Together, the four largest airports in Australia registered profit in 2020-21, even though air travel suffered a hit due to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, stated a report by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC).

According to the competition watchdog’s Airport Monitoring Report, Sydney Airport reported an operating profit of $148.46m last financial year, while Melbourne Airport posted a loss of $106.82m.

Brisbane and Perth airports posted profits of $48.14m and $26.89m, respectively.

The report does note that the combined profits of the four airports in 2020-21 were only around 5% of profits from before the pandemic.

ACCC Commissioner Anna Brakey said: “Despite severely reduced aeronautical revenues, Sydney, Brisbane and Perth airports were still able to turn a profit last financial year as a result of reduced operating costs.

“This is a surprising result, given the impact of the pandemic on the aviation industry, and it demonstrates the resilience of the airports.”

However, the airports rejected this assessment by the ACCC.

The Australian Associated Press quoted Perth Airport as saying that the regulator had confused ‘profit’ and EBITA (earnings before interest, taxes and amortisation).

According to the airport, which actually reported a loss of $64.5m in fiscal 2021, the watchdog had included profit from property operations in its evaluation.

A Brisbane airport spokesman was quoted by the agency as saying that its statutory profit was driven by an unrealised rise in property value and that it had actually recorded an operating loss.

Furthermore, Sydney Airport said that the report failed to include more than $1bn in lost revenue as well as a post-tax loss of $267m.

According to the airport, the report also does not include $10m in aircraft parking relief, $220m in rental abatements, and $43m in abatements and debt-write offs to Qantas and Virgin Australia.

Sydney Airport CEO Geoff Culbert said: “The report creates the impression that Sydney Airport profited during Covid, when the reality is we recorded significant losses, had to raise $2bn from the market, $800m in debt and let go a quarter of our workforce just to survive.”