Auckland Airport has revealed measures it hopes will ease a summer crunch and improve conditions critics have described as "Third World." In a warning issued today, it told passengers to allow extra time during the summer peak when there will be up to 30,000 passengers a day using the international terminal, up 15 per cent on last year.
The busiest days to travel by airTraffic was "diabolical" and it is not uncommon to take 30-40 minutes to travel two or three kilometres. "However, if the public think the 'land-side' is third world, they have no idea about the frustrations and anger from the airlines and ground handling companies on the 'air-side'," he said. Air New Zealand is the airport's biggest airline customer and is diplomatic. It has rostered more staff to communicate directly with customers about the "infrastructure challenges" facing the airport and where possible advise them in advance they may be taken by bus to planes. "Naturally, we would like to offer all our customers a consistent boarding and disembarkation experience and we look forward to Auckland airport resolving its infrastructure challenges," a spokeswoman said. In October the airport company, which made a profit of $262 million last year, was told by a shareholder at its annual meeting that using buses to get passengers to the terminal was "Mickey Mouse"and "Third World" for tourists.
Infrastructure takes a lot longer to turn up than the planes that are arriving here.But the company's chief executive Adrian Littlewood said the percentage of passengers put on buses was low by international standards. Overseas airports used buses for up to half their passengers, while at Auckland they were now used in about 5 per cent of the cases. Previously this has been around 2 per cent. During the past financial year total passenger numbers were up 9 per cent to 17.3 million. Eight new airlines announced services during the year and since June 30 two more had said they are coming here. "Infrastructure takes a lot longer to turn up than the planes that are arriving here," Littlewood told the Herald. One recently returned passenger said he saw "shambollic" 100m queues at biosecurity. Geoff Levick of Kumeu said in a letter to the Herald there were lines of "downcast and confused" tourists and he felt ashamed. But Judy Nicholl, Auckland Airport's general manager - aeronautical operations, said the company was taking steps to deal with the summer peak.
We build infrastructure to meet demand, not exceed it.There is a significant amount of work taking place on the Auckland road network around the airport which includes an underpass at SH20A around Kirkbride Road and the addition of extra lanes on SH20, Neilson Street in Onehunga but that won't be finished until after the summer peak. The work is in preparation of the opening of the Waterview Tunnel next year to provide extra capacity for traffic leaving the tunnel. The airport's general manager of airport development and delivery, Graham Matthews, said the worst problem was road traffic congestion which would be eased next year. He did not believe the airport had been caught out with its infrastructure programme although forecasting was notoriously difficult. "The thing about forecasting anything is the degree to which you get it wrong," he said. Airlines occasionally started services the airport wasn't expecting but Matthews said his company had got it generally right. "We build infrastructure to meet demand, not exceed it." The company has previously discussed building the "airport of the future," a multi-billion dollar project that will incorporate development work already underway, including an expanded departure and security screening area. A new domestic terminal to replace the existing one that is in a 50-year-old building is also part of the plan. Matthews said design work could be made public within the next six to 12 months.