Financial year 2021: Challenging year with bright spots
After a challenging first six months with low passenger and traffic volumes, there was a recovery in the second half of the year. Flughafen Zürich AG was able to generate a positive result in the second half of 2021 but the result for the year as a whole was a loss of CHF 10 million. For 2022 the airport operator expects passenger volumes of around 20 million and thus a return to the profit zone. The Circle performed successfully in its first year of operation, and a number of new shops and restaurants opened at the airport. Flughafen Zürich AG is publishing a comprehensive sustainability report for the first time as part of its annual report.
2021 was again clearly shaped by the pandemic. The general travel restrictions and quarantine rules were drastic as they made travel virtually impossible and created uncertainty among passengers. From a business management perspective, the considerable planning uncertainty was a major challenge. I am therefore all the more delighted that we and our partners at the airport were able to ensure that operations ran smoothly for the most part.
Trend in traffic volume
Whereas passenger traffic in the first half of 2021 was at a low level, passenger numbers increased over the summer and autumn months and amounted to around 50% – on peak days even 65% – of the 2019 level.
In total, 10.2 million passengers travelled via Zurich Airport in 2021, which is an increase of 23% compared with 2020. A total of 132,600 flight movements were recorded (+19% vs. 2020). Freight volumes rose by 35% compared with the previous year to 393,062 tonnes. By the end of 2021 around 90% of the destinations served from Zurich were operational again, compared with 2019 (Key traffic figures 2021).
With increasing confidence and higher passenger numbers we maintained our cost management and investment discipline in the second year of the pandemic. In the second half of the year we generated a positive result and were back in the black. This greatly reduced the loss incurred in the first six months.
Total revenue rose in the reporting period by 9% compared with 2020 and amounted to CHF 680 million, corresponding to 56% of the revenue figure for 2019. Thanks to higher passenger numbers, aviation revenue was also 9% higher than the prior-year level at CHF 241 million. The adjusted operating expenses declined by a further 8% year on year to CHF 370 million. This corresponds to savings of 24% compared with 2019. The lower costs are due, among other things, to lower personnel expenses as a result of short-time working, lower variable operating expenses for infrastructure and to lower passenger volumes and persistent cost management. Earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) amounted to CHF 299 million, corresponding to an increase of CHF 103 million (+53%).
Thanks to a profitable second half, the loss from the first six months was greatly reduced and amounts to CHF 10 million for the year just ended (loss 2020: CHF -69 million; profit 2019: CHF 309 million). Flughafen Zürich AG invested CHF 206 million in plant and ongoing projects in the reporting period (2020: CHF 399 million). At CHF 62 million, the single biggest project at the Zurich site is the completion of the Circle. Other major projects included the refurbishment and expansion of the baggage sorting system (GSA), work in preparation for the renovation of runway 10/28 and the expansion of landside passenger areas (ELP).
New retail offerings and openings
The Circle celebrated its first anniversary in November 2021. In addition to the opening of the two Hyatt hotels in April and December, the reporting period celebrated other milestones. Around 300 events and congresses with a national or international audience were successfully conducted at the Circle Convention Center. During the year, various office and retail tenants moved in to the Circle, new offerings were launched and special events, such as the lights and music festival Zauberpark delighted the public. A number of new retail and catering offerings were added at Airport Shopping and the Airside Center.
I am very pleased that our first integrated report is being published today. It comprises a comprehensive presentation of our sustainability activities in corporate governance, environmental protection and society and also contains our majority interests abroad.
Continued development of airport infrasructure and ground-breaking ceremony in India
The airport infrastructure at the Zurich site was developed further in the reporting period too. The two projects "Refurbishment and expansion of the baggage sorting system (GSA)" and "expansion of landside passenger areas (ELP)" progressed as planned. The renovation of runway 10/28 was prepared and will commence in the spring of 2022. The runway extension project has a longer-term planning horizon. An important step forward was taken during the reporting period when the Zurich Government Council approved the project in May, paving the way for the matter to be debated in the Cantonal Parliament, in all probability followed by a cantonal referendum.
The international business, which focuses on the Indian and Latin American markets, established itself as an autonomous business area. Noida International Airport close to the Indian capital of Delhi is currently the largest international project of Flughafen Zürich AG. Financing was successfully secured, and the ground-breaking ceremony took place during the reporting period.
Sustainability enshrined in the corporate strategy
Ich freue mich sehr, heute unseren ersten Integrierten Bericht zu veröffentlichen. Dieser umfasst die ganzheitliche Darstellung unserer Nachhaltigkeitsaktivitäten in der Unternehmensführung, im Umweltschutz und in der Gesellschaft und beinhaltet auch unsere Mehrheitsbeteiligungen im Ausland.
By joining the world’s largest corporate sustainability initiative, the United Nations Global Compact, Flughafen Zürich AG is reinforcing its commitment to sustainable corporate development. The airport operator has stipulated a binding commitment to be carbon neutral by 2050 without resorting to offsetting. Measures to achieve this goal include upgrading buildings and installing a modern energy supply. Another aspect involves alternative fuels (SAF) and making these available at the Zurich site. In 2021, a process for importing SAF into Switzerland was developed with a number of partners; as a result, the import of alternative fuels into Switzerland has been possible on a regular basis since 1 July 2021.
New member of the Management Board
The Board of Directors has appointed Manuela Staub as a new member of the Management Board of Flughafen Zürich AG. As Chief People & Communications Officer she will be in charge of Human Resources, Corporate Communications and Public Affairs from 1 June 2022. Manuela Staub has been Head of Corporate Communications at Flughafen Zürich AG since February 2020. She previously worked at Swisscom for over 20 years in a number of functions in the fields of communication and organisational development. Manuela Staub is 48 years old and lives in the Canton of Zurich with her family.
The start of 2022 was characterised by the Omicron virus variant, and the outbreak of the war in Ukraine generated additional uncertainty. Whereas the impact of the war in Ukraine on the aviation industry is still unclear, we assume that the pandemic-related travel restrictions will be eased further. We assume that passenger numbers at the Zurich site will rise to around 20 million passengers this year, corresponding to roughly two-thirds of the 2019 level. Due to the continuing recovery, Flughafen Zürich AG expects to return to profit this year.
The 2021 Annual Report of Flughafen Zürich AG is available online: https://report.flughafen-zuerich.ch/2021/ar/en/