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Aviation, tourism and energy writer for the Business Herald

Auckland Airport's $180m makeover

Auckland Airport hopes to accommodate 40 million passengers a year, from 16 million now. Photo / Artist impression
Auckland Airport hopes to accommodate 40 million passengers a year, from 16 million now. Photo / Artist impression

Auckland Airport is embarking on one of its biggest projects since opening 50 years ago, today releasing details of a doubling in the size of its international departure area, including a new security processing zone, new passenger lounge and shopping area.

The company will spend up to $180 million on the project, which will dig into parts of the existing 1970s-era international terminal and also extend its floor area as part of the company's 30-year vision for the airport.

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"It's a big project, one of the most significant since the original development of the two terminal buildings and the runway itself," said chief executive Adrian Littlewood.

The new international departure project almost doubles the size of the present primary international departure processing zone, passenger lounge and retail hub and comprises three distinct spaces: a reconfigured landside farewell area, a new and expanded security screening and processing area and a new passenger lounge and retail hub.

"Today's announcement is an exciting and major step forward in the ongoing implementation of our 30-year vision to build our 'airport of the future', which will eventually see us able to accommodate 40 million passengers a year by 2040, from 16 million today," he said.

The project was the next step in the development of the combined domestic and international terminal.

Littlewood said international traffic was growing more quickly than domestic movements.

"It makes a lot of sense for us to concentrate on growing that [international] area." To the end of November last year, there was a 7 per cent increase in international growth and 5 per cent more domestic traffic over 12 months.

Between 1966 and 2015 passenger numbers have grown at 6.5 per cent a year -- from 700,000 to 15.3 million.

"Those are numbers we haven't seen for a decade in Auckland," said Littlewood. "It fits with that overall story of a booming tourist market." The $160-$180 million project was both an aeronautical and commercial project so the cost will be divided between airlines and the airport company, which said it would not affect its dividend, estimated by analysts at 16c a share in the coming year.

Littlewood said the area for security would be doubled, with additional flexibility for expansion with new technology in the future and an area for passengers to "recompose" themselves after going through security.

A major part of the redevelopment would be in retail, a lucrative part of the company's business.

Total retail income in the 2015 financial year was $132 million (out of a total revenue of $508 million), an increase of $4.9 million or 3.9 per cent on the previous financial year.

1966: Thousands flock to the air pageant marking the opening of Auckland International Airport on January 29.
1966: Thousands flock to the air pageant marking the opening of Auckland International Airport on January 29.

Passenger spending in specialty stores was growing at 25 per cent.

"Retail has really woken up around the world to the potential of airports. People are pretty pressed for time in their weekends so that hour and a half they have in that airport environment they are ready to go somewhere and they're open to shopping," said Littlewood.

The retail hub surrounds a remodelled international departure area, designed by US architects Gensler in partnership with New Zealand architects Jasmax.

"The design of the new international departure area will be influenced by a journey from New Zealand's sea to sky and focuses on New Zealand's natural beauty and our cultural heritage," said Littlewood.

The area was designed to be intuitive and user-friendly.

The design of the new international departure area ... focuses on New Zealand's natural beauty and our cultural heritage.
CEO Adrian Littlewood

There would be a range of seating zones, easily accessible power points, a kids play zone, much natural light and views of the airfield.

Work has already started on the security area, due to be finished by Christmas.

Littlewood said it was a complex construction project.

Workers were digging into the old corporate offices and behind walls and would be building a whole new footplate as well.

On Thursday a construction worker employed on the upgrade project damaged the sprinkler system, flooding part of the Ministry for Primary Industries area in arrivals.

All Black captain Richie McCaw at the airport as the team flies out to successfully defend the Rugby World Cup. Photo / Nick Reed
All Black captain Richie McCaw at the airport as the team flies out to successfully defend the Rugby World Cup. Photo / Nick Reed

Littlewood said running an airport around construction was challenging and a number of projects had been completed or were underway.

Last year Auckland Airport completed a 2500sq m expansion of its international baggage hall, including the addition of two extra baggage belts, and also built a new bus gate lounge on Pier B and an extra 17,500 sq m of airfield to park the increasing numbers of aircraft visiting Auckland.

"In February, we will complete a new domestic departure lounge for use by Jetstar's regional passengers, and at the end of the year we will open the first of several new gates on Pier B of the international terminal which can accommodate the latest generation A380 and B787 aircraft.

"We're trying to set up a footplate and a floor plan that will last into the future -- that adds extra time and cost but it's something we're prepared to do," he said.

"As much as possible we've tried to design something that is much more logical and intuitive from a design point of view for passengers. Often in the airport's history such as with September 11 we've had to respond very quickly and had to compromise because of the space we're in."

The big build

Auckland Airport's $180 million project.

Reconfigured landside farewell area

Departing international passengers will enter an expanded and dedicated space where they will complete departure forms, weigh cabin baggage and prepare for security screening by separating laptops, liquids, aerosols and gels from their other cabin baggage.

Expanded security screening and "recomposing" area

The new customs and security screening area accommodates the latest technology. This will enable passengers to quickly move through this area with the minimum of delay. There will be a relaxing space immediately after the security screening process, where passengers can recompose themselves -- repacking their cabin baggage or putting on shoes, belts and any other they removed for security screening. There will be flight information displays in this area and toilet facilities.

