Auckland Airport's profits down 63%

Auckland Airport's profit has crash landed as the pandemic all but shut much of its business.

The net profit for the year ended June fell to $193.9 million compared with $523.5m in the previous year, which included significant property value gains.

However, underlying earnings fell by nearly a third to $188.5m, as operations were severely curtailed from March when border restrictions were put into place and domestic travel all but dried up during the lockdown.

Chief executive Adrian Littlewood said the company had faced some of its most challenging conditions, which were set to continue for some time.

"It's going to be a long and tough recovery, this is the most dramatic and synchronised event in aviation history."

The company was quick to batten down the hatches when the pandemic hit, cutting all non-essential spending, suspending about $2 billion worth of projects including a second runway and new terminals, as well as raising $1.2b in a share issue to reinforce its finances. It's made about 300 staff redundant.

Revenue from most parts of the business declined, with the notable exception of property development which rose marginally. The bottom line was helped by a marked decline in the amount of tax paid, which fell by 97 percent.

Littlewood said the company would continue to keep a tight lid on spending, and was looking at its priorities, including the prospect of a new domestic terminal.

He said the airport had reconfigured facilities so that it could segregate international passengers from Covid-free and approved countries from those needing to go into isolation or quarantine.

"There's no question that we can't remained sealed off from the rest of the world for ever, but there are complex problems to be solved and we've put a lot of time into getting something like the trans-Tasman bubble and we continue to work on how do we safely open," Littlewood said.

He said it was the government's decision to make, but the private sector should be contributing ideas and possible solutions.

Littlewood said the airport could survive on rebounding domestic services, and limited international links with safe countries in the pacific and Australia, which would give it about 75 percent of its normal business.

However, he said the company was being more cautious and prudent than the International Air Travel Association's three-year estimate for a recovery in global aviation.

"At this stage, we think a full recovery could take longer. However, we are hopeful that domestic travel will return to normal comfortably within two years.

"With Australia being our largest international market, we are also hopeful that short-haul Tasman and Pacific island travel will resume sometime in 2021, with a full recovery of both these markets occurring before long-haul international travel returns to normal."