Navigating the school holiday skyways

20 September 2023

  • Busiest travel days revealed, with day one of the holidays set to be busiest with 15,000 international travellers
  • September school holidays expected to be 10% busier than winter school holidays
  • Tips for smooth journeys shared
  • Auckland Airport is working on the arrivals process

Auckland Airport insiders are offering travellers their top planning tips for a smooth departure these school holidays, which are due to kick off with a strong start.

About 15,000 travellers are expected to depart from Auckland Airport’s international terminal on Saturday, 23 September, the first day of the school holidays, making it the busiest day of the school holiday period.

Average daily passenger numbers these September school holidays are expected to be 10 per cent higher than the July school holidays, with travel around 90 per cent of the same school holiday period in 2019.

Auckland Airport’s Chief Customer Officer Scott Tasker said to help get everyone's holidays off to a smooth start, team members from Auckland Airport have revealed their tips for stress-free departures.

“These school holidays are going to be busy with lots of people heading away, and now even more so with the Warriors in the NRL semi-final in Brisbane. We ask that travellers come prepared and allow plenty of time,” he said.

“We want customers to have a great experience when they fly, so our people are sharing some of their best travel tips for navigating the skies and getting away stress-free.

“This includes ideas about how to prepare for aviation security, to what not to pack in your checked-in luggage.

“For example, travellers should always pack wireless air pods in their carry on. Otherwise, they can potentially be removed from checked-in bags, due to the risks from the batteries in the aircraft baggage hold,” said Mr Tasker.

Auckland Airport is underway with its most significant transformation since it was built, with projects progressing across transport, terminals and airfield, building necessary resilience into New Zealand’s gateway and delivering the uplift in customer experience travellers are asking for.

“There is a lot of construction activity, which means even frequent fliers might see changes on the way to or from flights. One of the areas of work is in the domestic terminal, where we are upgrading and expanding bathroom facilities in the public areas of the terminal. There are currently some temporary facilities in place as we work to get the improvements done as quickly as possible.”

At the international terminal work continues on the Transport Hub, with the ground-floor public pick up and drop off due to begin opening in the first half of next year.

Construction is also underway in the arrivals hall to allow for the introduction of enhanced biosecurity screening technology and upgrades to baggage reclaim facilities, due to be ready in the second half of 2024.

Mr Tasker said he also wanted to be upfront that the experience for international arriving travellers isn’t always as consistently smooth as Auckland Airport would like.

“Most travellers have a smooth experience through arrivals. On average, it takes 30 minutes for travellers to deplane, move through Customs, collect their bags and process through Biosecurity New Zealand and exit to the public arrivals pick up area. However, we know there are certainly times during peak periods when this is not the case. This is not the experience we want for travellers so be assured we will be pulling out all the stops to make travel as smooth as possible through the busy period.”

He said a number of complex issues are impacting the arrivals process. Global staff shortages in aviation continue to impact the smooth running of airline and airport services. Organisations are experiencing issues with the recruitment and training of employees and construction is also taking place in the arrivals hall, constraining space.

“We’re working with everyone in the border arrivals process (airlines, airline ground handlers, Customs and Biosecurity New Zealand) to plan for the school holidays and we will do everything we can to make it the best possible experience, without compromising the integrity of border processes,” said Mr Tasker.

“We ask for travellers patience and to please be respectful to airport workers – they are working hard to get people where they need to be.”

Auckland Airport’s top tips to getting your holiday off to a good start:

Arriving passengers

  • Travellers should declare or dispose biosecurity risk items on arrival in New Zealand.
  • Travellers can help by having their documents ready and completed when arriving at the airport and ready to present when asked by border officers - this includes their passport, arrival card, and visa or NZeTA (if applicable)
  • Travellers can check if they’re able to use an eGate on arrival/departure as this can speed up the journey through the airport. Travellers can use eGate if they are 12 years of age or older and have an ePassport from one of the specified countries.
  • Fill out your passenger arrival card, or digital declaration, correctly and before arrival so staff can efficiently and accurately assess biosecurity risks
  • Declare all risk items on your card – such as food, plants, wooden products, soil, water, outdoor equipment, and animal products so MPI can assess and prevent any pests or diseases entering New Zealand.
  • Dispose of undeclared risk goods in marked amnesty bins on your arrival to avoid being searched or fined. This material is safely disposed of to remove biosecurity risk.
  • Families/groups should stay together to help with efficient processing.
  • Anyone who brings biosecurity risk items may take longer to process.
  • Clean footwear before coming to New Zealand if you have visited a farm overseas.

Find more information on the Auckland Airport website:

Or Ministry for Primary Industries | NZ Government (

Departing passengers

  • Put wireless air pods or ear buds in your carry on. The wireless charger is a form of power bank and may be removed from your checked luggage.
  • If you are wearing boots that go over the ankle or steel-toecaps, these will need to be removed when you go through security. Plan ahead while you are waiting in the queue and be ready for this. Even take them off early!
  • Pack a spare change of clothes in your carry on just in case your checked baggage is delayed.
  • Pack a bag within your bag. Put items you will have to separate at Aviation Security – such as laptop, batteries and liquids under 100mls – into a separate bag within your carry-on luggage. It will be easy to pull out at security and help make sure you do not leave anything behind.
  • Carry important medication in your hand luggage so it is always with you and just in case of delays with your bags when you arrive at your destination.
  • Remember to empty your pockets for security, and if you’re travelling overseas, no liquids or gels over 100mls or 100grams, and no aerosols are permitted in your carry-on bags.
  • Sealed liquids can be taken through onto domestic flights. For international travel, take an empty drink bottle through with you and re-fill it after security. But no coffee cups!
  • If required, travellers can wear a Sunflower Hidden Disability lanyard, for extra help. By wearing this, people with disabilities that aren't immediately apparent, such as autism or dementia, are signalling to staff they may need help or alternative communication methods. Check out the resources available on our website.
  • If travellers are needing special assistance, such as wheelchairs, their airline can help. It is recommended to notify the airline in advance so they can plan ahead of time.

Internationally, Australia, USA and China are the most popular destinations, with Wellington, Christchurch and Queenstown topping the list of domestic travel this September.

Top busiest days expected for the September School Holidays:

  • Top three busiest days for international departures: Saturday 23 September, Saturday 30 September and Friday 22 September
  • Top three busiest days for international arrivals: Sunday 1 October, Saturday 7 October and Sunday 8 October
  • Top three busiest days for domestic departures: Friday 6 October, Friday 29 September and Thursday 5 October
  • Top three busiest days for domestic arrivals: Friday 6 October, Friday 29 September and Friday 22 September


Notes to editors:


Additional information:

  • September 2023: 24 international airlines flying to 39 destinations.
  • September 2019 (pre-COVID): 26 airlines flying to 41 destinations. International capacity is at 86% of 2019.
  • For more information on what you can bring through security: What can I bring? |

Australian School Holidays:

  • New South Wales & Western Australia: 23 September 2023 to 8 October 2023 (coinciding with NZ September school holidays)
  • Queensland & Victoria: 16 September 2023 to 2 October 2023
  • South Australia & Tasmania: 30 September 2023 to 15 October 202

For further information, please contact:


Laura Platts

[email protected]

021 040 5859