Although many European airport operators have suffered staff shortages, Aena successfully retained its workers and is now seeing the benefits.
With the end of Covid-19 restrictions, the number of passengers at Aena’s airports gradually recovered last year, approaching pre-pandemic levels in December and surpassing them in January 2023.
The company posted a net 2022 profit of $954.51 million, compared with a loss of $507.9 million in the prior year.
Its shares rose 2.5 percent on Tuesday morning.
While some European airports were affected by staff shortages as tourism rebounded last year, Aena’s terminals have run smoothly since the summer, something it attributed to its ability to keep hold of workers during and after the pandemic.
For 2022 as a whole, Spanish airport traffic reached 88.5 percent of 2019 levels. Aena lifted its estimate for 2023 to 99 percent of 2019 flows while not ruling out topping pre-pandemic numbers this year. The airport operator had previously said it expected a full recovery of traffic only in 2024.
In comparison, London’s Heathrow expects to carry 58 million-73 million passengers in 2023, or around 90 percent of pre-pandemic levels at the upper end of the range.
Aena’s revenue grew 69.3 percent to $4.52 billion in 2022, with half generated by aviation operations. Total commercial income surpassed pre-pandemic levels for the first time, standing 1 percent higher.
The company will pay a dividend of $5.07 euros per share.
“All divisions reported better-than-expected full-year revenues in 2022,” brokerage Royal Bank of Canada said in a note to investors.
Aena has launched a duty-free shop tender for an area of 66,000 square metres for which it has already received interest from companies in China, the Middle East, the U.S. and Panama.
It also plans to purchase new screening machines that it says could improve passenger flows by speeding up checks of hand luggage.
(Reporting by Corina Pons, editing by Inti Landauro, Kirsten Donovan)
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Photo credit: Barcelona airport is recovering to 2019 levels. Isriya Paireepairit / Flickr