A weekly ode to the joys of moaning about your holidays.
A few weeks ago I wrote about the grumblings from some travellers regarding the growing pains of Auckland International Airport. My point was, yes, it's a bummer (albeit a necessary one) that the place is in a perpetual state of refurbishment, but claims that the airport is substandard or even an embarrassment for international visitors are little more than ill-informed hyperbole. That was the basis of the yarn ("The constant complaining about Auckland Airport", November 13) and by and large, I'm standing by it.
You'd hope so, seeing as it was written by me and it was less than a month ago.
So what's changed? Waiting in line for 40 minutes to declare the food you're carrying is a sealed box of koala and kangaroo-shaped chocolates* bought at Sydney Airport. For the record, the "Nothing To Declare" lines looked to be moving almost as slowly, but given the getting off of the plane, the doing the e-scan of the passport and the gathering of the bags had been so quick, this queue took me by surprise.
It shouldn't have, because in September I'd had the same thing after arriving back from Melbourne: off the plane in no time, no queues nor delays at the scanning of the passport, bags on the conveyor belt just as you're walking through and then right about the time you're getting cocky you've gone from touchdown to in the car in less than 30 minutes, you hit the lines.
With both my arrivals at different times of the night (one was close to midnight and the other about 8pm) and separated by a couple of months, I'm inclined to suggest these are not isolated problems for the airport. On this count, I agree with the moaners: tourists remember airports where they've had painfully long delays. As for the reason for the lines, perhaps it's more complicated but it appeared to be nothing other than a simple lack of staff.
So that's the bad and it's bad enough that I desperately hope the airport is going to do something about it and something soon. Namely, employ more biosecurity people! But putting the bad to one side, there is a good too. If you haven't taken off on an international flight in the past month or so, you're in for a pleasant surprise.
Not only have the departure cards gone, but so have many of the temporary walls. The security area has opened right up and is as easy and efficient (even the tray-stacking is done automatically) as anywhere I've seen. Then it's to the duty free shops which have expanded to include a swish, miniature high street with brands I'll never be able to afford, but nevertheless, it's fun to look at even if you're doing nothing but walking through to the food area. Now this is where things have really improved because no longer are your options limited to a couple of over-priced cafes, some pub food and Burger King.
That said, if over-priced cafes, pub food and Burger King are your thing (I love a Whopper Junior as much as the next guy ... possibly more so), don't worry, they're still there! It's just they now sit alongside a Vietnamese restaurant, a branch of the Mexico chain and an upstairs foodcourt and children's area designed to look like caravans and food trucks.
With the open-air, two level design, the place looks suitably grand as well as suitably Kiwi.
The arrival experience may not be so wondrous, but locals and tourists should now be leaving with a much better taste in their mouths. And as I said in that November 13 rant, which I'm still mostly standing by, the airport is getting better all the time.
* Cute but not overwhelmingly tasty.
Tim Roxborogh hosts Newstalk ZB's Weekend Collective and blogs at RoxboroghReport.com