Airport high fliers

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Business class to Harvard – cost to ratepayers $33,000.

Someone should tell Queenstown Lakes District Council there’s a recession on – the council has the Harvard bug.

A Mountain Scene Official Information request confirms QLDC quango Queenstown Airport Corporation spent $33,406 in August sending chairman Mark Taylor and airport boss Steve Sanderson to Boston’s prestigious Harvard University.

The Taylor-Sanderson sojourn follows a June jaunt to Harvard by QLDC’s keeper of the purse, finance boss Stewart Burns – at a reported cost of $20,000.

Discussing the ratepayer-funded Burns trip, mayor Clive Geddes said America’s oldest university was chosen for its “really high-end programmes”.

Burns was absent for a month, tacking annual leave on to his two-week course, but Taylor and Sanderson were away just eight days.

Airfares for the airport jet-setters cost $12,019 each – including business-class seats on the long hauls from Auckland to Los Angeles, and Boston back to Auckland.

The duo flew cattle-class on other sectors, even having to pay for an onboard meal during their Denver-Boston flight.

Dutifully, Taylor and Sanderson also avoided spending public money on stopovers in Auckland before and after their long trans-Pacific sectors, instead making immediate Queenstown connections.

While accommodation, meals, transport and miscellany worked out at $NZ395 each per day, their choice of hotel will soothe the savage breasts of price-conscious rate­payers.

The Inn at Harvard – motto “the intelligent choice for those who want their brains stimulated and not their wallets” – charges $US97-$197 ($NZ167-$340) daily for B&B.

And no doubt the Sanderson-Taylor grey matter was stimulated.

On the way over, they met with their opposite numbers in Aspen – the Colorado resort has a sister city tie-up with Queenstown.

Aspen Airport topics included noise, urban development, airport operations – and night flights.

Then it was on to Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design for a three-day talkfest grandly entitled “Airport Develop­ment for the Next 50 Years”.

Snippets of the course spiel sound mind-expanding. “From mere shanties constructed on mud fields to superstructures built on man-made islands, airports have come of age and entered a class and style of their own.

“The [course] program will discuss the significance of the status label and examine what constitutes world-class airports and terminals…”

One bit of spiel sounds particularly appropriate for Queenstown Airport, which has been substantially upgraded three times from the 1990s: “Airports appear to be in a perpetual state of construction and reconstruction.”

Airport boss Sanderson is reportedly on a salary of $220,000-$230,000 per year, while accountant Taylor is thought to get around $35,000 yearly for chairing the board.