Public holiday havoc hits major airports

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High winds and heavy rainfall have led to hundreds of travellers being stranded at airports around the country as dozens of flights coming in and out of Sydney are cancelled in the lead-up to the AFL Grand Final.

Up to 40 flights due to land or depart out of Sydney were cancelled on Thursday morning, leading to further cancellations in Melbourne, as severe weather warnings were issued by the Bureau of Meteorology for heavy falls and thunderstorms across NSW's east coast.

Passengers in Sydney complained on social media of receiving alerts about cancellations at 4.30am, and long queues were seen inside the Sydney terminal.

The cancellations came after Airservices Australia advised Sydney Airport and airlines on Wednesday evening of potential severe weather conditions, a Sydney Airport spokesman told AAP.

He said passengers flying in and out of Sydney should check the status of their flights with the airline.

"Passengers who are travelling today are recommended to arrive two hours prior to domestic flight departures, and three hours for international services," the spokesman said.

It is expected 2.4 million people will fly through Sydney during the holiday peak.

Travellers at Melbourne Airport also faced some hurdles, with 11 flights cancelled on Thursday, predominantly arriving from Sydney.

Some 86,000 people are transiting through Melbourne Airport on Thursday, with terminals busy but flowing well, a spokesman for the airport told AAP.

As Victorians enjoy two consecutive public holidays before the weekend, a further 90,000 people are expected to travel through Melbourne Airport on Friday and Sunday, with Grand Final Saturday expected to be a slower day in the terminals.

Travellers are being urged to arrive one to two hours before domestic flights and two to three hours before international flights, the spokesman said.

"Given there are so many people travelling this long weekend, we're encouraging everyone to allow themselves plenty of time to find a car park, check in and clear security," he said.

Meanwhile in the Sunshine State, operations are "flowing relatively smoothly" at the Gold Coast Airport, according to a spokeswoman.

She told AAP operations are being assisted by an ambassador program that is helping people board their flights and check in at the terminal.

Thursday's public holiday coincides with the start of school holidays in many states, with Queensland on school holidays, and the NSW, Northern Territory, ACT and West Australian term ending on Friday. Tasmania and Victoria go on holidays at the end of next week.