Type to search

APA1 2024 NEWS

Growing responsively


The sustainable growth and development of its facilities remains a top priority for Auckland Airport as it undertakes the biggest infrastructure upgrade in its history, writes Joe Bates.

With most international visitors to New Zealand arriving in Auckland, it should come as no surprise to learn that Auckland Airport (AKL) is the country’s busiest airport by some distance.

AKL welcomed 15.8 million passengers in 2023, more than double the six million handled at country’s next busiest gateway, Christchurch (CHC), and nearly three times as many the 5.4 million accommodated in Wellington (WLG).

Its 2023 passenger total represented an impressive 12% upturn on 2022, although numbers are still below the record 21.6 million that passed through its faciliities in pre-COVID 2019.

Key economic generator

AKL’s most recent financial results show that operator, Auckland International Airport Limited (AIAL), generated NZ$440 million in revenue in the six months to December 31, 2023, during which time it handled 9.3 million passengers (+22%).

AIAL chair, Patrick Strange, notes: “Global demand for travel saw Auckland Airport deliver a solid result in the first half of the 2024 financial year, with continued growth in our international network as airlines expanded capacity and new entrants joined the market.

“North America has been a particular highlight, where more people are now travelling to and from Auckland than ever before. While the outlook continues to remain positive, we may see the rate of growth slow over the second half of the financial year as the local aviation industry faces into economic headwinds.”

Strange did, however, also acknowlege that the first half of its FY23/24 hadn’t all been plane sailing, stating: “The half-year has not been without its challenges, with some customers experiencing unacceptable delays in processing.

“I’m pleased about the way our team stepped up and led the collaboration with government agencies, airlines and airline ground handlers to drive improvements. This collective effort saw the system running more smoothly in time for the summer peak, delivering a much-improved experience for travellers.”

Reflecting on the half-year performance, CEO,Carrie Hurihanganui, says: “As New Zealand’s gateway, strong connectivity between Auckland Airport and the world is essential for our economy, so the successful growth in international routes has been extremely positive.

“During the half year we were thrilled to welcome new airlines and destinations, with 27 airlines flying to 42 international destinations to and from Auckland Airport – only two carriers and one destination short of pre-COVID numbers.

“Auckland is now the most connected city in Australasia to the North American market, with seven airlines flying non-stop to eight destinations, including some of the world’s largest commercial centres.

“In terms of benefits to customers, the increase in connectivity means more airlines to choose from and downward pressure on airfares for this market.

“There are now five airlines flying to and from six destinations in China, with leisure visitors accounting for over 60% of all inbound travellers from China during the half year, overtaking those arriving to visit friends and relatives. India and Philippines markets have also shown strength, with demand for seats exceeding pre-pandemic levels during the period.

“As services have ramped up, driving improvements in the customer journey has been a clear focus for everyone in the airport eco-system, particularly in the international arrivals area. I’m delighted to say this resulted in more than a 20% improvement in processing times for customers coming through the international arrivals process across December and January, compared to the prior two months of October and November 2023.

“We are going to keep working at it to continue to improve the experience for travellers. It’s why the upgrade of Auckland Airport’s infrastructure is so important. We want a better experience for travellers across the system and that’s what our investment will deliver.”

New infrastructure

Auckland Airport’s recently opened Transport Hub will serve as the new entrance and departure point for the millions of travellers who visit Auckland Airport each year.

Talking about it’s additon, Hurihanganui, says: “Our new Transport Hub, which will serve both international and domestic jet passengers once the new integrated terminal is built, will help travellers move between vehicles, public transport and the terminal quickly and easily.

“The pick-up and drop-off area is undercover and protected from the weather; roads have been configured to provide a seamless one-way system for transport, and a new landscaped pedestrian plaza provides for a real uplift in the overall customer experience.

“Like many of our projects, we’ve delivered the Transport Hub with sustainability at the forefront. A giant solar array will help to power the facility, and we’ve set aside a corridor of land right next to the Hub to allow for the development of future mass rapid transit.

“Elsewhere on the aviation precinct, aeronautical construction projects continue to advance as a priority as Auckland Airport works to build greater resilience into New Zealand’s busiest gateway and transform the customer experience.”

“Critical enabling works to prepare for a new domestic terminal connected to the existing international terminal are well advanced,” explains Hurihanganu.

“This includes construction of the new eastern bag hall with three baggage carousels providing not just a step change in technology and energy efficiency, but the first elements of the future baggage handling system.

“A major airfield expansion is also underway, delivering seven new remote stands for international aircraft and including construction of 3,500m of new stormwater pipes to increase the resiliency of the airport and protect it from extreme weather events. The project is on track for completion in late calendar year 2025.

