New owners are already upgrading and extending round-the-clock bus service to Mangere.

Free on-board Wi-Fi and ground hosts to welcome intrepid travellers to Auckland are just the beginning of big plans by new owners to expand - and smarten - the 24-hour airport bus service.

The former Airbus fleet has already had its name changed to that of Melbourne's 38-year-old SkyBus, which is taking it under its wing.

It will be repainted from light blue to red as more buses are added between the fast-growing airport precinct and downtown Auckland to widen the span of departures, which already run every 10 minutes during week days.

That follows a change of ownership from Johnston's Coachlines to a consortium majority-owned by Canada's Ontario Pension Trust, in a deal worth about $20 million.

Advertisement

Melbourne-based directors Michael Sewards and Adam Begg have hit the ground running in Auckland, adding two buses in their first couple of weeks here and installing free Wi-Fi across what is now a 15-strong shuttle fleet - with seven more due by May.

They have several other buses ferrying passengers between aircraft and terminals when airbridges are unavailable.

The pair, who have worked together for 22 years throughout Australia's bus industry and overseas, are also recruiting concierges to greet passengers at the airport with digital tablets to scan tickets and provide information about Auckland's hotels and visitor attractions.

Although they have yet to unveil new livery for the buses, they have indicated it will be a shade of red, similar to uniforms already worn by their drivers and concierge.

Telecommunications company Spark is meanwhile developing a sophisticated ticket-buying app which it hopes to roll out in Auckland before Christmas and then back-load to Melbourne.

Mr Sewards said during a tag-team visit by the pair to Auckland this week that technological solutions encountered here had been "incredible."

He is similarly impressed by Auckland Transport's $100 million integrated Hop ticketing system, into which his fleet was plugged by its former owners, although SkyBus will remain fully commercial with none of the subsidies received by most other city bus operators.

Airport spokesman Richard Barker said his company was delighted Skybus had come to Auckland.

"SkyBus will offer travellers and airport employees a better and more frequent airport-to-city bus service," he said.

Mr Sewards acknowledged room for improvement in journey times, now varying from about 45 minutes to an hour for the 21km trip between downtown Auckland and the airport.

That compares with about 20 minutes over the 23km between Melbourne's CBD and its airport.

But he said Melbourne's route was far more direct, along a single motorway, and is looking forward to faster bus trips in Auckland once the Waterview tunnels open in early 2017.

Auckland

• 21km distance to airport from CBD

• 45-60mins time the journey takes by bus

• $16 fare, one-way

• 650,000 approximate trips annually

Melbourne

• 23km distance to airport from CBD

• 20mins time the journey takes by bus

• $19 (A$18) fare, one-way

• 3 million + passenger trips annually