Flights leaving Broome have had the highest percentage of delays in the country amid the worst national figures recorded since delay-related data began being collected.
- Almost 70 per cent of flights between Broome and Perth were delayed last month
- None of the fourteen flights operated by Virgin Australia mainline departed the airport on time
- The Broome Shire President says the delays are affecting tourists and locals
The monthly Bureau of Infrastructure and Transport Research Economics (BITRE) report measures flight delays and cancellations along routes in Australia with 8,000 passengers or more per month.
The latest edition collating statistics from June found a little more than 30 per cent of flights headed from Broome to Perth left on time — the highest percentage of delays for any route in the country.
The figure was less than half the national average of 62 per cent for the month, which according to the report was the worst figure recorded “since recording commenced in November 2003”.
Virgin Australia mainline saw the worst delays for the period — none of the carrier’s 14 flights from Broome to Perth left within 15 minutes of their expected departure time.
Virgin Australia Regional also suffered delays, seeing only 38 per cent of its 50 flights scheduled to depart to Perth leaving when expected.
But passengers aboard Qantas and QantasLink flights also faced delays, with only 22.2 and 31.5 per cent of each carrier’s flights leaving Broome for Perth on time.
In total there were 11 cancellations of flights between the two cities — 10 for QantasLink and one for Virgin Australia Regional.
Tourists and locals affected
The cancellations and delays have left many travelers with nowhere to go during the busy dry season, which often sees the town’s hotels booked out months in advance.
In a bid to help stranded local passengers have been forced to step in and house them until they can board another flight, with a group of volunteers coordinating their efforts.
But while the problems at the airport have affected tourists, Broome Shire President Harold Tracey said they were affecting residents too.
“Some of my … elderly staff members have had appointments to go down to Perth and have check ups and MRIs and so forth,” he said.
“The day before the appointment flight … [the flights are] getting canceled and then having to cancel the appointments.
“We all know how long the waits are when trying to get an appointment again.”
In May Qantas said the ongoing delays and cancellations that have stranded travelers were due to “COVID-related staff challenges” and “engineering requirements”.
In late June the airline sent a full-time engineer to Broome to address issues with aircraft in a bid to “minimise the risk of cancellations” at the airport.
Mr Tracey said he hoped the engineer would help fix the issues with the plans flying to and from the airport.
“Qantas has prided itself as the world’s safest airline, but the jalopies that are flying backwards and forwards to Broome at the moment probably leave a little bit to be desired,” he said.
“You’d like to think that if they’ve got the engineer in Broome that can sign off on some of these minor issues, that would really alleviate some of the pain that we’re feeling.”
Airlines apologize for delays
In response to the report a Qantas spokesperson said the disruptions were due to “COVID and other illnesses among airline crew as well as the tight labor market”.
“These flight delays and cancellations are not the kind of performance that we were delivering pre-COVID and we know they are not at the level that our customers expect,” they said.
“Everyone at Qantas and Jetstar is focused on turning this performance around.
“We’re already seeing improvements and things will continue to get better month on month.”
A Virgin Australia spokesperson also apologized to customers who experienced delays at Broome Airport.
‘We sincerely apologize to any guest impacted by delayed or canceled services and we continue to work hard to ensure all guests reach their destination,’ they said.
A Broome International Airport spokesperson said the delays were “airline-related issues”.
“Broome Airport is working with the airlines to minimize the impact to travelers where possible,” they said.