Coping with record airport passenger numbers

Queenstown Airport terminal operation manager Aideen Tinney reveals how multi-agency co-operation managed passenger congestion and helped ensure passengers enjoyed their experience during the busiest month the airport has ever handled.

Although it thundered late into Queenstown, when it arrived, winter 2011 delivered big snowfalls and record passenger numbers to the airport.

The airport hosted than 100,000 passengers in a month for the first time in August, when 101,747 people passed through.

Often during this busy winter season, the terminal was handling volumes of passengers in excess of its design capacity.

The challenge was to keep travellers happy while ensuring Queenstown benefited from the traffic.

The security screening point is a renowned "bottleneck" in the terminal, and queues often extend well into lounge areas.

In the past, this has resulted in arriving passengers having to negotiate queues of departing passengers who were already irritated at having to stand in slow-moving lines.

It was clear this congestion caused frustration for travellers and everyone working in the terminal.

The airport terminal team, airlines, New Zealand Customs Service and Aviation Security (AVSEC) worked closely together in preparatioin for winter, to put in place a queue management system - a series of co-ordinated initiatives designed to reduce congestion during these peak passenger times.

The system improved the efficiency and enhanced the customer travel experience by managing. -

• The number of people entering the security screening point.

• Queue length.

• Average wait in queue.

• The specific initiatives introduced at the airport included. -Announcing which flights were "open" through co-ordinated signs at the screening point and announcements on the flight information screens and over the terminal public address system.

• Preparing passengers by having airline-airport staff informing waiting passengers about what documents were needed to pass through the screening point.

• Paying departure levies online or at kiosks at the terminal.

• Weekly "workout"meetings with airlines, border-control agencies and the airport to resolve any issues.

• Making the departure lounges - in particular, the international lounge - more appealing places to wait.

The system was a great success, especially because passengers seemed satisfied with the outcome and had more time to browse the retail area.

The total number of passengers through the airport over July-August rose, while retail spending in this period increased 32%.

The careful queue management system meant that the increased number of passengers spent more money, enjoyed their trip and felt the buzz of a busy and exciting departure port.

The airport terminal team, airlines and the border-control agencies worked really well to initiate systems, which helped convert this "issue" into a significant positive.


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