'Tis the season for travel – Auckland Airport prepares for summer holidays

14 December 2023

  • Busiest travel days revealed, with the days leading into Christmas set to be the busiest, with 17,900 travellers expected to depart internationally on Friday 22 December
  • Preparations for the busy summer period have been well underway and it’s a great opportunity for ‘Airport Dad’ spotting
  • Extra ‘Santa’s elves’ on hand to help travellers get away during the busy period
  • Kids can enjoy a Santa phone booth at the international terminal to ring Santa with Christmas wishes, plus photo stations set up for travellers

As the countdown to Christmas begins in earnest, preparations are in full swing to welcome summer holiday travellers at Auckland Airport.

Auckland Airport’s Chief Customer Officer Scott Tasker said the airport will be a buzz of activity as travel returns to 93% of pre-pandemic levels, with airport teams prepared for the festive travel surge.

“At this time of year, we love reconnecting Kiwis with friends and families or their favourite summer getaway destination. And with international connections restored, we’re really looking forward to sharing a Kiwi summer with international guests to Aotearoa New Zealand.

“The busy period is also a great opportunity for some classic ‘Airport Dad’ spotting, a tongue and cheek term coined on social media for the leader of the travel party. The Airport Dad traits and behaviours are very apparent at Auckland Airport – checking flight boards, protecting the passports and generally taking the lead of your travel group or family. The team’s excited to put a video out about it this time of year,” said Mr Tasker.

Auckland Airport’s frontline operational team has been boosted with a summer workforce of 72 new employees and the return of the much-loved Auckland Airport ambassadors.

“We’ll have a significant visible presence of Auckland Airport team members and volunteers walking the floor and assisting customers, making sure every journey is a great one. As we go through a period of major upgrade of our terminal infrastructure, including a new domestic terminal integrated into the international terminal, their role will be even more important in making sure people arrive and depart smoothly.

Mr Tasker said the Auckland Airport community was ready for the summer peak, with the airport working closely with airlines, ground handlers and border agency teams to ensure the system is working smoothly.

“Operating an airport is definitely a team sport. Auckland Airport takes care of the airfield and terminals, with the airlines and their baggage handling teams and government border agencies managing processes within the terminals. We each have a different role to play, but together we are focused on making sure travellers arrive and depart as efficiently and easily as possible.

The median time travellers can expect to clear Customs and immigration, baggage reclaim, and biosecurity screening is 27 minutes – about 24% faster than earlier in the year.

“The most noticeable change for people who haven’t travelled in a while is the new electronic NZ Travel Declaration, which replaces the paper forms filled out on arriving aircraft. My advice is to download the app and fill it in before you fly into New Zealand.

“And during busy periods across the day we are also prioritising travellers who are arriving into New Zealand with nothing to declare through an express lane for faster biosecurity processing.”

“Airports are complex systems and things aren’t 100% perfect 100% of the time, but we know the vast majority of travellers are going to have a smooth experience travelling through the airport over the holidays.

Christmas cheer

There will be some added entertainment at the airport for families who are keen to get into the Christmas spirit. A sprinkle of Christmas magic will be in the air with Santa just a phone call away in a Spark phone booth at international departures until the 22 December between 11.30am and 6.30pm, alongside a photo station to capture your Christmas travel memories with a free photo, plus keep an eye out for the Christmas Crew who will be roaming with insta cameras and handing out Whittaker’s chocolates.

“We wanted to bring some Christmas cheer to Auckland Airport and travel can be a little stressful sometimes so hopefully our Christmas carollers and activities help bring some fun and enjoyment to the process. It’s one way we can give back to travellers,” said Mr Tasker.

“We do ask for travellers to be patient and to please be respectful to our airport workers. We’re all working hard to get people where they need to be and above all, we hope everyone has a wonderful summer break ahead.”

Arriving passengers

  • Complete the NZ Travel Declaration online ahead of your international flight to New Zealand
  • Travellers play an important role in protecting New Zealand's economic and environmental wellbeing by making sure bags are checked to ensure they don’t contain fruit or other items that could bring unwanted pests and diseases into the country.
  • The easiest way to pick up arriving passengers is to use one of two Wait Zones. Located just a few minutes’ drive from either terminal, the Wait Zones give you 30 minutes free parking until your traveller lets you know they’re ready and waiting for pick-up. Look for the bright pink Wait Zone signs.

Departing passengers

  • Plan ahead! It’s going to be busier on the roads, car parks and terminals so don’t make a last-minute dash to the airport. Check traffic or public transport schedules, book your car park in advance, and give yourself plenty of time to check-in and get through security
  • Our car parks are busier during the holidays so if you plan on driving to the airport make sure you book parking in advance to get the best deal and double-check the journey to the car park – we’ve made a number of changes including closing the main international car park to build a new Transport Hub
  • Mobility card holders have the option of using the mobility valet for the same price as an international car park with the ease of parking right alongside the international terminal
  • When you’re packing your bags, double-check to make sure that what’s in your luggage can be carried on an aircraft – Aviation Security remove around 130,000 noncompliant items a year from passenger bags. And when you’re at the airport, help speed up the security process by getting ready for screening – get your laptop out of its case, empty keys, coins and phones from your pockets, and listen for staff instructions.
  • The Sunflower Hidden Disability lanyard is now recognised at Auckland Airport. Check out the resources and support available to help make travel easier for those with invisible disabilities.

Top busiest days expected for the Summer Holidays:

  • Top three busiest days for international departures: Friday 22 December, Saturday 23 December and Sunday 7 January.
  • Top three busiest days for international arrivals: Friday 22 December, Sunday 7 January and Thursday 21 December.
  • Top three busiest days for domestic departures: Friday 22 December, Friday 15 December and Thursday 21 December.
  • Top three busiest days for domestic arrivals: Thursday 14 December, Friday 15 December and Wednesday 27 December.


Notes to editors:

Video – Airport Dad spotting at Auckland Airport

Airport system infographics

Additional information:

Today: 27 airlines now flying from Auckland Airport to 42 international destinations

Pre-COVID: 29 airlines, including seasonal carriers, heading to 43 international destinations (Jan 2020)

93% of 2019 international capacity

North America: 26% more capacity available for travellers this summer than pre-pandemic.

For more information on what you can bring through security: What can I bring? | aviation.govt.nz