Airport chaos: Drive home 'longer than Sydney flight'

Passengers have vented their frustration at the traffic chaos at Auckland Airport, which saw some some missing their flights. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Passengers have vented their frustration at the traffic chaos at Auckland Airport, which saw some some missing their flights. Photo / Mark Mitchell

Holidaymakers are spending the same amount of time driving to and from Auckland Airport as the international flights they are catching.

In mid-November Lyn Versey landed at Auckland Airport and spent the same amount of time driving home to Orewa as it took her to fly from Sydney to Auckland.

Another traveler spent the same amount of time driving home to Greenlane as the 3.5 hour Sydney to Auckland flight.

READ MORE:
Air New Zealand passengers miss flights after Auckland Airport traffic chaos

More than a dozen people have shared their stories of travel chaos when traveling to and from Auckland Airport in the past month.

This morning the Herald reported passengers missed flights and up to a dozen Air New Zealand services were delayed after crew were caught in gridlock around Auckland Airport.

Since then similar stories have flooded in with some missing flights, family events and functions because of unusually heavy congestion.

And the traffic woes have been long term. Three weeks ago Phil Ker landed at Auckland Airport at 4.20pm for a function in the city at 6pm.

Ker caught the airport bus which took an hour to travel 600m. He finally reached city at 7.10pm and the function was over.

This week Christchurch man Barnaby Nye had to purchase new tickets for his wife and son after they spent an hour and a half on George Bolt Memorial drive heading to the airport and missed their flights.

"I tried to phone Air NZ on their behalf during their trip but could not get through to change their flights and ended up purchasing new tickets for them at a cost of $566 AKL-CHC," Nye said.

Nye said the traffic was heavy last year because of road works but said the current congestion is unworkable and can not be planned around.

Many called for a train to the city or a dedicated airport bound flyover to separate airport traffic from commuter traffic.

On Thursday Air New Zealand reported emotional scenes at its check-in counters, as stranded passengers broke down in tears after the Thursday traffic jam.

Traffic was again heavy in the area yesterday and the airline has warned of the risk of further problems over summer.

Although not publicly commenting, Air New Zealand is understood to be increasingly frustrated at the impact on passengers of problems around and at the airport.

Air New Zealand told staff in an internal bulletin yesterday that it had been expecting significant congestion at the airport over the busy peak holiday period and "this became very apparent [on Thursday] with rain and heavy traffic congestion around the airport combining to cause travel chaos for both our customers and our people".

International and domestic services were held up for up to 50 minutes, said chief operations officer Bruce Parton.

"There were also emotional scenes in our check-in areas and customers in tears as many missed their flights due to the traffic chaos.

"As we get nearer to Christmas we are likely to see more overcrowding at Auckland Airport and in the surrounding transport network as we did yesterday. If you work at the airport or need to travel there, please take this into account and allow yourself additional time to get there."

Air New Zealand is rostering more staff on to help passengers through terminals over Christmas and is communicating with those it can reach to advise them to expect congestion.

Jetstar said it wasn't hit by delays yesterday but is advising passengers using Auckland Airport to arrive 90 minutes before their flights are due to depart.

Airport users complained it was taking close to an hour to move a few hundred metres and buses to hotels around the airport that were meant to arrive every 30 minutes weren't turning up for more than an hour.

But the airport today said it is responsible for a "very small" number of roads located within the inner airport precinct and blamed congestion on its roads on work being done on highways managed by the New Zealand Transport Agency.

An airport spokesman said congestion being experienced was due to roadworks to the north of the airport, at Kirkbride Rd, and the capacity on NZTA's State Highway 20B - between the airport and Manukau.

He said the airport company was working closely with NZTA and Auckland Transport to improve traffic flows and transport to and from the airport, including how State Highway 20B can be improved to ease traffic congestion on airport roads, and on how to improve public transport services to and from Auckland Airport.

Brett Gliddon, NZTA's Auckland Highway manager, said he was aware of the issues.

"We are committed to working with Auckland Transport and Auckland Airport to look at ways of optimising the network to improve the flow of traffic and improve public transport into and out of the airport."

An AT spokesman said bus services had been improved between the airport and Manukau at the end of October.

Besides traffic "chaos" on the highways, passengers have told the Herald of long waiting times to be bused to the terminal, delays in picking up bags and queues at border agencies.

Some have described the airport as "Third World" and said its infrastructure was lagging badly behind the surge in passengers.

While the airport is spending tens of millions of dollars on upgrading its international departure area, new gates and stands for aircraft, it has warned this summer will be tight.

Last week it advised passengers to allow an extra 30 minutes than usual.

There will be up to 30,000 passengers a day using the international terminal on 10 peak days this summer, up 15 per cent on last year.

- NZ Herald

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