Brisbane Airport braces for Christmas traffic

Everyone is coming home for Christmas and Brisbane Airport is already gearing up for one of its busiest times of the year.

Overall there are estimated to be 165,000 passengers flying in - or out - of Brisbane Airport over the next three days as people wing home for Christmas.

The anticipated traffic represents a jump of almost four per cent in passenger numbers since Christmas 2011, the year the floods and Cyclone Yasi hit.

Matt and Alana Barns of Geraldton are typical of the thousands of visitors flying home and marvelling at the new-look Brisbane Airport.

"We are coming back to spend Christmas with the family for the first time in six years," Matt Barns said of the couple's visit to Brisbane's northside.

"So we are coming back just to spend four or five days here."

Matt, a civil engineer and Alana, an occupation therapist, said Brisbane Airport had changed.

"Yes, you seen new roads, new infrastructure and the airport itself is one of those new pieces of infrastructure," Matt said.

He was a little bewildered by the large artwork along the front of the car park.

"It's the coastline, isn't it?" he asked. It is the Brisbane River. 

Alana joked that the toilets were, at least, new.

"It all helps with your airport experience," she laughed.

And no, they did not have an issue with Brisbane Airport's pick-up zone, which has bedevilled passengers this year but seems fuss-free since reverting to the older system.

Home for Christmas

From today, Brisbane Airport will see 80 international flights and 390 domestic flights a day.

They will bring home to Brisbane - or take home from Brisbane - about 40,000 international visitors and an estimated 125,000 domestic passengers over December 24th, Christmas Day and on Boxing Day. 

Already in Brisbane are Grahame Russell and his wife Roxanne, from Blacktown.

"I come home to see my grandkids, my daughter," Mr Russell said with a chuckle, hugging his second eldest grand-daughter, Erin Bryers, who picked the couple up at the airport.

"There's family coming from lots of places; Tennessee and Sydney," Erin said.

Roxanne Russell said it was a family reunion.

"We're coming from Sydney and we've got 12 kids between us; seven boys and five girls, 29 grandkids, and one great-grandchild."  

Extra flights

The extra demand has prompted some airlines to add extra flights.

EVA Air has added one - up from two a week to three a week; while Air Pacific is adding an extra flight from Nadi to Brisbane.

Hawaiian Airlines has also added three extra flights to Brisbane since November 28 

And, of course, Santa's flight over Australia - Red Sled One - can be followed here.  

Who is watching as you arrive

In Brisbane there'll be somewhere between 50 to 70 air traffic controllers on duty depending on the time of day (or night) and up to five in the tower.

Brisbane Airport's tower looks after aircraft in the immediate vicinity - up to 15 kilometres from the airport - and also on the ground, on the taxiways and runways. 

On the east coast, however, there is more staff involved.

Australia's east coast air flight monitoring is broken into just two flight controller watching areas; one in Brisbane and the second in Melbourne, Bryan Nicolson from AirServices Australia explained.

"The Brisbane centre looks after everything in controlled airspace above a line that crosses the country more or less diagonally from 40 miles [65 kilometres] north of Sydney," he said.

"Plus all the air traffic coming out in the west well north of Perth, and the Oceanic traffic half way to New Zealand off the east coast and up to Indonesian and to the Papua New Guinea airpace to the north."

Melbourne looks after traffic below that line and to the west halfway to South Africa, he said.

"Between them the two centres look after 11 per cent of the world's airspace," he said.

"That's three times the size of Europe - which has 32 separate control zones - and is also bigger than the continental United States."

To watch over this area, larger than continental United States, there are over 900 air flight controllers in Australia - in the two centres or in the 26 control towers - at Australia's major airports, he said.