I've used the SkyBus service between Auckland International Airport and Britomart a lot over the years because it's an efficient and reasonably-priced service.

But there was an unpleasant surprise at the end of my latest trip which has caused me to change my mind.

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I couldn't take the SkyBus on the outward leg of my expedition to Queensland because the first ferry on Sunday morning doesn't get to town early enough. However, I did take it on the return leg.


All seemed well as the bus arrived at the airport about the same time as I did and the driver took us at high speed on the usual route via Dominion Rd.

We got to Karangahape Rd at 6.42pm, after a journey of around 35 minutes, and I began to feel confident of catching the 7pm ferry home. But then things took a bizarre turn.

Instead of heading for the CBD the bus turned left into Symonds St, left into Wakefield St and eh, what's going on here? Left into Queen St and parked opposite the Town Hall, its nose pointing back to the airport.

Two guys promptly jumped on board and asked where we were going.

I said I wanted to get to the ferry and was told, "Get off here. Shuttle bus will be along soon."

The other three or four passengers grumbled a bit but took their bags and disappeared into the night. Meanwhile I stood with my bag at the bus stop, an experience I could have done without, being fresh from the heat of Queensland and winter having arrived in Auckland the previous day, and waited ... and waited.

Five minutes went by, then 10. Hopes of catching the 7pm ferry faded. One of the men re-appeared and told me again: "Shuttle bus will be along soon."

Eventually a smaller bus did turn up and, after waiting a few more minutes, though I was the only passenger in sight, it headed back up Queen St, went left into K Rd, left into Symonds St, left into Wakefield St and hurrah! ?Turned right into Queen St towards the waterfront.

It eventually dropped me in Customs St East before heading off round the block in order to get to the other side of the road where the SkyBus service to the airport now commences.

I wandered down to the wharf and, as I waited in the cold for the 7.30pm ferry, mused on the ridiculous arrangement I had just experienced. I appreciate that the old SkyBus service had to change because of the closure of QE II Square - but the new set-up is plain crazy.

Introducing a system that requires four people and two buses to provide a service once operated by one person and one bus for the same price doesn't sound like good business.

Also, a change that increases the time of the trip by about 50 per cent and is less convenient to use is hardly going to appeal to customers. Indeed, the poor patronage on the two SkyBuses I saw that evening suggests it may already be having an impact.