Auckland International Airport

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Auckland International Airport

Auckland Airport (formerly Auckland International Airport, also known locally as Mangere Airport) (IATA: AKL, ICAO: NZAA) is the largest and busiest airport in New Zealand with over 13 million (estimated at 7 million international and 6 million domestic) passengers a year, expected to more than double by 2025. The airport is in Mangere, a suburb of Auckland 21 km south of the city centre. It is the central hub for Air New Zealand, and a secondary hub for Pacific Blue, the New Zealand subsidiary of parent Virgin Australia.

Auckland Airport is one of New Zealand’s most important infrastructure assets, providing thousands of jobs for the region, and is the country’s second largest cargo 'port' by value, contributing around $14 billion to the economy, and catering for over four million visitors each year, resulting in a 70% share of New Zealand's international travellers.

The airport is the fourth busiest in Australasia after Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane airports. However, internationally, the airport is the second busiest in Australasia, being a third busier than Melbourne Airport in terms of international passengers. The airport has been rated in the top 3 worldwide for airports handling 5–15 million passengers annually. It was also voted the 8th best airport in the world by in 2011 at the world airport awards.

It has a capacity of about 45 flight movements per hour, using a single runway which is fully Cat IIIb capable (at a reduced rate of movements). A close by taxiway was upgraded for use as a runway when the main runway requires maintenance or for use during emergencies, but it does not have sufficient separation distance to operate simultaneously with the main runway. In November 2007 work began on a new northern runway, to be built in several stages and to be used mainly by smaller airplanes, freeing up capacity on the main runway. However, the project was put on hold for at least 12 months in October 2009, and deferred for a further few years in August 2010 following consultation with airlines and a review of capacity management options. The timing of the recommencement of construction of the second runway will be demand driven relative to the capacity of the existing runway.


The site of the airport was first used as an airfield by the Auckland Aero Club. In 1928, the club leased some land from a dairy farmer to accommodate the club's three De Havilland Gypsy Moths. The club president noted at the time that the site "has many advantages of vital importance for an aerodrome and training ground. It has good approaches, is well drained and is free from power lines, buildings and fogs."

In 1960 work started to transform the site into Auckland's main airport, taking over from Whenuapai in the north-west of the city. Much of the runway is on land reclaimed from the Manukau Harbour. The first flight to leave was an Air New Zealand DC-8 in November 1965, bound for Sydney. The airport was officially opened the following year, with a 'grand air pageant' on Auckland Anniversary weekend, 29 January to 31 January 1966.

A new international terminal, named after Jean Batten, was built in 1977. The most recent substantial upgrade was in 2005, separating arriving and departing passengers in response to the terrorism fears after 11 September 2001, which caused concerns that passengers arriving from 'unsafe' airports (i.e. those considered to have insufficient screening procedures) could transfer bombs or weapons in the mixed zone, passing them to other passengers departing for, for example, the USA.


The airport has commenced building a second main runway 1,950 metres (6,400 ft) north of the current runway to allow all weather simultaneous operations. Major earthworks have been completed however the project has been put on temporary hold to ensure timing of eventual delivery is not ahead of demand. The project's initial NZ$32 million stage is to provide a 1,200-metre (3,900 ft) strip for use by smaller regional-connection planes. The new runway is expected to substantially increase the international-flight capacity of the airport, as smaller planes can be removed from the main runway. These require long safety distances from the air turbulence wakes of preceding jet airliners, causing associated additional delays.

Construction for Stage One started in November 2007. However, Stage Two will likely see the runway lengthened to 1,650 metres (5,410 ft) which will enable domestic jet flights to use it. Stage Three (final stage) will lengthen the runway to 2,150 metres (7,050 ft), allowing medium sized international jet flights to land there, from destinations such as the Pacific Islands or Australia. Eventually a new domestic terminal will also be built to the north to better utilize the new runway. The new runway will thus free up the longer southern runway to handle more heavy jet operations. The 10-year project would cost NZ$120 million, not including substantial extensions planned for the airport arrivals/departure buildings and associated structures.

An extension to the international terminal has recently been completed to allow the Airbus A380 to dock. Emirates has started flying one of its A380s on the Auckland — Dubai via Sydney route which commenced in May 2009.

International Terminal

Check-in counters are at the eastern end of the international terminal building on the ground level.

