Wealthy private jet owners are bypassing New Zealand because of the escalating aviation fuel crisis - and one industry leader says the country's international reputation is at risk.
Air Center One provides services for hundreds of private aircraft a year and its founder Rob Leach said three aircraft flying from Australia to the United States yesterday didn't stop in Auckland as scheduled, instead flying on to other Pacific ports to refuel.
Two of those aircraft had two- to three-day stops scheduled in New Zealand and Leach said the country had missed on high spending by those on board.
Although his firm's base in Queenstown was still able to fuel up aircraft, there was none in Auckland.
"It's severe, we have no fuel allocation. We've had fuel shortages before but nothing of this magnitude."
Leach said he was advising clients to arrive in Auckland with enough fuel to enable them to fly to another airport in New Zealand, Australia or the Pacific.
"If they were coming from the United States to New Zealand they do not have a lot of gas left, enough to get to Wellington or Christchurch but if they came in the middle of the night they couldn't land in Wellington because of a curfew."
In the past year, about 350 private jets flew through Auckland and about 240 through Queenstown.
New Zealand has targeted the private-jet-using super rich in campaigns by government agency Tourism New Zealand and there was a risk of long-term damage to the country's reputation as an easy place to get around.
"We've had inquiries from all sorts of people but once this crisis is over people don't hear that it's over. Some people think its going to go on forever," said Leach.
"People hear the bad news they don't hear the good news that follows it. It takes another month for them to figure out that it's okay in Auckland now."
Any transport of aviation fuel to Auckland Airport by road tanker would be a limited solution, he said.
A long-range corporate jet could take the entire load of one tanker and long haul airliners could take four or more tankers to fill them up.
Leach founded Air Center One in the mid-1980s and said he had seen infrastructure at Auckland Airport and other parts of the aviation system lag behind growth.
"It's not the pipeline that is the issue - if we had better holding capacity down here that would solve the problem," he said.
"If you start looking at the infrastructure around the country we need to do a bit of catching up."