and travel restrictions, our Domestic Terminal recorded its quietest day ever with just 31 passengers on 12 April 2020, Easter Sunday,” Mr de Graaff said.

“After reaching the lows of 2020, our hope is 2021 brings the stability the industry requires to boost passenger confidence.

“Brisbane Airport remains the best-connected airport in the country and even during the hardest days of the lockdown, the airport kept its lights on supporting the resources sector’s fly in and fly out operations and ensuring valuable freight reached its destinations.

“It is critical that there is a sustained period in which domestic borders remain open as Brisbane Airport will continue to be the major gateway from other states to our regional areas, and it will take some time for the corporate market to return to pre-COVID levels.

“The recent mid-January period where Greater Brisbane was designated as a hotspot collapsed forward bookings and interstate travel. The forward outlook remains challenging and, of course, the traditionally buoyant Chinese New Year will not be possible. Mr de Graaff said. 

The first 'safe travel zone' flight from New Zealand, one of Queensland's largest travel markets, was an important step to re-establishing international aviation activity. 

“We are eager to see quarantine-free travel in both directions across the Tasman as soon as possible. NZ is a critical market for Queensland and with other international destinations likely to remain off-limits for many months to come, it is even more important that the gates between Australia and New Zealand are opened.

“This could be the difference between survival and collapse for many hundreds of businesses across our state.

“We will work with all agencies and relevant partners on both sides of the ‘ditch’ to make this happen sooner rather than later.” Mr de Graaff said. 

International review

  • BNE achieved 1,382,198 international passengers for Calendar year 2020, 78.2% down or 4,966,395 passengers less than 2019.
  • As COVID-19 progressed in China and began to spread around the world, passenger traffic started to drop in February and March. From April 2020, international pax traffic was down 98% as COVID-19 really took hold globally.
  • At the start of 2020, BNE had 29 airlines operating to 32 international destinations.
  • By December 2020, there were 11 airlines offering scheduled passenger services to 10 destinations for a total of 30 scheduled services for the week. Most passengers were carried by just five airlines: Air New Zealand, Qatar Airways, Emirates, Air Niugini and Singapore Airlines.
  • With international borders essential closed and a weekly cap of 500 pax per week, remaining airlines have been predominantly focused on repatriation flights and freight in the second half of the year.

Domestic review

  • Brisbane Airport recorded 6,668,993 domestic passengers for calendar year 2020, 62.5% down or 11,097,808 passenger less than 2019.
  • At the beginning of 2020, BNE had 8 domestic airlines operating on average 1,400 weekly flights to 51 destinations.
  • By December 2020, BNE had 7 domestic airlines operating to 37 destinations. BNE’s domestic schedule has slowly returned to 75% of pre COVID-19 levels, with an average of 1,002 weekly services.
  • Average daily pax volumes reached 27,000 pax per day for the month December 2020, however this is still less than half the 2019 average of 55,000 average daily pax.

Brisbane Airport Traffic Performance – 2020 calendar year*




Year-on-Year Growth

International Arrivals and Departures




Domestic on carriage




Total International Passengers




Domestic arrivals and departures




Total passengers




*The information contained in this document is for information purposes only. Brisbane Airport Corporation Pty Ltd (BAC) provides no warranty as to the content or accuracy of the information provided or for the consequences of any actions taken on the basis of the information provided. BAC does not accept liability for any errors or omissions in the contents of this document or for any loss of profit or other damages resulting from the use of this information.