  • Gates 1–10 are single-airbridge gates
  • Gates 15 and 16 in the new pier extension are served by twin airbridges for wide-body aircraft; and are capable of handling A380 aircraft with simultaneous double-deck boarding
  • Gates 4A, 4B, 4C, 4D and 5A are bus transportation gates

Prior to 2006 Auckland Airport arriving and departing passengers were allowed to mingle airside. After the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001, the airport operated with a CAA exemption that allowed this to continue, although flights to the US and all Qantas-operated flights (and for a short while Cathay Pacific flights) were restricted to leaving from gates where a secondary X-ray and metal detector inspection had been set up. This exemption expired in 2006.

Auckland Airport decided that rather than building a new sub-top level to stream arriving passengers (as at Beijing, Vancouver or Heathrow), they would build a new departures floor for passengers to "drop down" into the existing gate lounges on the first floor, which would be closed off from a central arrivals corridor by glass.

Domestic Terminal

The two previously separate domestic terminal buildings have now been connected by a common retail area. Pacific Blue has been absorbed into the old Ansett New Zealand/Qantas domestic terminal (now taken over by Jetstar) with two check-in counters between the Jetstar and Air New Zealand check-in areas.

Jetstar domestic services operate from gates 20 and 21 (airbridge service). Air New Zealand mainline services operate from gates 29-33 (airbridge service); its regional services operated by propeller aircraft from the regional section of the domestic terminal, at the eastern end. These gates are linked by covered walkways to the terminal, and passengers walk across the apron to the aircraft.

Airlines and destinations
Holding company

Auckland International Airport Limited (AIAL ) was formed in 1988, when the New Zealand Government corporatised the airport. It had previously been run by the Auckland Regional Authority, covering the five councils in the Auckland region.

The Government was AIAL’s majority shareholder, the rest being held by the local councils. In 1998 the Government sold its shareholding, and AIAL became the fifth airport company in the world to be publicly listed. At that time the major shareholders were Auckland City Council (25.8%), Manukau City Council (9.6%) and North Shore City Council (7.1%). North Shore City Council sold its shares in 1999 and Auckland City Council sold its share down to 12.8% in 2002.

AIAL appears on the New Zealand Stock Exchange (NZX: AIA) and Australian Stock Exchange (ASX: AIA). International shareholders hold around 40% of the shares, domestic approximately 60%. The company has a Standard & Poor's credit rating of A+/Stable/A-1.

AIAL enjoys diverse revenue streams, and operates a 'dual-till' approach, whereby its finances are split into aeronautical and non-aeronautical balance sheets. Aeronautical income is derived from airfield charges, terminal services charge and the airport development charge (or departure fee). Non-aeronautical revenue comes from its significant property portfolio, car park, and retail income. Income from the non-aeronautical side of the business accounts for just over half of its revenue. The airport has been criticised by airlines, led by Air New Zealand, for its purportedly high landing charges. However research conducted in September 2010 by aviation consultants Jacobs indicates that Auckland Airport international charges are slightly below the average of the 20 largest international airports flown by Air New Zealand. Further research by aviation consultants Airbiz conducted in August 2010 indicates that Auckland Airport domestic landing charges are amongst the lowest in Australasia.

The diversity in revenue was of benefit during the downturn in international aviation following the events of 11 September 2001, and subsequently the 2002 Bali bombings, SARS outbreak and the Iraq War. The airport was able to rely on steady income from the non-aeronautical side of the business, which softened the blow of international events. In addition, New Zealand retained favour among the world’s travellers as a safe destination.

In July 2009 Auckland Airport elected to delay a scheduled increase in its landing charges from 1 July 2009 to assist its airline customers during the recession. The scheduled increase was put in place on 1 March 2010. The company has in the past reportedly been singled out by airline lobby group IATA for its consistent excessive level of profits. Airlines such as Air New Zealand complain of excessive landing charges. On 5 June 2007, the airport's 60% profit margin was criticised by IATA director general and CEO Giovanni Bisignani. He said the airport had a "happy monopoly" and that IATA would ask the New Zealand government to investigate.

Until July 2008, AIAL charged all departing international passengers (12 years old or older) a $25 departure fee. This has been replaced with a passenger services charge levied on the airlines for each arriving and departing international passenger. This charge has commenced at $13 and will rise by 50 cents a year for two years to $14.