Passenger lounge and retail hub

This area will be significantly increased to give passengers plenty of space to sit, relax and shop before heading to their departure gate. It will have a range of seating zones, from relaxing lounge seating to dedicated food and beverage seating in a large, open and light-filled space. Windows will overlook the Manukau Harbour, a mezzanine level will have bars to take in the views across the airfield to the Manukau Heads. The retail hub will include a range of new speciality stores and food and beverage outlets, which will operate alongside two duty free operators -- The Loop Duty Free and Aelia Duty Free -- both of which will unveil new stores as part of the redevelopment project.

Architects

International architect Gensler has worked on redevelopments at airports across the world, including parts of Changi Airport in Singapore and San Francisco Airport, as well as the new Air New Zealand lounge at Auckland Airport. New Zealand architect Jasmax has led the design on projects such as the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa and Sylvia Park.

The Timeline

December 2016: reconfigured landside farewell area, new expanded security screening and processing area, and first half of the two anchor duty free shops

May 2017: remaining half of the two anchor duty free shops, and first half of the new passenger lounge and retail hub

By early 2018: remaining half of the new passenger lounge and retail hub.

Changing times

Protesters greet the arrival of the Springbok rugby team.A motorised passenger stairway designed for Air New Zealand.

Navy divers check the wreck of a Fokker Friendship that crashed in the Manukau Harbour on its approach to the airport, killing two of the four crew.All Black captain Richie McCaw at the airport as the team flies out to successfully defend the Rugby World Cup.

A huge crowd welcomes Jean Batten after her solo flight from England.
A huge crowd welcomes Jean Batten after her solo flight from England.

Auckland Airport -- New Zealand's biggest listed company by market value -- can trace its origins to farm paddocks leased by a group of aviation enthusiasts in 1928.

It wasn't until after World War II that momentum to build an international airport grew, as a way to avoid developing Whenuapai, which was deemed unsuitable because it was used by the military, was too small and too far from Auckland and was fog-prone.

The catalyst for a meaningful debate was a very limited circulation 1955 New Zealand engineering journal on the issues associated with siting a combined domestic and international airport in Auckland.

The article assessed and dismissed 11 sites including Whenuapai; North Shore; Orakei (15 million cubic metres of fill would have been needed and the approach path would be over Auckland Hospital); Brown's Island (7.5 million cu m of fill would make the cost excessive); Tamaki Estuary; Glen Innes; Mt Wellington; Pakuranga/East Tamaki; Wiri; Karaka Pt; and Wiroa Island/Mangere.

In 1955 the Government subsequently confirmed that Mangere would be the location.

After five years of building and $10 million, operations at the airport started in 1965. In its first year, 700,000 passengers passed through the airport -- that number passed through in a two-week period late last year.

1928: Auckland Aero Club leases 20ha of land at Mangere. It had two loaned DH Gipsy Moth aeroplanes -- a third was donated by the publishers of the Herald.

1936: Jean Batten achieves fame on her third attempt at flying solo from England to New Zealand. Arriving at Mangere Aerodrome on October 16, she is greeted by a crowd of 6000. Her Percival Gull takes 11 days and 45 minutes for the 23,000km journey, a solo record that stands for 44 years.

1937: Union Airways builds a hangar at Mangere, marking the beginning of commercial aviation in Auckland.

1945: Whenuapai opens up to civil aviation but within a few years is deemed unsuitable for safety reasons.

1951: International Airport Committee is formed, made up of local politicians and business groups.

1955: The Government gives the green light for Mangere.

1960: Construction starts on October 10.

A motorised passenger stairway designed for Air New Zealand.
A motorised passenger stairway designed for Air New Zealand.

1965:Operations start ahead of official opening.

1966:On January 29, airport is officially opened by Governor-General Sir Bernard Ferguson. On July 4, an Air NZ DC-8 crashes during a training flight, killing two crew members.

1967: In August the Herald reports Mt Roskill Mayor Keith Hay as being "absolutely staggered" by the cost of a taxi from the airport to Mt Roskill. He had been quoted $2.45 ($34 in today's money) at the airport for the journey to Carr Rd but that was reduced to $2 after he complained.

1972: First jumbo jet lands.

1977: New international terminal opened -- eight years behind schedule.

1979: Air NZ Fokker Friendship crashes into Manukau Harbour on approach to the airport, killing two of the four crew.

Navy divers check the wreck of a Fokker Friendship that crashed in the Manukau Harbour on its approach to the airport, killing two of the four crew.
Navy divers check the wreck of a Fokker Friendship that crashed in the Manukau Harbour on its approach to the airport, killing two of the four crew.

1981: In July protesters clash with police as the Springbok rugby team arrives.

1987: Government corporatises the airport on a 50:50 basis with councils.

1989: Air Freight NZ Convair crashes into the Manukau, killing all three crew.

1992: Air Expo '92 attracts more than 200,000 visitor in one weekend.

1998: Government sells its 51.6 per cent share by public float. Shares list at $1.80 after a campaign fronted by Sean Fitzpatrick.

2007-08: Buyers hover, first from Dubai and then from Canada. An abrupt law change effectively nobbles a Canadian pension fund's bid for the airport.

2011: As many as 7000 Tongan rugby fans greet their team, providing massive impetus for the Rugby World Cup.

2016: The airport celebrates its 50th anniversary and announces plans for a $180 million international departures area

- NZ Herald

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