Thursday, July 27, 2023

Kate Hawkesby: Someone needs to front on the state of Auckland Airport

With all the travelling that’s taken place these last few weeks with school holidays and people bailing to beat the winter blues, I’m confounded more and more by the state of Auckland airport.

It’s a shambles.

Now during and immediately after Covid, you can accept staffing’s an issue, that a few things aren’t right, that it’s not running as well as it should be. You can forgive the dysfunction.

But all this time later, it’s still a shambles. It still appears to have staffing issues, it still doesn’t function. Why? Why have they not got it together yet? Worse still, it’s the gateway to our country, it’s currently welcoming FIFA guests and tourists, and it’s just an abomination.

You wait forever for an air bridge so you can disembark, then you wait forever for your bags, then you get into the world’s longest queue for MPI clearance – which in my case at the weekend involved the biggest queue I’ve ever seen and no ‘nothing to declare’ lane.

It was just a seething mass of people, including flight crew, all having to queue up in an endless snaking line, as three flights descended at once – which by the way is not many, and yet the holdup turned out to be due to, I kid you not.. lack of dogs.

Exasperated like so many others in the queue, and standing with some tourists from Australia who were loudly complaining about what a joke this airport was, I enquired as to what was going on.

“Oh it may be because it’s busy and there’s heaps of flights in?” one airport worker hazarded a guess.

This should not define busy for an airport, I’ve seen way more flights arrive at once, something was slowing it up, it was crawling, if moving at all. I asked another airport worker, “Dunno,” they shrugged, “we just do what we’re told.”

 Then I asked a third person, “The dogs aren’t on,” he told me. “What?” I asked incredulous, “this is down to the dogs?” “Well the dogs are on a roster and there’s no rostered dogs on so we have to screen every bag.”

That’s every single bag, of every single passenger, from every single flight, including flight crew.

The crowd at the airport was bristling, angry, it was a poor introduction to New Zealand. I was travelling with my sister who needed to catch a connecting flight on to Christchurch, I asked about people like her who may miss connecting flights because of this huge hold up.

Another shrug. As it turned out she did miss her connecting flight – as did many others. So what I want to know is, where’s the airport management on the ground, inside the terminals?

I know there’s like an overarching manager who fronts for media, and manages from a head office somewhere, but apart from the rostered workers who’re just doing their jobs and don’t have any insight into the bigger picture, whose on the ground looking at the shambles in real time and going, you know what, this sucks, we can do better, this is a bad customer experience.

Where’s that person?

At international airports around the world, there are so many people in high vis wandering round yelling instructions or opening up queues or connected to walkie talkies overseeing things, that you feel like it’s all in hand.

Auckland airport by contrast has a Wild West vibe.

No one knows what’s happening and nothing makes sense. It makes for a horrible entry to our country, and if we’re looking to build the tourism industry back up, I’d say the first place we need to start is our front door.

Kate Hawkesby is a political broadcaster on Newstalk ZB - her articles can be seen HERE.


Anonymous said...

All by design.

DeeM said...

It's that Western World post-pandemic thing I'm afraid, Kate.

Just recently went through JFK in New York. Apart from being one of the most dated and depressing airports I've seen in a long time, we also had very long queues for immigration with very few staff processing.

Then Edinburgh airport, the busiest domestic airport in the UK it claims to be. Dreadful check-in experience with contracted-out BA staff who didn't have a clue and caused several people to miss their flights. The supervisor was a Spanish guy whose accent was so strong that everyone had to ask him to repeat what he was saying. He flounced around, contributing nothing, while one check-in person sat on her phone for a solid 45 minutes with the same customer!!
When we and others suggested El Checko man a spare desk he threatened to call security.

Only exception was Singapore airport, as always. That's because they actually run an efficient country there and don't put up with all this shit.

Anonymous said...

A response to DeeM...

A little "tip" regarding the UK workforce - Think Unions.

The Gentleman from Catalonia, potentially a hang over from UK/ EU, membership, when citizens of Europe, could cross the Channel, into the UK and get a job. Then stay. Why go home. Spain has had major Political/financial/employment issues themselves, all brought on by a Socialist Govt, that "had to borrow the coin" just to keep Spain, ticking over.

Learn English - yer right.

John S said...

Don't worry help is coming. Chippy and Albo are going to make things a lot better, at least for Aussies and Aoteaorians.