Strategic partnership with Queenstown Airport

On 8 July 2010, AIAL announced it had entered into an agreement to take a 24.99% shareholding in Queenstown Airport Corporation Limited, the operator of Queenstown Airport, and form a strategic alliance between the two airports. The shareholding will cost NZ$27.7 million, through the issue of new shares. The alliance is expected to generate an extra 176,000 passengers through Queenstown Airport. AIAL has an option to increase its shareholding in Queenstown Airport to 30-35% at any time up to 30 June 2011, subject to the approval of the Queenstown Lakes District Council. The new share capital from would allow Queenstown Airport to fund growth of the airport's operating capacity and to pay regular dividends back to the community via the Queenstown Lakes District Council shareholding.


Auckland Airport's main access is by road.

A free shuttle bus connects the international and domestic terminals to each other; they are also linked by a walkway.

Two state highways connect to the airport: State Highway 20A and State Highway 20B. State Highway 20A leaves the airport to the north and allows access to central Auckland, the western and northern suburbs, and Northland. State Highway 20B leaves the airport to the east and allows access to southern and eastern Auckland, and the rest of the North Island. Currently, there is no direct motorway access to the airport, and at some point, airport traffic must use Auckland city streets. The completion of the State Highway 20 Manukau Extension in 2010 will allow motorway access to the State Highway 1 via State Highway 20B. In light traffic, a trip to the central city takes around 40 – 45 minutes.

Taxis and shuttles are available at both terminals.

Public transport
  • AIRBUS Express: Operates 24 hours a day and connects the airport to the Downtown Ferry Terminal in the central city via Mount Eden and Queen Street. The Downtown Ferry Terminal is opposite the Britomart Transport Centre, which allows bus and train connections to the wider Auckland area. Buses operate every 15mins and take approximately 50 minutes
  • Route 375: connects airport with Botany Town Centre via Middlemore & Otara. Operates half-hourly peak, hourly off-peak Monday-Friday.
  • 380 Airporter: operates between Airport and Manakau City via Papatoetoe Train Station. At Papatoetoe Train Station, passengers can connect to rail services to Britomart Transport Centre via the Southern & Eastern lines. Buses operate half-hourly all week.
Accidents and incidents

Accidents and incidents that occurred at or near Auckland Airport include:

  • 4 July 1966 - an Air New Zealand Douglas DC-8 on a training flight crashed on the runway shortly after taking off, killing two of the five crew (no passengers were on board).
  • 17 February 1979 - an Air New Zealand Fokker Friendship crashed into Manukau Harbour while on final approach. One of the crew and one company staff member were killed.
  • 31 July 1989 - a Mainfreight Convair 340/580 crashed shortly after taking off at night. The three crewmembers were killed.
  • 12 March 2003 - Singapore Airlines Flight 286 miscalculated its weight and attempted to lift off too early, resulting in the tail of the Boeing 747-400 to drag along Runway 05L for almost 500 metres.

Accidents and incidents that occurred on aircraft that departed from or were destined for Auckland Airport include:

  • 30 January 1974 - Pan Am Flight 806, a Boeing 707-321B-operated flight from Auckland to Los Angeles via Pago Pago and Honolulu, crashed on its approach to Pago Pago, killing 97 and injuring four.
  • 28 November 1979 - Air New Zealand Flight 901, a McDonnell Douglas DC-10-operated sightseeing flight from Auckland to Antarctica and return via Christchurch, crashed into Mount Erebus, killing all 257 on board.
  • 24 February 1989 - United Airlines Flight 811, a United Airlines 747 flight from Honolulu, Hawaii, suffered explosive decompression, killing nine.
  • 9 June 1995 - Ansett New Zealand Flight 703, a de Havilland DHC-8-operated flight from Auckland to Palmerston North, crashed in the Tararua Ranges while performing an instrument approach to Palmerston North in bad weather, killing four people and seriously injuring 14 others.
  • 3 May 2005 - Airwork Flight 23, a Fairchild SA227-AC Metro III-operated New Zealand Post cargo flight from Auckland to Blenheim, disintegrated over Stratford in Taranaki when the autopilot disengaged while trying to balance out fuel in the tanks, killing both pilots.

Building Activity

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