An 81-year-old Fijian woman who died of a suspected heart attack at Auckland International Airport this morning was in "good spirits" when a family member dropped her off.

The woman, whose name has not been released, was returning home to Fiji after spending a few months visiting family in New Zealand, Auckland Police sergeant Peter Hunia said.

The woman was sitting on board Fiji Airways flight 430 to Suva, which was scheduled to take off at 7am, when her breathing became laboured, Mr Hunia said.

Cabin crew alerted the airport's emergency services team, Police and St John.


Medics removed the woman from the plane and took her to an airport terminal where they attempted to recover her for about an hour, Mr Hunia said.

She died at the scene about 8am, he said. The plane left for Fiji at 8:15am.

The woman had known medical history but didn't show any signs of ill health before boarding the plane, Mr Hunia said.

"Most of her family live [in New Zealand] so she comes here for a few months a year to see them. When we notified her next of kin, a family member said she had been in good spirits when they'd dropped her off this morning," he said.

Fiji Airways spokesman Shane Hussein said the flight continued without further incident.

"We're indeed saddened by the incident," he said.

The delay did not affect any other flights coming in or out of the airport, Auckland Airport Operations Centre duty supervisor Viren Fernandes said.

The case has been referred to the coroner.