Auckland Airport's boss says he understands frustration felt by travellers caught in traffic chaos.

''We don't want people to be in a position where they're anxious about catching flights or feel that they're at risk of missing flights,'' said chief executive Adrian Littlewood.

''We are disappointed that people feel upset and frustrated at what has gone on and understand their anxiety but we are working as hard as we can to make sure we're doing the right thing and investing for the long term.''

Auckland Airport is the country's biggest listed company with a market value of $7.5 billion - and was spending $1 million a day on core infrastructure development, he said.


It was now understood to be the busiest construction site in the country.

However, roads leading to it were also being worked on, and a surge in traffic on Auckland's highway network and booming travel through the airport meant there were problems getting there at times.

Last Thursday's gridlock meant some passengers and airline crew were unable to get to flights on time, sparking anger from Herald readers who complained about poor transport planning and facilities in the terminals.

He said it had been working with the New Zealand Transport Agency and Auckland Transport for ''some time'' ahead of an announcement on Wednesday of a joint task force had been formed to bring in immediate measures to ease congestion.

This included changing lane configurations on State Highway 20, traffic signal changes and investigating making a clogged airport precinct roundabout wider before Christmas.

Littlewood said the airport was different to other parts of Auckland because it was part of the booming international travel market as well as being part of an increasingly busy state highway network.

Passenger movements over the last 12 months exceeded 17 million people through domestic and international terminals - up 9 per cent on a year ago.

"We want to make it right every day and sometimes it doesn't go the way you want but we take it very seriously,'' said Littlewood.


Congestion had been made worse around the airport as some new vehicle GPS tools were taking traffic off traditional networks into secondary roads that were never built to cope with them.

He warned travellers to allow more time to get to the airport.

Littlewood hit back at critics who have said the airport has moved away from its core business - aviation - to put too much emphasis on being a retail, and warehouse landlord of retail and other commercial property.

"Our core function is running the airport - investing $1 million a day is a clear signal.''

It installed new baggage belts, is remodelling its departure area and building more stands for aircraft as part of its 30-year plan to build the ''airport of the future'' capable of handling 40 million passengers.

It would be busy building over the next five years.

''Hopefully there will be no pain and suffering. From our point of view our priority is to get passengers, staff and crew to the terminals.''

Littlewood also defended the state of the airport's toilets, saying they had been highly rated in passenger surveys.