View Full Version : Passenger traffic at Sydney Airport has nose-dived

3rd Apr 2003, 18:23
Dow Jones 8:18pm EST

SYDNEY (Dow Jones)--Passenger traffic at Sydney Airport has nose-dived just days after Qantas Airways Ltd. and other regional carriers slashed flights in response to the Iraq war and the outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS).

Sydney Airport's new boss Max Moore-Wilton surprised investors Thursday with his admission that Wednesday's international traffic was down 18% from a year ago with departures down 23% and arrivals falling 13%.

Moore-Wilton, who took over the running of Australia's busiest airport in February after a long career as a key adviser to Prime Minister John Howard, said Wednesday's traffic figures was just "a snapshot" of the immediate fallout from SARS and the war.

"I don't want to over dramatize this but both of them coming at the same time have had an accumulative impact."

Asked to explain the big drop in traffic, he said this was due to cuts to international flights by airlines including Qantas Airways Ltd. , the airport's main user.

Australia's national carrier last Friday said it will cut its international services by up to 20% until mid-July, citing both SARS and the war in Iraq. Services to Asia, and Hong Kong in particular, have been sharply curtailed. With the slump in bookings, Qantas also said it won't meet the 2002-03 profit forecast set by analysts.

Its major regional rival, Singapore Airlines Ltd. Wednesday announced a second round of cuts to its international services as traffic dived due to SARS.

"We are probably pretty close to the worst case scenario at the moment, particularly as we don't see the light at the end of the tunnel," said Peter Harbison, the managing director of the consultancy group Center for Asia Pacific Aviation. He was speaking on Australian Broadcasting Corp. television.

"SARS is getting worse by the hour," Harbison said of the respiratory syndrome, sometimes called atypical pneumonia, which has put 708 Hong Kong residents in hospital and killed 16.

Other airlines that have cut capacity following the outbreak of war in Iraq include Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd. Air New Zealand Ltd. ,Japan Airlines, Thai Airways, and Korean Air Lines.

"If airlines are withdrawing 20% of capacity...obviously you are going to see (a fall in traffic)," Moore-Wilton told reporters after a tourism industry luncheon in Sydney.

Domestic Traffic Pressure As Well

He said domestic traffic has been tracking lower for the past six months, mainly because of the economic impact of the Australian drought, unstable equity markets and the continuing fallout from the collapse of Ansett.

A senior institutional dealer said the fall in Sydney Airport traffic was bigger than had been expected.

"It was a much larger number than I would have expected, " he said.

Macquarie Airports , which counts itself as Sydney Airport's biggest shareholder, eased slightly on the traffic comments but its securities ended one cent higher at 91 cents.

A spokesman for Sydney Airport played down the sharp drop in traffic on Wednesday. "These figures move around from day to day," he said.

Moore-Wilton said it was "still to early" to know what impact SARS and the war will have on the airport's earnings.

Sydney Airport is still aiming to achieve earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization, or EBITDA, of A$380 million in 2002-03.

"We are doing everything we can to run the airport as efficiently and as leanly as possible so that we will still meet our targets to the banks and the financiers and to our shareholders, and we are still on track to do that," Moore-Wilton said.

Job cuts at Sydney Airport, which was sold last year by the Federal Government for A$5.59 billion to a consortium of local and international investors led by Macquarie Bank Ltd., are also on the agenda.

"There will be job reductions later in the year as we go through the process of reclassification and examination," Moore-Wilton said.

-By Lilly Vitorovich, Dow Jones Newswires;
61-2-8235-2963; [email protected]
-Edited by Ian Pemberton
Qantas cut additional flights

from Sydney airport message board:

QF have rerouted/cancelled some flights due to poor loads or crew rest requirements/safety.

QF127 B744 SYD-HKG on 03APR, 04APR, 05APR & 06APR has been re-routed to transit MNL. Crew will o/n in MNL and then ops MNL-HKG-SYD.

QF77/78 B763 SIN-HKG-SIN 05APR, 06APR, 07APR, 08APR, 09APR, 10APR & 11APR have been cancelled.

QF85/86 B763 SYD-BNE-HKG-BNE-SYD 07APR & 09APR have been cancelled.

QF187 B763 SYD-HKG 08APR and QF188 B763 HKG-SYD have been cancelled.

No doubt more changes will happen if this SARS thing continues.