Sydney airport delays hit travellers with queues snaking out of terminals

·4 min read

Travellers at Sydney airport were again hit by long delays on Monday morning with check-in queues spilling out of the terminal.

A spokesperson for the airport said staff shortages were to blame for the extended wait times as lines stretched out in excess of 150 metres to get through security screening at domestic terminals.

“Our security contractor has had significant staff sick leave today, meaning some security screening lanes were not able to be opened,” the spokesperson said.

“We have customer service staff on the ground bringing passengers forward according to flight priority.

“We are sorry about the disruption and working hard to get everyone on their way.”

Certis, contracted by Sydney airport to provide security screening services, has been struggling to restore its workforce to pre-Covid levels and has been offering incentives to staff to turn up to work.

Passengers turned to social media to vent their frustration, reporting wait times of more than an hour to make their flights on Monday morning.

A Guardian Australia reporter, Josh Taylor, described the Virgin domestic terminal as “a mess”, posting a photograph of the queue snaking well outside the door.

Similar screening delays were impacting Jetstar and Qantas flights, with a “queue shed” set up at the domestic terminal to manage crowd control.

One passenger, Mendy Stein, had been waiting an hour outside on Monday morning just to get through to the security line inside the terminal.

Sydney airport was named one of the world’s worst airports last month after being plagued by weeks of flight cancellations and delays.

Data compiled by the flight tracking and data platform FlightAware ranked Sydney sixth worst for flight cancellations, with 5.9% of flights cancelled, and ninth worst for delays, with 34.2% of flights affected.

Extreme weather, school holidays and staff shortages have been to blame for the long queues and travel disruptions. The airport’s chief executive has estimated that 15,000 jobs have been lost throughout the pandemic.

At a jobs fair held at the airport in June, Geoff Culbert warned that the delays would continue for “a while longer”. “This is the tightest labour market that we’ve seen in 40 years,” he said. “We’ve got 5,000 jobs that we need to fill and that’s going to take time.”

The delays come after a shooting at Canberra airport that prompted an evacuation on Sunday afternoon.

A man was arrested after allegedly firing about five shots, some leaving bullet holes in terminal windows, about 1.30pm. Planes were grounded for hours while other parts of the airport were locked down. There were no reported injuries.

Also on Sunday, a Sydney-to-Hobart flight was forced to divert to Melbourne after an engine malfunction.

A Qantas spokesperson said the aircraft, a Boeing 717, made a snap priority landing on Sunday afternoon after pilots received an alert in the cockpit about an engine issue, followed by a loud noise in one of the engines.

“The pilots followed all standard procedures … the aircraft landed safely and without incident,” they said. “Engineers are inspecting the aircraft. We understand this would have been an unsettling experience for our customers.”

A passenger onboard the flight reported hearing an “enormous bang” and experiencing “the plane shaking like it would fall apart”.

The crew returned to work, while passengers were put on flights Hobart, Qantas said.

A spokesperson for the Australian Transport Safety Bureau confirmed the issue had been reported and they were “gathering further information at this stage”.