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Pilots demand faster better IT network to fix hitches

October 10, 2017 Headline News No Comments Email Email

Pilots are demanding a new national air traffic control system for Australia after recent delays caused by software glitches, technical problems and wild weather.

September saw more than the usual share of rough weather, plus a software failure on Airservices Australia’s air traffic control system which led to big queues and delays at Sydney Airport. Virgin Australia’s check-in system also experienced technical problems.

The technical and safety director for the Australian and International Pilots Association (AIPA), Shane Loney, told the Australian Financial Review that Airservices Australia’s system had failed “at the worst possible time” [peak hour at the beginning of the school holidays] and a new system should be introduced without delay.

An infuriating outage struck during the seasonal school holiday upsurge in domestic air travel, hitting Sydney Airport, Australia’s busiest, at peak hour on a Monday morning, causing delays that fed through into the afternoon. International passengers, arriving after flying for 23 hours or longer, transferred to the domestic terminal, only to find their connecting flights delayed by hours.

Airservices Australia blamed a “system software failure” in the flight planning system.

The Tourism and Transport Forum (TTF) has already urged the federal government to ease flight movement limits at Sydney Airport to help airlines deal with big delays. See: Anger builds as Aussie airports hit by systems outage

Virgin Australia chief executive John Borghetti is among those pushing for better aviation infrastructure in Sydney.

“Our current aviation infrastructure may have served us well in the past, but we need to expand this infrastructure in order to serve the needs of future travellers,” Borghetti told a recent industry event.

The most recent monthly airline performance data from the Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics (BITRE) shows that flight arrivals, departures and cancellations continue to run above historical norms.

For August 2017, on time performance over all routes operated by participating airlines (Jetstar, Qantas, QantasLink, Regional Express, Tigerair Australia, Virgin Australia and Virgin Australia Regional Airlines) averaged 82% for on time arrivals and 83.6% for on time departures.  Cancellations represented 1.9% of all scheduled flights.  The equivalent figures for August 2016 were 87.5% for on time arrivals, 88.4% for on time departures and 1.5% for cancellations.

August’s on time arrivals figure was lower than the long-term average performance for all routes (82.8%) and the on-time departures figure was also lower than the long-term average (84.1%). The rate of cancellations was higher than the long-term average of 1.4%.

Qantas achieved the highest on time arrivals among the major domestic airlines at 82.8% followed by Virgin Australia at 82.3%, Jetstar at 80.1% and Tigerair Australia at 73.3%.

Of the regional airlines, Virgin Australia Regional Airlines recorded 86.9% for on time arrivals, followed by QantasLink at 85.7% and Regional Express at 79.2%.

The Qantas network (Qantas and QantasLink combined operations) recorded 84.4% for on time arrivals while the Virgin Australia network (Virgin Australia and Virgin Australia Regional Airlines combined operations) recorded 82.6%.

Virgin Australia achieved the highest level of on time departures among the major domestic airlines for August 2017 at 85.5%, followed by Qantas at 85.1%, Jetstar at 78.2% and Tigerair Australia at 75.8%.

Of the regional airlines, Virgin Australia Regional Airlines recorded 88.6%, followed by QantasLink at 86.2% and Regional Express at 82.0%. Both the Qantas network and the Virgin Australia network recorded 85.7% for on time departures.

Tigerair Australia recorded the highest percentage of cancellations (2.6%) during the month, followed by QantasLink and Virgin Australia (both at 2.5%), Qantas (1.5%), Regional Express (1.4%), Jetstar (0.8%), and Virgin Australia Regional Airlines (0.1%).

Written by Peter Needham

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