Auckland Airport says it doesn't 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 Covid-19.
Chairman Patrick Strange said the past year was the toughest in the company's 54-year 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," 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 quarantine-free travel both ways across the Tasman and to the Pacific Islands earlier."
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 post-pandemic 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 Covid-19, 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 quarantine-free travel across the Tasman and to other low-risk countries as conditions permit.
To enable safe travel zones, Auckland Airport had developed a comprehensive plan to ensure a safe, separated pathway through the international terminal whenever the Government decides it is safe to allow quarantine-free 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 midst of a major construction phase before the pandemic struck
which included more than 200 inter-connected infrastructure projects either planned or under way to build an airport for the future, 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."
Strange said the airport remained confident in and committed to its long-term infrastructure plan but the timing of parts of it were uncertain.
The company shed 260 staff, about 37 per cent of its workforce.
The company, which has a market capitalisation of close to $11 billion, carried out a successful equity raise of $1.2 billion in April, together with a major restructure of near-term bank debt to protect its balance sheet.
During the past year, the company's share price peaked at $9.48 before falling to a low of $4.26 in March as the pandemic hit. It was trading at $7.22 today. It suspended its dividend this year.