Queenstown Airport has celebrated a record-breaking weekend after logging its busiest day on Saturday.
Airport acting chief executive Mark Edghill says the 60 flights on Saturday – 18 international and 42 domestic – amounted to six more than the previous record.
However, Air New Zealand had to cancel some flights on Sunday, delaying passengers significantly.
Air New Zealand external communications executive Anna Cross says severe wind caused diversions and cancellations.
Three Queenstown-bound flights were diverted, one to Invercargill and two to Dunedin. Customers were transported by bus to Queenstown. One Christchurch-to-Queenstown service returned to Christchurch. The diversions resulted in four outbound flights being cancelled.
Dan Scott, 34, of Palmerston North, was delayed more than nine hours. He was initially booked on the 10.20am flight to Christchurch and then to Wellington and Palmerston North.
“I understand weather can be an issue but … this is the worst delay I have ever had.”
Waiting in the queue to “finally board”, he says he spent more than 50 minutes trying to speak to an operator on the Air New Zealand helpline.
“The staff here [in Queenstown Airport] were helpful enough, but the queues were long and no-one seemed to be able to answer questions.”
Scott’s flight left Queenstown about 7.35pm, but he was forced to spend the night in Wellington.
Another passenger, who did not want to be named as she works in the aviation industry, says communication from Air New Zealand was poor.
The 23-year-old opted for a refund and travelling with friends by road to Christchurch.
Jetstar flights do not appear to have been affected.
With airlines scheduling 17 per cent more flights this year, Edghill says he expects a record-breaking summer but district infrastructure needs to be upgraded to cater for increased demand.
Traffic is an ongoing challenge for Queenstown, but one the council is addressing, he says.
The 60 flights on Saturday did not include sightseeing plane flights or helicopter trips.
Ainsley Schoff, from the United States, has been living in Wellington for 18 months and spent Christmas 2014 in the resort.
“This year I only spent two days here over Christmas as I knew it would get super busy. I decided I wanted a quieter holiday and planned to go to Te Anau where there wouldn’t be big crowds.”
After her experience last year she left plenty of time to get to the airport – and was surprised it didn’t take her as long as expected.
The Cleugh-Gibb family, of Wanaka, flew into Queenstown Airport on Saturday after holidaying in Fiji. Mother Sara Cleugh says the influx of visitors is one reason for leaving the region during the holiday period.
The family spent Christmas and New Year in Fiji, the second year they had done so.
“It was awesome. We live in paradise, but the reality is it gets too busy over the Christmas period.
“This way we get the best of both worlds. We get a holiday, but still have some time when we get back to enjoy a Kiwi summer.”
Otago Daily Times