Auckland International Airport Departure Facilities Hero

New departure facilities at Auckland International Airport: enhancing the passenger experience

Auckland Airport is the largest and busiest airport in New Zealand, with almost 15 million passengers, 8 million of who were international, in the year ended November 2013. The airport is the fourth busiest in Australasia after Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane, but the second busiest for international passengers. It has been rated in the top 3 worldwide for airports handling 5–15 million passengers annually and was also voted the 12th best airport in the world in 2013 at the Skytrax World Airport Awards, as well as being the best airport in the Australia/Pacific region.

Before 2006, Auckland Airport arriving and departing passengers were allowed to mingle airside. After the September 11 attacks, the airport operated with a CAA exemption that allowed this to continue, although flights to the US and all Qantas-operated flights (and for a short time Cathay Pacific flights) were restricted to leaving from gates where a secondary X-ray and metal detector inspection had been set up. This exemption expired in 2006.  

Auckland Airport decided that rather than building a new sub-top level to stream arriving passengers (as at Beijing, Vancouver, or Heathrow), they would build a new departures floor for passengers to "drop down" into the existing gate lounges on the first floor, which would be closed off from a central arrivals corridor by glass.

Auckland International Airport Ltd’s (AIAL’s) aims:

  • To increase peak volume passenger processing, by improving process flows, and adhere to stricter security protocols.
  • To increase the airside retail space.

What we did:

This project was part of a wider series of improvements we completed across the first floor of the International Terminal. It included the airside retail space and expanded New Zealand Customs departure facilities. The reconfiguration of the departure facilities was designed to handle 2,500 passengers per hour at peak times.

It involved reducing the landside retail area to allow expansion of retail floor-space airside as airside retailing returns are significantly higher than landside. The reconfigured airside retail environment has an increased duty-free area and is designed to allow for future reconfigurations and expansion, if required.

The facility itself is centred on an open floor plate with the stunning “Pou Manawa” – a 9 metre tall, fabric and timber tree sculpture at the heart.

We cut new 50 metre skylights into the existing roof of the building, even while passengers walked safely below, to allow sunlight to shine into the terminal.

Early collaboration with the designers, via fast track procurement, was necessary as the construction progressed only slightly behind the completion of design.

Unique challenges:

The traditional challenges of operating in a high security 24/7 operational environment were met by our experienced airport team, who have delivered a number of terminal extension projects at Auckland Airport over nearly 25 years.

  • Excellent planning and strong working relationships with Auckland Airport, their key tenants and the wide range of design consultants allowed us to maintain the passenger capacity and experience while reducing the area available to them during construction.
  • Construction works often crossed the boundary between airside and landside. Every movement across this boundary required passage through a checkpoint. Both the airport company and authorised Hawkins staff handled these security checks.

The outcome:

This project helps AIAL to achieve its leadership position in the delivery of passenger terminal services to travellers, using technologies such as self-service kiosks to streamline and increasingly automate processes for check-in, baggage handling, security and border control. This enhances the passenger experience giving people more time to relax, browse, shop and be entertained.