Sydney Airport’s east-west runway re-opens

10 May 2021

  • Runway re-opens more than a year after it was closed to accommodate parked aircraft
  • Re-opened to cater for essential maintenance works on main north-south runway, and gradual recovery in domestic air traffic
  • Passenger traffic in March was 68 percent down on pre-COVID levels

Sydney Airport’s east-west runway accepted its first flights yesterday, Sunday 9 May 2021, more than a year after it was closed to accommodate the extraordinary demand for aircraft parking due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The east-west runway accommodated almost 50 grounded aircraft from almost all domestic airlines during the crisis.

The move to re-open the runway, which temporarily ceased operations on Wednesday 22 April 2020, will help the airport accommodate essential maintenance works on the main north-south runway, while the gradual improvement in domestic air traffic continues.

Sydney Airport’s passenger traffic data for March 2021 showed domestic traffic had recovered to 48 percent of March 2019 levels, however international passengers remain 97 percent down.

Dhruv Gupta, Chief Aeronautical Officer, Sydney Airport, said: “The re-opening of the runway will help us facilitate essential maintenance works on our main north-south runway.

“We’ve had some encouraging signs with the opening of the New Zealand bubble and the ongoing gradual improvement in domestic passenger traffic, but as of March 2021 we were still 68 percent down overall on where we were in March 2019.”

The east-west runway typically accounts for approximately 1-in-10 aircraft movements and is primarily used during weather disruptions and under ‘noise-sharing’ arrangements.

When all three of Sydney Airport’s runways are operational, jet aircraft can use one of 14 available flight paths to land or take off from the airport. During the closure of the east-west runway, aircraft used one of 12 available flight paths on arrival and departure. When maintenance works commence on the main north-south runway in the next few months, 13 flight paths will be available to arriving and departing aircraft.

Ted Plummer, Sydney Airport’s Special Advisor Government & Community Relations, said: “We appreciate that communities to the north and south of the airport would have experienced an increase in aircraft noise recently, relative to periods in 2020 when state borders were closed. Air traffic still remains well below pre-COVID levels, however the re-opening of the east-west runway means whatever air traffic there is can be distributed more evenly while we do maintenance on the main north-south runway.

“The re-opening of the runway also means residents who haven’t seen an aircraft overhead for more than a year will notice an increase in traffic, particularly to the east in suburbs like Coogee and Randwick, and to the west around Bexley and Hurstville.”

The announcement of the runway re-opening follows consultation with Airservices Australia and the Civil Aviation Safety Authority to ensure all relevant safety and regulatory requirements were met, as well as community stakeholders.

Further information about the runway safety works and re-opening of the east-west runway can be found at