Aviation, tourism and energy writer for the Business Herald

More passengers than ever using Auckland Airport

More airline capacity has driven passenger numbers at Auckland Airport to record highs.  Photo / Dean Purcell
More airline capacity has driven passenger numbers at Auckland Airport to record highs. Photo / Dean Purcell

Close to one million international passengers passed through Auckland Airport in December last year, a record for the company.

A total of 960,681 international passengers (excluding transit passengers) was the highest ever for a single month, at the airport which has suffered severe road traffic congestion on some days.

The figure was 67,000 higher than the previous record set in January 2016, and 13.1 per cent higher than December, 2015.

The company said the result was driven by capacity increases on North American and Asian routes, which increased visitor arrivals over summer, as well as by the number of people visiting friends and relatives over the Christmas-New Year holiday period.

The number of domestic passengers increased by 10.9 per cent or 75,000 passengers, in December 2016 compared with the same month in December 2015.

The record 761,581 passengers was largely due to the increased number of regional services, which accounted for almost half the month's growth.

Jetstar has now been flying its regional services for a year and the airport said Air New Zealand's strong domestic growth was driven by a 10 per cent capacity increase on jet services, including a more than 30 per cent increase on the popular Auckland-Queenstown route.

For the year ending December 31 9.3 million International passengers (excluding transit passengers) used the airport, a 10.4 per cent increase on the previous 12 months was primarily due to additional capacity on flights from the United States, the Middle East, Japan, China, Thailand and Australia, and as a result of nine new airlines launching Auckland services in the past 18 months.

Auckland Airport traffic snarls have angered users over summer.  Photo / Grant Bradley
Auckland Airport traffic snarls have angered users over summer. Photo / Grant Bradley

A new daily international passenger record was achieved at Auckland Airport on Friday December 23 with 36,403 international passengers travelling through the international terminal.

In December last year international passengers averaged 30,990 per day, an average increase of 3600 a day on December 2015.

The airport has come under pressure for not investing in infrastructure to cope with the high number of travellers. Following Herald stories the company and Auckland Transport set up a task force to implement immediate measures to cope with traffic to and from the airport.

Users have complained that the tight roading system and increasing numbers of workers in the airport area had aggravated the problem.

Figures released yesterday showed New Zealand was just 61 visitors away from reaching the milestone of 3.5 million international visitors last year.

"Our challenge now is to maintain the growth trajectory in a sustainable way," said Chris Roberts, Tourism Industry Aotearoa (TIA) chief executive.

There were 3,499,939 short-term arrivals for 2016, up 12 per cent or an additional 368,000 visitors on the previous year. This was the biggest-ever increase in international visitors for a single year, TIA said.

There was impressive growth from some of the Asian markets, with South Korea up 27 per cent, Malaysia 51 per cent and the Philippines up 45 per cent on 2015.

The number of visitors from Argentina has almost trebled, showing the value of new air services such as Air NZ's Buenos Aires-Auckland service.

New air routes also helped the tourism industry grow a range of strong visitor markets.

On Waitangi Day, Qatar Airways starts flying here and three Asian carriers started services during the past three months.

Roberts said growth meant the industry was well on its way to achieving its Tourism 2025 goal of growing annual tourism revenue to $41 billion by 2025.

"Our challenge now is to encourage international visitors to disperse to all parts of the country, and to come to New Zealand in autumn, spring and winter," said Roberts.

"However, we do need to invest for success. We need well-targeted investment in infrastructure so we can sustainably manage future growth."

TIA is conducting an assessment of tourism infrastructure.

- NZ Herald

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