ANNUAL REPORT 2020 - 2021

Chairman & CEO's Report

Our ability to deliver a safe and continuous service amid ongoing disruption has again been tested and proven in 2020-21.

This year marked 100 years of civil aviation regulation in Australia with the enactment of the Air Navigation Act in early 1921 and the subsequent formation of our ancestral predecessor, the Civil Aviation Branch. This milestone launched our nation’s industry, connecting Australians with each other and the world in a way that had not occurred before. Over the century, Australia has delivered an exceptional aviation safety record that is globally respected to this day.

In that time, Australian civil aviation has grown from a few mostly postal and aeromedical services to over 4 million annual air traffic movements that carry 160 million passengers and millions of tonnes of freight. All the while supporting an aviation ecosystem that generates economic growth, creates jobs and facilitates both national and international commerce and tourism.

Over the last century, there have been very few periods where civil aviation has been as severely disrupted as it has by the COVID-19 pandemic. As Australia’s civil air navigation and aviation rescue fire fighting service provider, we have responded to this disrupted and uncertain operating environment by continuing to support all who use our skies.

During the year, air traffic patterns changed substantially from the long-standing norms. We have seen significantly reduced international commercial air traffic, a disrupted pattern for domestic air traffic, a surge in aviation activity at regional airports and the continuation of intra-state charter flights, particularly fly-in-fly-out services.

In this challenging and ever-changing environment, it is a testament to the professionalism and dedication of our people that we have seamlessly adapted to meet the varying needs of our customers. We have done this without interruption to our services while still maintaining our exemplary safety record.

Like many across the aviation industry, our financial performance for the year ending 30 June 2021 was severely affected by the pandemic. Our airways revenue was 56 per cent lower than the previous year at $327 million with an underlying net loss after tax of $471 million. This was the second year in which we had been affected by the pandemic.

Ordinarily, airline customers are the source of over 90 per cent of our revenue, with more than half of that generated by international flights. As the pandemic hit and airline traffic diminished, our revenue was severely reduced. Over the course of the year, Government funding has been vital in enabling us to continue to deliver our essential services and provide much needed direct support to customers via domestic fee waivers. Three grants of financial assistance (totalling $1.1 billion) were received to support ongoing operations.

Assisting in offsetting the reduction in our revenue, we also targeted and delivered over $100 million in cost savings through a range of initiatives. These savings came as we implemented efficiency improvements and adjusted our operating model to better support customers in a challenging aviation environment.

Notwithstanding the pandemic, the aviation industry continues to evolve at pace, with new airspace users such as drones and urban air mobility vehicles entering our skies and integrating with current air traffic. We had already begun to transform and reposition our organisation to continue the focus on our customers and to tailor our service delivery to their needs. This focus, together with our maturing strategy to prepare for technological disruption and build the foundations for the future, stood us in good stead when the COVID-19 pandemic hit.

Our people are our greatest asset and we are committed to building a safe and inclusive workplace for all.

Delivery of the OneSKY Program is an integral part of this preparation. It will deliver more than $1.2 billion in economic benefits to the aviation industry over the next 20 years, with a world-first harmonised civil and military air traffic management system (CMATS). During the year, we completed the CMATS critical design review and construction of two new state-of-the-art Air Traffic Service Centres in Melbourne and Brisbane.

In supporting and enabling the OneSKY Program and our future aviation services, we are investing to modernise our critical telecommunications network infrastructure as part of our Enterprise Network Modernisation Program. As part of this we have entered into a new managed services contract to deliver telecommunication network services and commenced the design and planning phase.

Digitalising our service delivery is also an important focus. In the past year, we have commenced the delivery of Digital Aerodrome Services (DAS) at both Canberra and Western Sydney Airport. The establishment of DAS at these locations is the first step towards being able to provide flexible, scalable, automated and remote aerodrome services. Over time, DAS will provide safer and more cost-effective services and is a key capability underpinning the seamless integration of new airspace users, such as drones.

In welcoming and integrating new airspace users to our skies, we have commenced a series of pilot initiatives. This includes the installation of drone surveillance units at the 29 airports across the country where we provide services, as well as commencing the development of a prototype for a Flight Information Management System that will safely integrate all airspace users in Australian skies.

The Flight Information System will also serve as an interface to the broader air traffic management system for the Federal Government’s National Emerging Aviation Technologies (NEAT) policy, released during the year. We continue to work with the Government, regulators and other agencies to develop and implement the NEAT policy, an important step towards an integrated airspace model.

In addition to the focus on transformation of our operations and service delivery, we are also investing in the environmental sustainability of our organisation. In May, we released our Environmental Sustainability Strategy 2021-2026, which sets out our path to net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. This includes our sustainability commitments, targets and investment to reduce our environmental footprint, minimise pollution and waste, and build more sustainable and resilient operations.

An important focus over the past year has been the transformation of our culture. Our people are our greatest asset and we are committed to building a safe and inclusive workplace for all. Over the course of the year, we have made significant progress implementing all the recommendations of The Review of Culture at Airservices Australia undertaken by Elizabeth Broderick and Co. This includes the launch of a new values statement, the establishment of a Culture Reform Board and the implementation of Safe Place, which is a specialised team providing essential psychological, wellbeing and investigative support to our people.

Over the course of the year, our ability to adapt, maintain momentum and ensure the continuity and integrity of our service delivery, is largely due to the passion, capability and commitment of our people. On behalf of the Board and Executive, we would like to extend our thanks and appreciation to the entire Airservices team for their hard work and service during a challenging year.

Finally, we are privileged to present the Airservices 2020-21 Annual Report. While our industry’s path to recovery remains uncertain, we are optimistic and confident that aviation will rebound and come back even stronger as we continue to connect people with their world safely.