Auckland Airport was described as a “madhouse” last night with arriving passengers facing lengthy wait times.
Frustrated passenger James Ryan told the Herald he flew into the airport from Sydney at 4.40pm yesterday and didn’t exit the immigration and biosecurity checks until 7.15pm.
“There was no information given from the airport and the general sense from passengers was frustration and desperation for things like toilets,” Ryan said.
“There were lots of angry talking from people planning on making complaints and families with crying children.”
He said there was some construction happening at the airport, but no obvious reason why the queues took so long.
He described the airport as an “absolute zoo” and a “madhouse”.
“This is a very bad look for New Zealand.”
An Auckland Airport spokesperson said a high number of flight arrivals combined with staff shortages due to illness impacted the speed of passenger processing.
“We understand long waits can be very frustrating, and we apologise to anyone impacted.
“The airport team and border agencies worked as quickly as possible to process travellers, including prioritising elderly passengers and families with children
“The vast majority of travellers are able to process through arrivals quickly, however, there can be increased congestion at peak periods.”
In July, Biosecurity New Zealand promised it had cut wait times and had added staff but was still on the lookout for up to 50 workers.
Passengers have routinely complained of long waits, with X-raying of baggage for threats to the country’s primary producers causing delays.
One traveller who was caught in long queues in June told the Herald: “The passenger processing system has gone backwards; it’s the worst I’ve experienced. And yet in this day and age, it should be the opposite to please and surprise the customer [the traveller]. I’m not sure why it’s changed so much, apart from manpower.”
At the time, Biosecurity NZ northern regional commissioner Mike Inglis said a “significant” amount of work has been done in preparation for the July school holidays.
“This has been a system-wide approach to manage arrivals at the border and has involved working closely with Auckland Airport and other border agencies to identify and resolve congestion-related issues. For example, the airport has provided staff to help direct passengers to appropriate biosecurity lanes.”
The Ministry for Primary Industries says Biosecurity NZ is using “a range of communication channels”, such as websites and travel agencies, to make sure visitors are aware of the significance of biosecurity and the requirement to declare or refrain from bringing risky products into New Zealand.
Inglis claimed the biosecurity area of the airport’s passenger line times have continued to get better as a result of this. The average time from entering the biosecurity lane to leaving risk assessment was 10.51 minutes in June, less than the time of more than 12 minutes in March.
Rachel Maher is an Auckland-based reporter who covers breaking news. She has worked for the Herald since 2022.