High winds and torrential rain have left hundreds of travelers stranded at airports across the country as dozens of flights to and from Sydney are canceled ahead of the AFL final.
Up to 40 flights scheduled to land or depart from Sydney were canceled on Thursday morning, leading to further cancellations in Melbourne as the Bureau of Meteorology issued severe weather warnings for heavy rain and thunderstorms along NSW’s east coast.
Delays were expected to get worse in the afternoon, with two runways closing due to rain and wind. That would mean that all domestic and international flights share a single runway.
“Due to poor weather conditions, Sydney Airport is expected to begin operating from a single runway soon,” said an Airservices Australia spokesperson.
“Safety is our number 1 priority.”
Previously, passengers in Sydney complained on social media about receiving warnings about cancellations at 4.30am, and there were long queues at the Sydney terminal.
The cancellations came after Airservices Australia notified Sydney Airport and airlines of possible severe weather conditions on Wednesday evening, a Sydney Airport spokesperson said.
He said passengers flying in and out of Sydney should check with their airline about the status of their flights.
“Passengers traveling today are advised to arrive two hours before the departure of domestic flights and three hours before international flights,” the spokesman said.
During the holiday peak, 2.4 million people are expected to fly through Sydney.
Travelers at Melbourne Airport also faced hurdles, with 11 flights canceled on Thursday, mainly from Sydney.
About 86,000 people will travel through Melbourne Airport on Thursday, with terminals that are busy but flow well, an airport spokesman said.
As Victorians enjoy two consecutive public holidays before the weekend, an additional 90,000 people are expected to travel via Melbourne Airport on Friday and Sunday, with the grand finale expected to be a slower day on Saturday.
Travelers were urged to arrive one to two hours for domestic flights and two to three hours for international flights, the spokesman said.
“Since so many people are traveling this long weekend, we encourage everyone to give themselves enough time to find a parking space, check in and remove security,” he said.
Meanwhile, operations in the Sunshine State went “relatively smoothly” at the Gold Coast Airport, a spokeswoman said.
She said the operations were assisted by an ambassador program that helped people board and check in at the terminal.
Thursday’s holiday coincided with the start of the school holidays in many states.
Victoria and Queensland are halfway through the holiday, while the term ends on Friday in NSW, the Northern Territory, ACT and Western Australia.
Tasmania’s holiday starts at the end of next week.