Pressure on jet park

Two of the half dozen private and corporate jets parked at Queenstown Airport on December 31 during the busy festive period. The 20-seat Gulfstream N222LX is registered to a private Californian company. Photo by James Beech.
Two of the half dozen private and corporate jets parked at Queenstown Airport on December 31 during the busy festive period. The 20-seat Gulfstream N222LX is registered to a private Californian company. Photo by James Beech.
A capacity gathering of private and corporate jets during the festive period means extra income for Queenstown Airport and the district, but underscores the need for more land, the airport corporation says.

Queenstown Airport hosted 15 jets between December 23 and January 4, on par with the same period last year. The private jet park was at capacity between December 26 and January 1.

Each jet paid a landing fee of between $400 and $900, depending on size, and between $1000 and $1500 a night to park, again depending on size.

Airport chief executive Scott Paterson said the number of visiting jets was ''outstanding''.

While the airport made money out of the jets landing and parking, the real economic value lay with the community, with the jets' occupants spending ''big money'' on events, entertainment and accommodation, Mr Paterson said.

Airport staff did not know the identities of the visitors on board, but families from the United States and elsewhere were understood to be among the arrivals.

''We've seen it annually; demand is strong during that festive period and I think this year, heading into the festive period, we were concerned - could we accommodate them all.

''Our team, plus the ground handlers, did a great job in squeezing everyone in.

''In an ideal situation, you have corporate jets lined up so they can move and leave whenever they want.

''What we had in Queenstown was a bit like a car park. If one of the jets wanted to move, there was probably a couple we had to shift around to get out.

''It worked well, but with a bit more land we'd host them differently.''

Demand also reinforced the need for a corporate jet terminal. The new $200,000 facility announced in November is still on course for construction in 2014.

''It's in our planning and the obstacle clearly is securing additional land from Remarkables Park and it's in court in March in Queenstown,'' Mr Paterson said.

''What our aspirations are is to create a really impressive corporate jet terminal befitting of this region that is functional and attractive.''

The chief executive said Queenstown Airport ''functioned well'' during the peak passenger festive period. Airlines are expected to make available passenger figures next week.

''All the changes we've been planning and introducing in the terminal, around the retail area and passenger flows, will be locked down by winter this year,'' Mr Paterson said.