Airport plans expansion

Queenstown Airport plans to expand this year to cater for growing numbers of international passengers, but a court verdict may curb its ambitions.

The airport corporation's options to manage growth include temporary extra space for the peak winter months of July and August, while a longer-term solution is being developed with stakeholders.

An interim $200,000 mini corporate jet terminal, funded and managed by Air Center One and Capital Jet Services, is expected to be operational by March to improve service for private jet passengers.

Infrastructure projects for the new year include upgrades to shopping and food and beverage offerings before winter.

Chief executive Scot Paterson said forward schedules showed ''a strong desire'' from the four airlines to continue to meet rising demand from Australia, the primary market for Queenstown and New Zealand.

''We're very grateful for their ongoing support and are working hard to ensure we have the appropriate infrastructure in place to meet this growth and maintain service levels,'' Mr Paterson said.

However, hundreds of Australian passengers arrive at the airport at peak times, which puts pressure on staff and facilities, but means the terminal is a lot quieter at other times of the day.

Mr Paterson said asset utilisation and capital efficiency is a concern of board members.

''Optimisation of our capacity is really important for us, so we get to handle more people through the existing terminal.

"However, it is a very delicate thing, going to the airlines and saying `can you change your behaviours and your passengers' behaviours to suit us','' he said.

''We haven't taken that approach and in the next few years I don't think we will.''

The airport had its busiest year on record in 2013 with a 5.1% increase in passenger movements compared to the previous 12 months.

Figures for December 2013 complete the last calendar year and show a total of 1,215,526 domestic and international passengers passed through the airport terminal, compared to 1,156,250 in 2012.

A contributor was month-on-month transtasman passenger growth which jumped 30.9% from 215,300 to 281,761 in a year.

Asked what his hopes were for Queenstown Airport in January 2015, Mr Paterson said the upgrade of public areas in the terminal would be completed and building work would be progressing to expand international facilities and handle growth.

''This time next year, if we had our way, we would be planning to receive evening flights for June to September 2015,'' Mr Paterson said.

''Is there a safety case that is acceptable to the regulator and, if we get a principle agreement, then what infrastructure do we need and is there a business case to put it in place?

''Will the airlines apply to fly to Queenstown after dark? I think there's a level of interest.''

The airport corporation's bid in the Environment Court to compulsorily acquire land for expansion, designated lot 6, against the wishes of the landowner, Remarkables Park Ltd, is expected to heard in Queenstown in March.

''Alastair Porter [Remarkables Park Ltd co-director] and I will be surveying earthworks on lot 6, though that might be down on the wish list, rather than things I have direct control over,'' Mr Paterson said.

''The new aviation precinct, including corporate jets, would then allow us to plan with a lot of confidence how the terminal and our land facilities are going to expand.''