Auckland Airport's ageing domestic terminal is undergoing a $30 million overhaul to cope with a surge in passengers and to buy time before a decision on where a new terminal will be built.
Passenger volumes have been growing rapidly amid fierce airline competition and in December a record 617,000 people were processed through the 50-year-old terminal, which started life as a cargo building and was used to service the first international flights.
Work has started on the forecourt in front of the Air New Zealand and Jetstar end of the terminal to speed up traffic flow and tenders are soon to be let on work inside the terminal aimed at helping to ease passenger movement.
Adam Tyrie, the airport's general manager of masterplanning and terminal development, said the makeover was about capacity.
"We're not redeveloping the domestic terminal down there into a state-of-the-art masterpiece. It's about dealing with the current growing travel needs that we're facing."
Strong domestic growth late last year was driven by record international traffic. It will remain strong this year as Air New Zealand upgrades its fleet to use Airbus A320s, which are bigger than the existing Boeing 737s. Jetstar also added capacity with the addition of another aircraft in November last year.
Tyrie said the airport had to keep pace with growth.
"We have a situation where both domestic players are driving demand. They're providing good competitive prices."
Traveller behaviour was also driving change.
Self-processing meant passengers were moving quickly through parts of check-in but then being delayed at others such as aviation security.
On key business trunk routes most travellers had carry-on baggage only and expected to be through the airport quickly.
Much of the work on the terminal would be out of public view but there would be some disruption and the airport is advising passengers to allow extra time during the building phase.
"We could probably knock this project out in half the time but it has to be staged.
"This isn't going to come with zero impact but we're working to minimise that impact," Tyrie said.
The airport's long-term plan is to build a new domestic terminal nearer the international building. The final decision will be based on traffic projections, runway configuration and the demands of airlines.
Tyrie said the new terminal would last 40 to 50 years and a decision was due later this year.
Reconfiguration of forecourt area
Work has started on the forecourt in front of the Air NZ and Jetstar terminals aimed at improving traffic flow. Public drop-off will be in larger lanes which will be further away from the terminal but covered by shelters. Bus and taxi zones will be closer to the terminal. The airport is encouraging pick up from covered carparks by offering 10 minutes free parking. Work by Downer Construction should be finished next month.
Inside the terminal
The Air NZ baggage area will be made bigger by pushing out the eastern end of the terminal. Longer baggage presentation belts will help cut two or three-person-deep queues for luggage at busy times. The Koru Club parking and regional airline lounge area will be reconfigured. New lounge areas and cafes are options at the eastern end of the terminal. There will be more toilets throughout. Aviation security will be centralised - both Air NZ and Jetstar will use the same processing area. Another storey on the western annex will allow passengers to access either airlines' planes and the airside departure area will be expanded and a cafe installed. It is hoped work will start in the middle of the year and could take up to 12 months.
On aircraft aprons
The areas where the aircraft park are being made bigger and this involves new fixed links - a corridor on stilts that takes passengers on to the aerobridge out to aircraft. More storage space for equipment used to service the aircraft. Work scheduled to be finished within 12 months.