Auckland Airport is spending about $30 million to squeeze more life out of its domestic terminal, parts of which date back more than 50 years.

Days out from a final Commerce Commission report on the airport's charging regime, the company outlined work going on at the ageing building which needs asbestos removed and new fire safety and ventilation equipment installed.

Walls are being pushed out, Air New Zealand's regional lounge is being expanded and the airport is investigating whether it should build its own lounge upstairs in the domestic terminal.

One critic of the airport said the work was well overdue but the spending was small for the scale of the problem at a ''pretty awful'' gateway.


The company says it will improve the passenger experience in the building which has been criticised for its lack of space for passengers, crowded forecourt drop-off areas and lengthy queues at Aviation Security.

Andre Lovatt, general manager, Auckland Airport development and delivery acknowledged some feedback ''wasn't great'' on the old building that hadn't had a lot done to it over the decades .

''The reality of where we're at is that we know this is a building that's old and has issues. We need to get work done to now improve those issues and where they touch passengers who travel.''

The airport was spending about $2 billion on infrastructure during the next five years but the long-awaited domestic jet terminal to be integrated in the redeveloped international facility would not be completed before 2022.

Lovatt said the existing terminal was be expanded at the Jetstar end by pushing out the front wall into the forecourt to get about 1000sq m of extra dwelling space.

There would be an extra 75sq m in Aviation Security, a choke point for some of the 10 million passengers who move through the airport every year.

Aviation Security said today queuing space was the airport company's responsibility and the number of lines with machines open at any one time was determined by an automated rostering system which uses information from the airlines regarding flight schedules and aircraft type as well as information on how quickly passengers would pass through the system.

A passenger Auckland Airport's domestic terminal. Photo / Greg Bowker
A passenger Auckland Airport's domestic terminal. Photo / Greg Bowker

''Queues can form as a result of a mismatch with anticipated presentation due to weather, traffic, large groups, flight delays, flights additional to the schedule - charter flights, regional passengers who are not required to be screened but may present to security for a range or reasons including access to airline lounges,'' said an AvSec spokeswoman.


Ahead of the peak summer travel period, AvSec was finalising plans for ''load assistants'' who help to load bags and trays through X-ray machines.

It would also have ''queue combers'' to provide advice to queued passengers on the carriage of dangerous goods, prohibited items, inorganic powders and liquids, aerosols and gels, and ensure efficient flow of passengers from to screening lanes.

''We're still in the planning stage so can't confirm exact numbers, and it will vary from day to day, based on flight schedules and any other external impacts,'' said the AvSec spokeswoman.

Lovatt said the airport was a ''complex place'' and the company worked closely with all agencies and airline which wanted to ensure it spent money on the right things.

More charging points for devices were being installed and toilets at the regional end of the terminal were being doubled in area.

Asbestos in the roof area of the building - which started as an international terminal in 1965 - was being removed behind special containment structures.

Floor and wall surfaces were being ripped out and replaced and new LED lights were being installed.

For the 12 months to September 20.8 million travellers passed through the domestic and international terminals. This was up 5.5 per cent on the previous year.

New colour-coded pick up and drop off areas at Auckland Airport. Photo / Greg Bowker
New colour-coded pick up and drop off areas at Auckland Airport. Photo / Greg Bowker

The company expects up to 40 million passengers a year by 2030.

Airlines for Australia and NZ (A4ANZ) chairman Graeme Samuel said the $30m of spending was similar to that renovating a large mansion.

He said the domestic terminal was in a poor state.

''It's the gateway to New Zealand but a pretty awful gateway.''

The Commerce Commission is due later this week to deliver a final report on Auckland Airport's pricing after earlier this year finding its profits may be too high.

It said the airport was targeting a return of 7.06 per cent which was above the commission's mid-point benchmark of 6.41 per cent.

The difference in target returns could result in customers paying an additional 61c per flight over the next five years and Auckland Airport earning an additional $47 million in profits after tax.

Samuel said Auckland Airport benefited from a light-handed regime that allowed airports to charge as they saw fit.

He said airlines were paying in advance for something to come through and they got no economic value for years.

''The airports have gone through the process of promising to build something but asking airlines to pay for it now,'' he said.