A Kiwi family of four were among passengers stuck on a plane for over an hour after landing at Auckland Airport.

Aucklander Robin Paterson arrived at the airport on time this morning to pick up his son Paul, daughter-in-law Gina and two grandchildren who were arriving from Los Angeles on American Airlines flight AA83.

"The plane landed at 9.31am, but then it just sat on the tarmac," Paterson told the Herald this morning.

He said it appeared that the plane couldn't find a gate to allow for the passengers to disembark.

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Paterson said it took over an hour before the plane could eventually pull into a gate to allow disembarking to begin.

The passengers still had to go through Customs.

Almost two hours after originally arriving, Paterson told the Herald he was still waiting for his family to come through the arrival gate to greet him.

Given the expense of parking, Paterson said he would be contacting the airport to see if he could get a refund on the extra money he had spent at the airport this morning.

He said while it was frustrating for his family, it was even worse for visitors who were arriving in New Zealand for the first time.

"This is meant to be gateway to the country, and this is their first experience," he said.

"This airport is a shambles."

Asked to comment on the delays on the tarmac, Auckland Airport said it works closely with airlines and ground staff to ensure a trouble-free travel experience for passengers.

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"The experience this morning was the result of the airline making a number of decisions that caused a 77-minute delay to passengers disembarking," a spokesperson for the airport said.

In a statement, American Airlines apologised for the delay of flight AA83 and for any inconvenience customers experienced upon arrival.

"The crew operating the flight were unfortunately delayed getting the aircraft to the gate due to the late departure of another aircraft."

Busiest time of the year

Earlier this month Auckland Airport bosses revealed the 10 days over the Christmas-New Year holiday period they believe the international terminal will be at its most congested.

Saturday, December 22, and Sunday, January 6, top the list, with more than 43,000 travellers expected through the international terminal on each of the two peak travel days.

On eight other days — December 20, 21, 23 and 26, and January 3, 4, 5, and 13 more than 40,000 travellers are expected through the same terminal.

On a regular day 34,000 to 35,000 people pass through the international terminal, among a sharp rise in passenger numbers that three years ago prompted the airport to kick off a 30-year development plan to cater for soaring growth.