Auckland International Airport's $2.4 billion property portfolio kept the company in the black over the first half.
The airport's substantial property investment meant it was able to report statutory net profit of $28.1 million in the first half, providing the company with a partial buffer against the financial impact of Covid-19 border closures.
Auckland Airport's underlying loss came to $10.5m for the period and it now expects the loss to swell to $35m to $50m in the year to June.
International travel through the airport is a mere shadow of its former self.
In the six months to December 31, the airport served about 150,000 international passengers, compared with more than 5 million in the same period a year earlier.
Before Covid, the airport was the gateway to 43 destinations and served 30 airlines.
Now it has 13 airlines which fly to half the previous number of destinations.
Traditionally, property would represent just 11 per cent of Auckland Airport's business.
In the depths of last year's Covid-19 level 4 lockdown, property was 100 per cent of its business, bringing in $100m to $110m a year in rent.
"Investment property has continued to do a great job in providing an underpin for our business, while our core travel business has been tough," chief executive Adrian Littlewood said in a conference call.
"It is a highlight among the difficult times across other parts of the business," he said.
Harbour Asset Management portfolio manager Shane Solly said the company's property portfolio had paid off.
"The airport has had a strategy over the last three to five years of progressively growing its investment property portfolio.
"It was good foresight by the board and management to make this investment and to use the land bank that they did not need for aeronautics," Solly said.
"They recognised that there was a benefit in balancing out their portfolio of assets."
Littlewood said he expects aviation to recover in much the same way as it did in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks on New York, which ushered in far more strict security measures for air travellers.
"The trend will remain a bit tricky and a bit messy than it might have been in the past, while the world sorts itself out," Littlewood said.
"The shining hope is a transtasman and Pacific Island travel system, given that we have been quite similar [in combating Covid] in our neck of the woods," he said.
"Longer haul looks more challenging in the near term, but it will come back."
Auckland Airport's balance sheet, after last year's huge $1.2b capital raising, remained in good shape.
The company has $700m in cash on hand and undrawn borrowing facilities on top of that.
Litttlewood said the company has run for "many years in a low-activity environment".
"Getting that equity raise away gave us comfort to see our way through a range of different recovery scenarios," he said.
He added resumption of transtasman travel would be a key plank in returning the company back to underlying profitability.
To that end, he said, transparency of the New Zealand and Australian governments in formulating rules would be essential.
In its result, Auckland Airport said domestic passenger numbers have now recovered to around 65 per cent of the pre-pandemic level.
Property revenue increased 2.4 per cent to $47m, driven by rental growth in the existing property portfolio and a part-year contribution from the large new Foodstuffs distribution centre.
The airport has a number of new commercial developments currently under construction which it expects to be valued at more than $223m on completion.
Revenue for the six months fell by 64.9 per cent to $131.5m and its operating profit dropped by 68.4 per cent to $88.2m.
The company's earnings per share fell by 84.1 per cent to 1.91 cents.
Auckland Airport's shares last traded at $6.95, down two cents from Wednesday's close.