Ports of Jersey is expected to have returned to profit last year after posting a £8.5m loss in 2020.
The Airport in particular has bounced back more quickly than forecast, with passenger figures about 65% of what they were before the pandemic struck two years ago.
This is significantly better than similar-sized airports in the UK.
Although the financial figures for 2021 are yet to be finalised, Airport Director Robin MacRae told Express that he was expecting a return to profits after a difficult year in 2020, when the publicly-owned Ports of Jersey had to cut 65 jobs - up to 15% of its 420-strong workforce.
The subject of the latest Bailiwick Podcast, Mr MacRae said that, while 2021 had still been challenging, the Airport was in a far better position than 12 months previously.
This is reflected in recently published figures, which show that air passenger numbers last year were 61% higher than 2020.
A total of 670,693 passengers flew in and out of Jersey in 2021 compared to 416,369 the previous year.
There was a significant increase in the second half of last year, when passenger numbers were 39% down on pre-pandemic 2019. The busiest day in 2021 was Saturday 28 August, when 6,240 people arrived and departed from the Airport.
Pictured: A better-than-expected bounce back at the Airport has presented its own challenges to Ports of Jersey, particularly at Security.
In the podcast, Mr MacRae reveals that the better-than-expected recovery posed its own problems.
“It presented us with some significant operational challenges because we, effectively, had to make do with what we had [following the 2020 reduction in staff numbers] and do things very differently.
“But we grabbed the opportunity to reshape the operation. Airports traditionally are very siloed: standalone security, standalone air traffic, standalone fire service, etcetera. We started an integration programme, multi-skilling people from different areas of the business.
“The vast majority of people we released in 2020 came from security, where that particular pool was reduced by about 35%. So we started to train people from, for example, administration areas in limited roles in security, such as checking boarding passes or helping to load trays.
“Although that sounds simple and straightforward, it is, in fact, a big cultural change for an organisation used to doing things in a traditional way.
“As the months have progressed, we’ve ended up with 50 to 60 members of our non-operational staff keeping the operational side going.
“Passengers may see people not in the security uniform, and these people are from HR, finance, commercial departments, etcetera, all down helping during peak periods.”
Pictured: Ports of Jersey retain ambitious plans to redevelop the Airport, but they changed after the original 1937 building was saved from demolition.
He continued: “Originally it was just to use during peak periods of travel but because the number of passengers ramped up so quickly, the non-operational staff were needed a lot more than first anticipated, so much so that they were struggling to do their normal jobs.
“Over the last two months, we have realised that that is not sustainable going forward. We don’t want to lose that cross-skilling but we are recruiting to up the baseline number in security.
“We’ve taken on ten people so far, who have qualified, and that number will continue to rise.”
Mr MacRae said he remained optimistic for the year ahead, despite the ongoing threat of covid.
For the Harbour, Ports said that there had been low passenger figures over the first six months of last year due to travel restrictions, but, in total, there had been 146,570 sea passengers in 2021 compared to 86,917 the year before, an 69% increase.
In the podcast, Mr MacRae also gives an update on plans to redevelopment the Airport, which includes keeping the original 1937 terminal after the island’s civil aviation regulator said it was no longer considered a dangerous obstacle to flying.
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