PASSENGER PLUNGE: ONE MILLION AND COUNTING
Perth Airport’s passenger numbers have “fallen off a cliff” in the wake of coronavirus travel restrictions, with the loss of more than one million passengers in April alone.
This follows the loss of more than 300,000 passengers in March.
Preliminary analysis of the April 2020 passenger figures show that international and interstate passenger numbers have plunged by 97% compared to April last year.
In April 2019, 865,000 international and interstate passengers passed through the airport’s terminals.
The April 2020 figure shows a dramatic drop to just 24,000 – not even enough to half-fill Optus Stadium - as the full impact of State and Federal travel restrictions is felt for the first time.
Total passenger numbers have dropped from 1.23 million in April 2019 to just 193,000 in April 2020 – a drop of 1,037,000 passengers.
Almost all of the airport’s revenue is linked to passenger traffic. The unprecedented collapse in passenger numbers has forced the closure of all retail outlets in the terminals and the shuttering of the majority of the airport’s carparks.
Perth Airport has also been forced to partially or completely close three of its five terminals. Only Terminals 2 and 4 remain fully open, primarily to support the FIFO sector.
Even with the FIFO traffic, Perth Airport is not receiving any payment for its services from its two largest customer airlines. Qantas, which operates the majority of FIFO traffic, has not paid for its use of the airport since January after unilaterally withholding payments. Virgin went into administration on 21 April owing Perth Airport $16.5m.
This is despite both airlines collecting revenue from FIFO companies to cover these airport charges. The funds – which are vital to the continued operation of our terminals that service FIFO flights -are simply not being passed through.
Perth Airport CEO Kevin Brown said the collapse has had a devastating impact on the airport.
“Our passenger numbers and revenue have simply fallen off a cliff,” Mr Brown said.
“You would most probably have to go back to the 1960s to see interstate and international passenger numbers as low as these.
“I feel there’s been a lack of awareness from government, business and the community about how devastating coronavirus has been for airports.
“We understand that airlines and the tourism sector have been hurt and we’re certainly not trying to downplay the impact of that. We understand because we’ve also taken a massive hit.
“We are still doing everything possible to remain operational to service the FIFO workforce, to ensure freight can move in and out of WA, and to help bring Australians home.
“And we continue to work with our airline partners, retailers, service providers and commercial tenants to ensure we all get through this.”
Mr Brown said the airport, like many across the aviation sector, is facing a huge financial challenge.
“We collect aviation revenue on a per passenger basis. And international and interstate passengers usually make up around 75% of our normal passenger load,” Mr Brown said.
“When that drops away to next to nothing, the financial implications are swift and severe.
“Revenue evaporates but the infrastructure costs of an airfield and terminals remain as we need to stay operational even though airlines have cut back the number of flights.
“We still need to maintain security processes, power, cleaning and air-conditioning in terminal buildings, and safety and maintenance work on our runways and tarmacs.
“We had already estimated a loss of $100 million in revenue for the remainder of the financial year.
“That was before Qantas, without any consultation or negotiation, decided it would not pay us any aviation or lease payments for February and March, despite the fact Qantas had already collected airport charges from its passengers and the FIFO sector.
“Qantas’s decision wiped a further $20 million from our revenue. While Qantas is not covered by the COVID-19 National Code of Conduct on commercial leases, their actions go completely against the spirit of the National Code.
“Virgin also owes Perth Airport $16 million in outstanding payments but we are talking cooperatively with their administrators. Liens remain on four Virgin aircraft but following a written assurance from the administrators, the planes are no longer physically blocked.
“Despite these challenges, Perth Airport continues to do the right thing by the FIFO workforce who are vital to Western Australia’s economy during this time of crisis.”
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