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
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.