Wellington Airport has plunged to a $35.7 million loss in the year to March 31 after what it described as a challenging and unprecedented 12 months in aviation.
The result was a 223 per cent reversal on the prior year when the company reported a $28.9m profit.
The airport is two thirds owned by Infratil. Wellington City Council owns the rest of the company.
Passenger numbers fell to 1 per cent of usual during last April's Level 4 lockdown although recovered to 48 per cent of pre-Covid levels by the end of the financial year.
Domestic passengers levels are now around 90 per cent of pre-Covid capacity,
with three million domestic passengers travelling through the airport during the
year (compared to just over five million last year).
The airport's high exposure to the domestic market had helped it recover faster than airports with a bigger reliance on international traffic.
In its annual review, the company said it was forced to take a number of significant and actions to cut the size of the business for the forecast impact of reduced airline travel.
This resulted in a large reduction in operating expenditure, including a 30 per cent cut in
in airport staff, staff salary and directors' fees reductions and temporary implementation of a four-day working week.
Other spending has also been reduced, including targeted operating cost reductions, reduced passenger related costs and cutting consultancy, marketing and travel expenditure.
In May 2020, the airport agreed with its banking group an increase in banking facilities from $100 million to $170 million and an extension of maturity terms.
In addition, WIAL also put in place a $75.8m shareholder support agreement, in the form of a commitment from both its shareholders for redeemable preference shares. As at March 31, this remained un drawn.
The company also successfully issued $100 million of retail bonds in August last year in order to pre-finance $75 million of retail bonds.
Chief executive Steve Sanderson said the airport had ended the year on a high with strong domestic travel, the opening of the transtasman bubble, and passenger numbers tracking upwards.
"Throughout a tough year, we have had continued support from our shareholders and lenders, and our staff and airport stakeholders have met challenges head on. Given the challenges we have faced, we are now looking forward to the year ahead as aviation continues to recover."
In January, the Gisborne, Hamilton, Invercargill, New Plymouth, Queenstown, Tauranga and Timaru routes all operated with more capacity than they did for the same time last year (pre=Covid).
Last month's return of quarantine-free transtasman travel and the planned return of Cook
Island travel on May 17 was also likely to provide a much-needed boost for the year ahead.
Pre-Covid, transtasman and Fiji travel accounted for around two thirds of total
international passenger numbers of 1.4 million.
"Our strong focus on domestic travel, Kiwis' desire to get out and explore their own country and spend time with loved ones, the relative lack of domestic Covid-19 restrictions in New Zealand and the return of corporate and international travel has helped us to recover faster than other airports in the region."
During the year, Wellington Airport completed major runway resurfacing works in half the usual time, because of a longer working window caused by a lack of international flights.
The airport also completed upgrades to its international departures area and utilised empty office space to expand conferencing facilities to meet new demands.
"The airport is buzzing again after the return of transtasman travel last month and we're all feeling optimistic about the year ahead, in particular helping to facilitate more heartfelt
reunions as international travel increases," Sanderson said.