Resilient Christchurch Airport Reports A US$26.8M Profit For FY21

Despite a 95% drop in international passenger numbers, Christchurch Airport has reported an after-tax profit of US$26.8 million for the 12 months to June 30. A rebounding domestic market helped keep the airport in the black.

Christchurch Airport reported a US$26.8 million profit in the 12 months to June 30. Photo: Getty Images

Despite a tough year, Christchurch Airport posts a profit

New Zealand’s second busiest airport handled 3.7 million passengers in the 12 month period. In contrast, the airport handled 5.2 million passengers in the previous 12 months and 6.93 million passengers in the 12 months to June 30, 2019.

Despite passenger numbers nearly halving since 2019, a resilient domestic airline sector saw enough New Zealanders in the air over the past 12 months to see Christchurch Airport produce a respectable profit over the period.

A short-lived quarantine-free travel corridor between New Zealand and Australia failed to fire up international passenger arrivals at Christchurch Airport. Despite Air New Zealand, Qantas, and Jetstar laying on decent capacity out of the airport, including some widebody flights, most passengers choose to fly in and out through rival airport Auckland.

The suspension of the travel corridor in July saw what international passenger traffic there was at Christchurch further dry up.

Christchurch Airport handled 3.7 million passengers in the 12 months to June 30. Photo: Getty Images

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Lessons learned from the 2011 Christchurch earthquake

According to aviation database, nine airlines presently fly into Christchurch from 28 destinations in eight countries. Aside from local airlines like Air New Zealand and Jetstar, many of these services are cargo. Christchurch Airport is owned by a Christchurch City Council holding company. The New Zealand Government is a minority shareholder.

Christchurch Airport’s CEO, Malcolm Johns, attributes the airport’s profit in a tough 12 months to lessons learned from an earthquake.

A catastrophic earthquake ten years ago flattened much of Christchurch, leading to significant changes at the city’s airport.

“Coming out of the earthquakes, we had to rethink our business, and that work is a big part of being able to deliver both a positive operating profit,” said the Christchurch Airport CEO.“

“We spent seven years building the business back better after the earthquakes. COVID-19 means we must rise to that challenge again, but this time we’ll do so armed with the lessons of round one and from a stronger commercial position.”

Christchurch Airport CEO Malcolm Johns. Photo: Christchurch Airport

Strong domestic demand & cargo help underwrite Christchurch Airport

New Zealand is in day 10 of a nationwide lockdown that has seen local airlines cancel most flights. Christchurch Airport is temporarily down to a handful of arrivals and departures each day. But in the lead up to the lockdown, the airport reports domestic passenger numbers were exceeding 2019 levels.

It’s those strong domestic passenger numbers alongside a burgeoning cargo business that saw Christchurch Airport’s revenues total US$131.9 million in the 12 months to June 30.

Earlier this year, Christchurch Airport reported up to 30 freighter flights a week heading off to markets in Australia, Asia, the UK, and the United States. Emirates, Air New Zealand, China Airlines, Singapore Airlines, Qantas, and Cathay Pacific freighters were regularly landing at Christchurch.

Behind the uptick in dedicated cargo flights out of Christchurch is a decline in scheduled international passenger flights and the New Zealand Government subsidizing critical airfreight capacity under the International Air Freight Capacity Scheme (IAFC). That subsidy scheme continues to operate