Hugs Galore: The best time and place for it

09 April 2024

  • New data shows New Zealand residents are ok with public displays of affection at airports, despite general reservations about PDA
  • Despite only 17% of Kiwis seeing themselves as public huggers all the time’, 91% of Kiwis feel more comfortable hugging at the airport than they do in other public locations. A further 17% say they are not comfortable with public hugging at all.
  • Auckland Airport celebrates the first of millions of hugs to take place at the opening of the first stage of the new Transport Hub on the doorstep of the international terminal
  • So far, nearly 60,000 cars through the new drop off and pick up zone in its first six days

Renowned for being reserved, New Zealanders have revealed there is one public place where their guard comes down.

According to new research from Auckland Airport, despite only 17 per cent of Kiwis considering themselves public huggers all the time’, this changes at airports. A large 91 per cent said they feel more comfortable hugging at the airport than they do in other public locations.

Now, stepping into that embrace with loved ones just got easier, with the opening of Auckland Airport’s new traveller drop-off and pick-up zone.

The first stage of a new $300 million development has officially opened and according to new research1, is one of the most emotional places in the country.

Auckland Airport Chief Operations Officer, Chloe Surridge, said airports are known for being one of the best spots to watch special moments unfold between friends and family.

“From kids with signs welcoming grandparents, to families farewelling a young person on their OE adventure, and sometimes moments of sadness, we know the airport is a place of high emotion and brings people together.” Ms Surridge said

Auckland Airport is thrilled to have the new Transport Hub space open for travellers and those doing the drop-offs and pick-ups, creating more seamless airport experiences.

“As the gateway to the country, it’s important we created a space that’s fitting for the first and last experience for travellers. We needed something that was practical, particularly for bracing Auckland weather, but a space that also helps to create smoother and more efficient journeys for our customers.”

Holly Dixon, psychology expert from The University of Auckland, said showing emotion and connecting with loved ones is something that’s really important for people’s health.

“There seems to be a greater level of acceptance for this kind of emotive, affectionate behaviour in environments where reunions and separations are far more normative. The cues we get from those around us encourage us to open up.

“Displays of affection like hugging have a significant impact on the quality of our relationships, and being able to express love, sadness, and joy during moments of connection and/or impending physical separation from loved ones is healthy,” said Dr Dixon.

The new space, now on the ground floor of the Transport Hub, has more than doubled in size and will no doubt be well appreciated, as almost half (43 per cent) of Kiwis prefer to utilise the drop-off/pick-up zone for a departure over going into the terminal to greet or see their loved ones off.

To accommodate this demand, the new hub features a dedicated, weather-protected drop-off/pick-up zone, offering more space and opportunity for travellers to welcome, wave off or hug family and friends – with a 200 per cent increase in space, with more than 320m of new undercover kerbside drop off and pick up.
Ms Surridge said, There is a lot of change happening here at the moment, but we hope the new drop-off and pick-up zone will make those goodbyes and hellos that little bit more special and easier.”

In its first six days of operation, the Transport Hub drop off / pick up zone has seen close to 60,000 cars come through.

To celebrate the opening, Auckland Airport operated its first ever ‘Hug Cam, capturing special moments of connection and providing those who opt in with a digital memento. This was across the first three days of the Transport Hub ground floor being open (Wednesday 3 April – Friday 5 April). A gallery of these hugs, courtesy of those wanting to share their special moments, will also feature across Auckland and on social media.

Each day an estimated 28,000 travellers move in and out of the international terminal – that's thousands of hugs each day taking place. January alone saw over one million international passengers travelling.

Auckland Airport’s tips for using the new Transport Hub at the international terminal:
  • The road layout has changed when you’re driving to Auckland Airport’s international terminal, from either George Bolt Memorial or Tom Pearce. You can follow the large signs once the road turns into Ray Emery Drive – these will help you direct you to the correct lane, including a commercial vehicle lane; public drop off and pick up; and valet.

  • Visitors to the hotels or people returning rental cars will need to keep to the right-hand lane.

  • Once inside, there are clearly defined zones to assist with ease of pick up as well as dedicated accessible drop-off/pick-up zones. You can message your loved ones arriving on a flight and let them know what zone you are waiting in.

  • We know travel can be stressful. Auckland Airport will have staff on hand to help customers.

  • The first lane in the Transport Hub can be used by taxis and ride shares (such as Uber) for drop offs. The ride-share pick-ups will be from the transport pick-up zone, which is a 5-7 minute covered walk, north of the terminal. This is until the inner terminal road re-opens.

  • Please continue to park in the usual carparks (Carparks D and E behind the Transport Hub) for short and long term parking, as per usual. Entry and Exit remains unchanged for these carparks.

  • Please note, the old drop off and pick up zone (the inner terminal road) is now closed.

  • Construction will continue on remaining floors of the Transport Hub with an additional 2,000 public car parks set to open later in 2024.


Notes to editors:


  • Kantar, public affection at Auckland Airport – NZ, prepared for Auckland Airport. The study was conducted online between the 11th March and 17th March 2024 and comprised of a sample size of 1,000 New Zealanders.

About the Transport Hub

  • The new drop-off and pick up area officially opened April 3, as stage one of Auckland Airport’s $300m Transport Hub development.

  • With a 200% increase in size, the complete 70,000m2 building will feature more space for drop off and pick up, a new roading layout, convenient public transport connections, offices, and carparks all under one roof.

  • The double height open ground opens first alongside a pedestrian plaza and will cater for 650 vehicles an hour.
  • This will be followed later in the year by the upper floors of carparks and offices, each storey standing at 200 meters long.
  • The top of the building is set to have a 1.2-megawatt rooftop solar array which will help to power 33 public electric vehicle charging stations once the carpark opens.

Images available to download: Via WeTransfer

Video available to download: Via Vimeo