Airport fees hike

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Pinged for pick-ups: Transport operators at Queenstown Airport

Queenstown Airport is hiking commercial pick-up and drop-off fees – but doesn’t want to talk about it.

Right now the airport charges $3.45 for a pick-up.

But from next Thursday, Mountain Scene understands the airport will charge $8.05 for pick-ups as well as drop-offs.

The corporation – mostly owned by Queenstown ratepayers – won’t confirm anything, saying its commercial vehicle deals are “sensitive and confidential”.

But several sources confirm the fee hikes.

Like the airport, taxi operators are similarly shy to comment.

Green Cabs boss Martin Amott didn’t want to comment, while Queenstown Taxis boss Grant Scannell says: “We’re still in talks with the airport so realistically I’ve got no comment at this stage.”

Founder of app-based private hire business TakeMe, Luis Kreische, reckons the airport’s standardising fees as “revenge” for taxi companies clipping the ticket.

He says taxis are charging $6 to pick up when they’re only being charged $3.45.

Scannell says of Kreische’s claims: “That is an untrue statement.”

Mountain Scene rang three taxi companies and confirmed the $6 charge.

But the issue’s an old chestnut.

Taxi companies have said for years the $6 charge is a way to try and recover the cost of leasing space at the airport’s taxi rank.

Kreische criticises the airport for the “absolutely stupid, silly decision” to hike pick-up and drop-off fees – which he says was taken without consultation.

The result will be higher prices and unhappy passengers, he says, although he mentions TakeMe has recently lowered its rates.

The airport’s taxi rank will now become free-flowing, Kreische says.

That means companies won’t be charged leases, just the one-off fees.

The airport’s property and commercial boss Mark Samways echoes statements made by the company in 2011.

“We are unable to discuss these confidential arrangements in detail but we assure you our commercial arrangements are benchmarked against, and are in line with, other international airports in New Zealand.”

The airport’s fee hike shouldn’t be surprising. In its latest annual report, the airport corporation lists one objective as “Grow non-aero revenue”.

Between 2010 – when Auckland International Airport controversially took a 24.9 per cent stake – and this year the airport’s total revenue has increased from $13.3 million to $31.5m, as total passengers have soared from 812,000 to 1.65 million.

Earlier this year it paid a record dividend of $6.3m.

david@scene.co.nz