Auckland Airport believes air traffic will fully recover some time after 2023.
The company revealed the most recent lockdown has caused a slump in daily passenger numbers, which last month were less than half those of 55 years ago - when the airport opened.
Chair Patrick Strange said international passenger volumes at Auckland Airport remain extremely low, and domestic travel remains volatile.
''To give you some idea of just how quiet the airport has been, there were an average of 960 passengers per day in September. That's less than half the number of daily passengers that moved through the airport in 1966 – the year the airport opened,'' he told the company's annual shareholders meeting, held virtually.
In the 2021 financial year, 560,000 travellers arrived or departed through the international terminal, down from nearly eight million in the 2020 financial year, and from 10.5 million in 2019 - the last pre-Covid year.
The numbers for domestic travellers were stronger, with six million arriving or departing, down from seven million in the 2020 financial year, and 9.6 million in 2019.
Strange said the airport was confident about the return to growth and our long-term future.
''But at this stage we continue to adopt more conservative planning assumptions than those of the International Air Travel Association, which is forecasting global travel to fully recover in 2023. We believe the full recovery may take a little longer, but it will be a full recovery.''
Strange said Covid-19 was here to stay.
''Like the rest of the world, we will have to learn to live with it, principally through high levels of vaccination. And, like the rest of the world, our borders will open - probably gradually initially with some new controls, but open they will.''
Exactly when is uncertain, but it was inevitable once New Zealand completes its vaccination programme.
''The reality is that we are quite quickly reaching the point where the risk of catching Covid-19 in the community will be greater than via our border.''
In the year to 30 June 2021, revenue was down 50 per cent to $281 million, with earnings before interest expense, taxation, depreciation, fair-value adjustments and investments in associates decreasing 34 per cent to $172m.
Reported profit after tax was up 139 per cent to $464m.
However, this was driven by property revaluations.
Underlying profit fell by 122 per cent to a loss of $42m. Underlying earnings per share fell to a loss of 2.8 cents per share for the 2021 financial year.
Chief executive Adrian Littlewood leaves the company next month after nine years in the top job and said the airport remained a strong business.
''Despite the impact of Covid-19, your company today is stronger and more dynamic than when I joined 13 years ago and it has an exciting future ahead," said Littlewood.
''We can genuinely point to areas where we already lead our sector or are investing ahead for a different future. While it might start slowly, travel markets will recover and our important infrastructure investment programme will hit high gear again.''
Littlewood said the Delta outbreak had underlined the importance of vaccination.
The airport had allowed health authorities free use of its Park & Ride facility as a drive-through vaccination site, now the biggest in the country.
Transport engineers helped to establish the site and staff had volunteered there every day doing everything from transporting vaccines around the site to helping public health nurses. The company had taken part in promotions to encourage vaccinations.
''I'm proud to say that to date more than 100,000 people have already been vaccinated at the Park & Ride, including 25,000 while our campaign was under way.''
The airport has loaned our fleet of Park & Ride buses to the "Shot Bro" public-health campaign that takes mobile vaccination centres right into the community.
Beyond vaccination the company had also played a lead role in pushing for new testing technology, whether it was saliva PCR trials in early 2021, or the initiative to work with 25 other major companies to introduce rapid antigen tests into New Zealand.
''As the vaccination rollout continues over the rest of this year and based on what we have seen overseas, we expect demand for international travel to rebuild during the 2022 calendar year.''
Littlewood will be succeeded by Air New Zealand chief operating officer Carrie Hurihanganui, who will become Auckland Airport's first woman chief executive in its 55-year history.
She will join the airport early next year.