Min­istry de­fends claims of chaos at air­port ar­rivals hall

MPI says waits of up to two hours re­sult of six de­layed flights land­ing at peak time

The New Zealand Herald - - NEWS - Dubby Henry

One of the gov­ern­ment agen­cies re­spon­si­ble for pro­cess­ing pas­sen­gers at Auck­land Air­port has de­fended it­self against claims of poor or­gan­i­sa­tion and chaotic scenes at the air­port’s ar­rivals hall.

Thou­sands crammed the in­ter­na­tional ar­rivals area on Sun­day night as bag­gage han­dling is­sues and long queues at Cus­toms and biose­cu­rity com­pounded into waits of up to two hours to leave the build­ing.

Air­port spokes­woman Lisa Muli­talo said the is­sue was due to sev­eral de­layed flights which added to the usual peak-time con­ges­tion.

But pas­sen­gers said while the bag­gage han­dling area was chaotic, there also ap­peared to be only two Cus­toms of­fi­cials on duty at pass­port con­trol.

Oth­ers called the biose­cu­rity area a dis­grace, say­ing the queue to de­clare goods was a mile long and had just one staff mem­ber work­ing.

Trevor Jones — who ar­rived back from a Europe trip two weeks ago — said the ar­rival hall had not been up

What an ap­palling way to welcome tourists to New Zealand. Mike Beu­vink

to in­ter­na­tional stan­dards for the past two years.

“When there are two or more flights ar­riv­ing at sim­i­lar times it is a sham­bles and the queues are di­a­bol­i­cal.”

Oth­ers were em­bar­rassed that tourists were greeted by such scenes.

Mike Beu­vink said queues at Cus­toms were 90 min­utes long for those without a New Zealand pass­port.

“What an ap­palling way to welcome tourists to New Zealand.”

Joanna Gray flew in from Bris­bane with her 5-month-old baby and said she spent two hours get­ting through the air­port, an ex­pe­ri­ence she found “dis­tress­ing”.

Gray spoke to an Auck­land Air­port rep­re­sen­ta­tive yes­ter­day who said the Min­istry for Pri­mary In­dus­tries was re­spon­si­ble for staffing is­sues.

MPI told the Her­ald it had ros­tered 35 staff to deal with Sun­day peak traf­fic.

“The con­ges­tion de­lays on Sun­day were due to the ar­rival of six un­sched­uled flights dur­ing the peak pe­riod. The de­lay was com­pounded by a leak in the air­port roof, which forced us to [close] a lane,” MPI passenger man­ager Craig Hughes said.

He said MPI was very mind­ful of mov­ing pas­sen­gers through as fast as pos­si­ble. In­creased lane ca­pac­ity was likely to re­duce con­ges­tion fur­ther this sum­mer, Hughes said.

NZ Cus­toms said it had 10 of­fi­cers at pass­port con­trol on Sun­day night — five cov­er­ing Aus­tralian and New Zealand pass­ports, three for other pass­ports, and two as­sist­ing with eGate queues. A spokes­woman said Sun­day was busy, but staff met the target pro­cess­ing time “for most of these flights, which is to process 90 per cent of pas­sen­gers within 45 min­utes of dis­em­bark­ing”.

Dis­em­bark­ing pas­sen­gers try­ing to get through Auck­land Air­port’s ar­rivals hall on Sun­day night said it ap­peared there were only two of­fi­cers at pass­port con­trol but NZ Cus­toms says there were 10 across all of its queues.

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