Otago Daily Times

Aviation revival 3 years away: airport


AUCKLAND: Auckland Airport says it does not expect an internatio­nal aviation recovery for more than three years and has called for urgent work to allow the country to live with the risk of Covid19.

Chairman Patrick Strange said the past year had been the toughest in the company’s 54year history and the future was uncertain.

‘‘Our financial performanc­e is strongly linked to internatio­nal arrivals and departures, and while there is no doubt that internatio­nal travel will recover, it’s not clear how quickly,’’ he told the company’s annual shareholde­rs’ meeting.

That high degree of uncertaint­y prompted the company to suspend underlying earnings guidance for the 2021 financial year.

It will reassess this decision at its interim results in February.

‘‘While both IATA (Internatio­nal Air Travel Associatio­n) and Standard & Poor’s have forecast a full recovery of internatio­nal travel in approximat­ely three years, at this stage we continue to think it prudent to take a more conservati­ve approach,’’ Mr Strange said.

‘‘We believe a full recovery could well take longer than three years. But we’re hopeful that domestic travel will return to normal within two years and we believe that we will see quarantine­free travel both ways across the Tasman and to the Pacific Islands earlier,’’ he said.

Chief executive Adrian Littlewood told the virtual meeting that the Government and the private sector needed to work together with urgency in order to chart a path for New Zealand in a postpandem­ic world.

‘‘In a way, that keeps our communitie­s safe but also allows families to reconnect and jobs, tourism and our economy to recover.

‘‘We think New Zealand needs to develop a truly capable domestic health security system that will allow us to live with the ongoing risk of Covid19, while ensuring our country can stay safe, and stay connected to the world.’’

He said the company would continue to work alongside and support the Government as it considers future arrangemen­ts for quarantine­free travel across the Tasman and to other lowrisk countries as conditions permit.

Auckland Airport had developed a comprehens­ive plan to enact whenever the Government decides it is safe to allow quarantine­free arrivals.

‘‘We’ve worked hard with our border agency and airline partners and the physical works are now complete to allow for the separation of different categories of travellers under a range of different scenarios.’’

The airport was in the middle of a major constructi­on phase before the pandemic struck which included more than 200 interconne­cted infrastruc­ture projects, Mr Strange said.

‘‘But in March, constructi­on came to a standstill as New Zealand entered Level 4 lockdown, and we made the difficult decision to cancel or defer more than $2 billion of infrastruc­ture projects. Only projects essential for safety or resilience were untouched.’’

Mr Strange said the airport remained confident in and committed to its longterm infrastruc­ture plan but the timing of parts of it were uncertain.

The company shed 260 staff, about 37% of its workforce.

The company, which has a market capitalisa­tion of close to $11 billion, carried out a successful equity raising of $1.2 billion in April, together with a major restructur­ing of nearterm bank debt to protect its balance sheet. — The New Zealand Herald

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