Suffering a 65.2% drop in passenger numbers, CPH clearly felt the impact of the global coronavirus pandemic in the first six months of 2020. The airport gradually shut down in March, leaving only capacity to handle a minimum of operations, and a considerable part of CPH’s employees have since been furloughed with wage compensation. During the period, CPH has continued to contribute to the sustainable transition of Danish aviation, including through the launch of an ambitious partnership to develop the first industrial-scale production facility for sustainable fuels in Denmark.
Just over 5 million passengers passed through the terminals at Copenhagen Airport in the first six months of 2020, including 4.8 million in the first three months alone. As the coronavirus pandemic gradually brought global aviation to a standstill, Copenhagen Airports A/S (CPH) saw passenger traffic plunge to a historical low level, especially in the second quarter. The overall passenger flow in the first six months of 2020 was 65.2% lower than in the same period of 2019, where the passenger numbers was 14.4 million.
Moreover, passengers got a very different airport experience. Large parts of the terminals were closed and only a handful of the airport’s shops and restaurants were open to serve the very few passengers – on certain days fewer than 500.
“There’s no doubt that across the airport’s entire eco system, from airlines to ground handlers and the many shops and restaurants, the coronavirus pandemic has created a highly challenging and, for some companies, an existential crisis. Many of the businesses operating at the airport have had to let skilled employees go, and CPH has not been able to give passengers the travel experience they have come to expect,” said Thomas Woldbye, CEO of Copenhagen Airports A/S.
Severe drop in revenue leads to an operating loss
The drop in passenger numbers had a severe effect on revenue from both the aeronautical and the non-aeronautical parts of CPH’s business. Overall revenue for the first half-year was DKK 934.8 million, a 55.5% drop from DKK 2,099.7 million in the first six months of 2019.
In order to offset the drop in revenue and the lower level of activity, CPH has reduced various operational and investment activities to an absolute minimum. Cost cuts implemented for the current year amount up to DKK 950 million. Furthermore, in May, CPH entered into a two-year facility agreement totaling DKK 6.0 billion with a club of banks as well as waiver agreements with existing lenders, providing CPH relief from certain loan covenants until the end of June 2021; this to ensure that CPH will be able to continue to meet its financial and investment commitments.
Government support packages have partly compensated for CPH’s costs. For example, 2,200 employees (corresponding to 1,600 full-time employees) have been furloughed with wage compensation in rotation. This enabled CPH to keep the airport open during the period to accommodate the passenger and cargo traffic there was and thereby meet its obligations as critical infrastructure. However, it was far from enough to cover the substantial costs of keeping the airport operational and, as a result, CPH incurred an overall loss before tax for the period of DKK 227.9 million.
Towards the end of the reporting period, a number of travel restrictions were lifted and slowly but surely, airlines began offering more flights and travellers slowly began departing from the terminals again.
“It’s encouraging to see that activity at the airport has increased over the summer period, but it still remains at a very low level. The slight increase in business activity will not change the fact that we will likely incur a second-half loss exceeding our first-half deficit, nor that we are funding our ongoing operations by way of a loan facility agreement entered into with a club of banks earlier this year. Given the extreme uncertainty as to when, and to what extent, air traffic will return to normal, we are currently managing operations on a much shorter timeframe than usual. Most likely, it will be a while before we’re back to pre-coronavirus levels,” said Thomas Woldbye.
Based on financial developments in 2020 to date and the prospects of very limited passenger traffic for the rest of the year, CPH expects a significant drop in full-year revenue relative to 2019. Given the costs of keeping the airport operational, CPH now expects an overall loss after tax of DKK 450–750 million for 2020. This estimate includes the effects of various government support packages. Without them, the loss after tax would likely be in the range of DKK 700-1,000 million. The outlook remains subject to significant uncertainty and will depend on, among other things, developments in air traffic for the rest of the year.
In order to secure its long-term competitive strength, CPH expects to align its organisation to the lower level of activity the aviation industry is currently experiencing as a result of the coronavirus crisis and which expectedly will continue for some time. As a result, CPH is contemplating removing 650 of the some 2,600 full-time positions at the airport. A company announcement released on 5 August 2020 provides more detailed information on these plans.
Maintaining position as a popular hub airport is crucial
One of the key objectives of Copenhagen Airport is to provide maximum connectivity in and out of Denmark to the rest of the world both for the country as a whole and for Danish businesses. To that end, CPH has worked with airlines and other partners over many years to develop a solid route network in and out of Copenhagen. The coronavirus pandemic has put many of these routes on hold, and there can be no assurance that they will all return to CPH within the foreseeable future. In addition, there are prospects of increasing competition from other Scandinavian airports, including a significant increase in capacity in German Airports.
“Aviation and tourism are major contributors to the Danish economy, and as both depend on comprehensive route connectivity, we have worked tirelessly for years to strengthen CPH’s position as an attractive hub in northern Europe. These efforts have now become even more essential, because we cannot take for granted that everything will return to the way it was. Many of our neighbouring airports will strive to attract the best and most attractive routes, so it is crucial that CPH continues to invest in developing the sustainable airport of the future,” said Thomas Woldbye.
The sustainable transition of aviation is just as important now as it was in pre-corona times
Our ambition to continue developing CPH and creating the airport of the future is also a main driver of maintaining our strong commitment to the green transition despite the coronavirus crisis.
As part of these efforts, CPH was a key contributor to a plan, which was presented in the first half of 2020, on how Danish aviation can become a zero-emissions industry by 2050. Earlier this year, the Aviation Climate Partnership presented a proposal which, in addition to a specific road map for making Danish aviation sustainable, also called for the establishment of a climate foundation.
Subsequently, CPH teamed up with a number of major Danish businesses, including Orsted, A.P. Moller-Maersk, SAS and DSV along with the City of Copenhagen, and announced that they had formed a new, unique partnership to launch the production of sustainable fuels for road, maritime and air transport. Together with the other partners of the initiative, CPH is currently planning the roll-out of the initial phase of the project, which is to establish an electrolyser and hydrogen production facility in the Greater Copenhagen area, expected for operation by 2023.
“We still do not know the extent and duration of the coronavirus crisis, but the climate challenge is something we as businesses and society in general will have to solve over the next many years. The responsibility weighing on CPH to make the transport sector sustainable is as heavy today as it was before the coronavirus pandemic,” said Thomas Woldbye.