Australian airports’ financial results in 2021-22 impacted by COVID-19 but passengers returned

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Air New Zealand
(PHOTO: Air New Zealand)

Singapore SA2024The financial performance of Australia’s four largest airports (Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth) in 2021-22 remained well below the results achieved in the last full non-pandemic financial year of 2018-19, the ACCC’s latest Airport Monitoring Report shows.

Airport-monitoring-report-2021-22-infographic

The total operating profit margins of the four airports in 2021-22 ranged between eight per cent and 42 per cent.

“While there was a rebound in passenger numbers in the latter part of 2021-22 as domestic and international borders reopened, all four airports still reported financial year operating losses from aeronautical services,” ACCC Commissioner Anna Brakey said.

“The airports were still profitable overall as their non-aeronautical operations, including parking and leasing, more than offset the losses on aeronautical services.”

Total operating profit margin by airport, 2018-19 and 2021-22

Airport2018-192021-22
Brisbane Airport59%32%
Melbourne Airport56%8%
Perth Airport48%42%
Sydney Airport59%11%

Source: ACCC analysis of information from the monitored airports.

Aeronautical operating profit margins, by airport, 2018-19 and 2021-22

Airport2018-192021-22
Brisbane Airport47%-5.9%
Melbourne Airport40%-38.8%
Perth Airport34%-0.05%
Sydney Airport45%-27.4%

Source: ACCC analysis of information from the monitored airports.

The report shows that the rebound in both domestic and international travel has continued. Domestic travel in the first three quarters of 2022-23 was between 84 and 107 per cent of what it was in the first three quarters of 2018-19. International travel was between 61 and 71 per cent when comparing the same time periods.

Car parking
As passenger numbers increased late in the 2021-22 financial year, so too did the number of vehicles that used the airports’ car parks.

Each of the airports increased their car parking profit margins in 2021-22 compared to 2020-21; however, the margins were generally lower than what the airports achieved in 2018-19.

Car parking operating profit margins, by airport, 2018-19 and 2021-22

Airport2018-192021-22
Brisbane Airport67%58%
Melbourne Airport53%40%
Perth Airport58%58%
Sydney Airport68%33%

Source: ACCC analysis of information from the monitored airports.

Improving current monitoring regime
In May this year, the ACCC recommended that the Australian Government strengthen the price monitoring regime by requiring the four airports to report more detailed data in relation to aeronautical, car parking and landside access services, and by updating the measures of airport service quality the four airports are required to report to the ACCC.

The ACCC believes that publishing more detailed information will increase transparency for the benefit of airport users and will provide greater insight to the ACCC and governments on whether the four airports are exercising their market power in relation to specific services.

“Airports perform a vital role in supporting economic activity in Australia, and the changes to the monitoring regime that we’ve recommended should benefit airport users and, ultimately, the Australian public,” Ms Brakey said.

Background
The ACCC monitors the performance of the four largest airports in relation to aeronautical and car parking services following a direction from the Australian Government requiring it to consider prices, costs and profits. The ACCC also monitors the quality of these services, as well as landside access services.

Due to the significant impact of COVID 19 on the four airports in 2021-22, the ACCC has largely limited its observations in this report on the monitored airports’ recovery from the pandemic.

The ACCC did not collect data on quality of service for 2021-22, but will resume doing so for the 2022-23 report.

The ACCC’s monitoring role does not include the power to intervene in the airports’ setting of prices for parking and aeronautical activities. However, the ACCC is required to assess any proposal by Sydney Airport to raise charges for regional air services.

Price and quality comparisons between airports should be treated with some caution as terminal configurations and the mix of domestic and international passengers vary between airports. Airports may also have different approaches to valuing their assets, making it difficult to meaningfully compare profitability between airports.

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