Airport lockdown

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Security X-rays to enter main terminal

Radical new security measures planned for Queenstown Airport would force all passengers and visitors to be screened before being allowed into the main terminal.

The proposed ring of steel could be in place by next year – the first of its kind in New Zealand.

At the moment, anyone can freely enter the main building to travel, meet and farewell passengers or make use of shops, the cafe and other facilities.

But the new measures would effectively create a “locked-down” terminal, says council-owned Queenstown Airport Corp­oration.

This means travellers and members of the public wanting to go inside would first have to pass through a rigorous screening process, including an X-ray machine, at the front door.

“What we are looking at doing is moving the aviation security to a location just beyond check-in so as soon as you check in you would go through security,” Queenstown Airport boss Steve Sanderson tells Mountain Scene.
“That means it becomes a secure airport beyond that point.”

But rental car groomer Mike Burke from Queenstown, who pops in to use the concourse cafe during work breaks, blasts: “That means I’d have to be screened just to get my morning scone. I’d feel like I was being treated like an alien.”

Detailed plans of the changes show the majority of the main terminal would be transformed into a large, open-plan departure area.

It appears passengers on local scenic flights such as those to Milford Sound wouldn’t be caught in the security net.

International and domestic travellers would no longer have to wait in a separate secure holding area before boarding flights.

This could spark a financial boost for the airport cafe and existing shops like PaperPlus, Outside Sports and BONZ – plus increased rents for the airport company.

“[A locked-down airport] also solves one of our current issues where departing international passengers currently have no access to retail facilities or food and beverages after they pass through security,” says Sanderson in a written report.

“I think it’s good for the retailers, good for the passengers,” he adds this week. “The psychologists are saying it lowers the passengers’ anxiety rate.

“We’re probably at least 12 months away from it.”

But what about those simply wanting to greet or say goodbye to family and friends – or transport companies whose drivers meet clients coming off planes?

“Visitors, farewellers and greeters, all they do is go straight through security, which is an X-ray machine, then they can walk out as per normal,” Sanderson adds.

“If you’re wise to it, you’d leave most of your belongings in the car and just walk straight in.”

But a local limo driver who doesn’t want to be named says: “We’d have to either stand outside in all weather to meet people or go through all that security just to get in. What a stupid, stupid idea.”