Auckland Airport has predicted trans-Tasman travel won’t restart in the first half of 2021.
The airport made the comments after unveiling its six-month financial results that showed profits after tax down 80 per cent to $28.1 million.
It follows recent comments by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern that played down the potential for travel from Australia to New Zealand despite an initial target of opening the route by the end of March.
“Although the government remains committed to restarting two-way trans-Tasman travel, and we support this, for the purposes of this underlying earnings guidance we have assumed there will be no material quarantine-free, two-way Tasman travel during the remainder of the 2021 financial year,” said Auckland Airport’s chief executive Adrian Littlewood. “It also assumes no further lockdowns of an extended duration during the period.”
More positively, Auckland said its domestic passenger numbers have now recovered to 65 per cent of pre-pandemic levels as the country has remained mostly COVID-free.
“We expect the timing of the recovery will remain uncertain in the coming five months of the 2021 financial year,” said Littlewood. “While we have already seen a partial recovery of domestic travel and the opening of one-way quarantine free travel to Australia, our recovery path is strongly linked to two-way quarantine free trans-Tasman travel.
“Despite the ongoing level of uncertainty around the recovery of trans-Tasman and wider international travel the company is providing underlying earnings guidance for the 2021 financial year of a loss after tax of between $35 million and $55 million.”
It comes after Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said earlier this month that “things have changed a little bit” since she set the goal of restoring trans-Tasman travel in the first quarter of 2021.
“We have to ask the question whether or not the airlines will want to operate in an environment where within three hours, they can have cancellations for multiple days,” Prime Minister Ardern said, referring to Australia suspending the current one-way agreement for a week.
A one-way ‘travel bubble’ opened in October allowing Kiwis to enter Australia without quarantine, but not the other way around.
However, Australia has since suspended twice due to small COVID outbreaks in New Zealand.
The first closure was taken after it emerged the two new COVID cases recorded across the Tasman were also of the more transmissible South African variant.