Queenstown Airport has set a record for international passenger arrivals, but not without some slight turbulence.
Queenstown Airport Corporation chief executive Scott Paterson says there were more jets than ‘”stands” at the terminal late on Saturday afternoon, after one plane arrived late and another landed early.
It was the first time 11 international flights have landed – and taken off again – in Queenstown.
All were scheduled to arrive between 12.35pm and 3.15pm.
“At one point in the afternoon the runway was closed because we had a plane on it. I don’t think we delayed any arrivals,” Paterson says.
“There was one on the runway and there were two at hold points on the apron. For everyone to then move, we needed a plane to push back.”
As predicted last week, those 11 international flights brought in a record number of international passengers for a single day – 1585 people.
The previous one day record, set last Monday, was 1540 passengers on 10 transtasman flights.
The 1366 people who left on the return flights on Saturday notched up a departing record.
Two private jets also landed on Saturday, as well as the usual domestic flight movements.
New Zealand Customs Queenstown manager John Parker was pleased with how the airport’s new $17 million terminal coped. Customs had 15 staff working on Saturday in the six arrival processing booths and three departure booths.
At peak times, some people waited 45 minutes.
“The new airport layout worked very well,” Parker says. “The new area gave us more room to be able to move the people through a little bit more smoothly than the old layout.
“We didn’t have any real issues or major delays.”
He says Ministry for Primary Industries detector dogs and X ray machines also worked well.
Customs’ search areas in the new terminal should be completed in the next few weeks.
Paterson says there were “flow issues” within the terminal – the flow of people from check in, through security and Customs to boarding the aircraft – that the airport will work on.
The airport hit capacity, in terms of jet stands, for several hours on Saturday, which he said strengthened its argument it needs more space to expand. There are eight stands.
“For us to have more stands, we need more space.”
In the 12 months to the end of May, the airport had 1.39 million passenger movements, up 11.5 per cent on the previous period.
But July and August are the busiest months for international arrivals, as Australians descend on the resort, often for ski holidays.
An average of 59 direct flights a week are scheduled to arrive from Australia’s east coast during the peak winter months, which is seven more landings a week than last year.
The biggest boost is from Jetstar’s three times a week service from the Gold Coast, which started last December.