“Travellers are also seeing the benefits of work to improve facilities at the domestic terminal, which is now almost 60 years old and reaching capacity. While we build our new domestic terminal, we want to make sure customers have an enjoyable and comfortable experience in the existing domestic terminal.

“So far, new women’s and men’s bathrooms have opened near regional arrivals and departures, and customers are loving the fresh, new facilities and extra space. We will soon begin working on the bathroom blocks near the Air New Zealand bag reclaim, with a new parent room, upgraded accessible toilet facilities, and gender-neutral toilets being delivered.”

Other improvements are underway across the aviation precinct, upgrading the experience for visitors and the 20,000-plus people that work at the airport and helping the airport reach its sustainability goals.

Hurihanganui says: “Our new Park & Ride South facility, due to open before the end of the 2024 financial year, will create easier travel connections for anyone arriving from the south.

“With about 40% of all precinct traffic arriving from the south, we recognise the importance of upgrading the southern access point to the airport. Our new parking facility will offer convenient parking options and easy connections to the terminals via a bus service that will transition from fossil-fuel to electric next summer.

“Elsewhere on the airport campus, we saw Te Arikinui Pullman Auckland Airport Hotel, our joint venture with Tainui Group Holdings, open its doors for the first time in December, providing a 5-star accommodation experience to visitors on the doorstep of the international terminal.

“Mānawa Bay, which aims to be New Zealand’s first 5 Green Star premium outlet shopping destination, is on track to open in September 2024, and has experienced strong demand from tenants.”

Green credentials

With Auckland Airport achieving Level 4 ‘Transformation’ status in ACI’s Airport Carbon Accreditation last year, and a host of other environmental initiatives receiving global attention, there is little doubting the gateway’s commitment to reducing its carbon footprint and developing in a sustainable manner.

Hurihanganui is certainly proud of the airport’s recycling efforts that have included the opening of a new $5 million transitional waste facility to enhance the collection and recycling of waste from international flights and across the terminals.

“In terms of waste, we are having a meaningful impact on the environment with several initiatives underway,” enthuses Hurihanganui. “One of these is a successful trial to separate organic waste in the international and domestic terminal landside food courts. This is already saving eight tonnes of waste from the landfill each month and is being turned into valuable compost.

“Alongside this, the new NZ$5 million transitional waste facility is improving the way waste from international flights, airline lounges, as well as all waste from the domestic terminal and airside waste from the international terminal is managed. This purpose-built facility sees the waste manually sorted to separate low-risk, clean recyclables and diverts them from biosecurity treatment and disposal in landfill.”

The airport’s chief sustainability and master planning officer, Mary-Liz Tuck, notes that AKL’s Level 4 status in the Airport Carbon Accreditation programme makes it one of the leading airports in the world when it comes to reducing its carbon footprint.

And she is confident that the airport will be able to hang on to its lofty Airport Carbon Accreditation status, and actually improve its green credentials, upon completion of the biggest airport development programme at Auckland Airport since it was built in the 1960s.

“As we upgrade our infrastructure, it is providing opportunities to tackle carbon emissions at the same time, whether that’s saving truck journeys by reusing concrete from runway repairs as the base material for our airfield expansion or targeting low-carbon and sustainable building practices for our terminal development,” says Tuck.

“Decarbonising aviation is challenging, particularly for a country like New Zealand where airlinks provide vital connectivity to the regions and its nearest international neighbour is more than 2000km away, but we recognise it is going to take a team effort.

“No organisation can do it alone and we are ready to play our part to address Scope 3 emissions. Whether it’s having our airfield fuel network ready for SAF, providing electric ground power units for aircraft to run off when at the gate, EV charging for airside vehicles, or contemplating future low-emission fuel technology in our infrastructure planning, we are constantly considering how we can support the low-carbon ambitions of the wider aviation system.

“Auckland Airport has targeted getting to net zero for our own operations by 2030, which will see Auckland Airport reduce direct emissions by 90%. After four years we have already made some significant cuts to our carbon emissions with a 27% reduction in comparison to our 2019 baseline. The next six years will see us undertaking substantial projects to achieve net zero.”

Key initiatives include the phasing out of gas-powered boilers in favour of energy efficient heat pumps within the terminal –– and the addition of rooftop solar generation to power two new airport developments, the Transport Hub and the Mānawa Bay outlet shopping centre.

Tuck adds: “This is a journey we’ve been on since 2008 when we introduced our first sustainability policy. In the 15 years since we’ve been making significant progress not just across our own operations, but also recognising the role we must play in supporting airlines and other airport partners to reduce their carbon footprint.”

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *