Australian airports and coronavirus: Parking fees scrapped as passenger numbers plummet

If you needed any evidence we are living in extraordinary times, look no further than Australia's major airports who are offering free parking in their previously lucrative car parks.

Melbourne Airport has announced that parking will be free until June 30, while Sydney Airport is offering free parking for up to three hours in until May 31.

"During these unprecedented times, we appreciate that your travel plans have been impacted by the government travel restrictions currently in place to limit the spread of COVID-19," said Lorie Argus, Melbourne Airport's chief of landside access, in an email newsletter.

"If you are required to travel for an essential trip prior to 30 June, we would like to assist by inviting you to leave your car with us as a guest of Melbourne Airport Parking, at zero cost."

Passengers will be able to park in the short term car park without need to book and can leave their vehicle there until they arrive back.

While detailed numbers are yet to be released, Melbourne Airport confirmed earlier this week that international passenger numbers were down 93 per cent compared to this time last year and domestic passenger numbers were down 95 per cent.

On Friday, Melbourne Airport's flight board showed just one scheduled international arrival: Qatar Airways flight QR904 from Doha. Sydney Airport had two international arrivals scheduled, Air New Zealand's NZ103 from Auckland and Qatar Airways QR988 from Doha.

Visitors to Sydney Airport will be able to use the car parks at the domestic terminal, as well as the P7 and Express Parking facilities at the international terminal.

The expense of airport parking has long been a bugbear for many travellers. In February, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission published its annual report into Australia's airports, finding that the country's airports continued to generate huge profits from parking.

Of the four main international airports, Sydney Airport's parking was the most expensive for 30 to 60 minutes at $19.40, while Melbourne Airport's was the cheapest at $12.

The four airports, Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth, collectively earned $276.1 million in operating profits from car parking in the 2018/19 financial year, the report stated.

Sydney Airport's operating profit from car parking fell by 6.2 per cent to $91 million, while Melbourne Airport reported a 10 per cent decline to $77.5 million.