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Airport Guide: Auckland Airport

By John Walton     Filed under: Auckland, airports, travel tips, AKL, Airport Guides, airport guide

Heading to Auckland Airport? Our 'need to know' guide for the business traveller has the skinny on terminal layouts, lounges, airport hotels and insider tips.

The basics

Auckland Airport (AKL) is New Zealand's main international gateway and a useful trans-Pacific connection hub.

Situated towards the top of the North Island, you're likely to fly here to connect elsewhere in New Zealand or if you're transiting between international flights to North and South America or beyond.

Auckland's notorious traffic means you should leave plenty of time to get to and from the airport -- over an hour unless it's the middle of the night. Take advice from colleagues or your hotel concierge.

The airport has a flight arrivals/departures app available on the iTunes Store (AU link | US link).

Free wireless internet is available throughout the domestic and international terminals: look for the Airport_Hotspot network.

Major airlines

Auckland is Air New Zealand's main international and domestic hub.

Other notable airlines include Emirates, which adds "tag" flights onto its Dubai-Australia Airbus A380 and Boeing 777-300ER services, with direct Auckland flights from Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane.

Layout, terminals and connections

Auckland has two terminals: international and domestic.

International connections are relatively simple, but if Auckland is your arrivals airport in New Zealand you'l need to collect your luggage and clear immigrations, customs and biosecurity before making your way between the international and domestic terminals, luggage in hand.

The international and domestic terminals are around a ten-minute open-air walk from each other, following the green painted line, which is feasible if your luggage doesn't encompass more than a small rolling bag. There's also a five-minute bus transfer every fifteen minutes between 0500 and 2230.

Overall, Auckland's international terminal is modern, spacious and airy, while the domestic terminal is older and much of it could do with knocking down. The Jetstar side in particular is a real shed, but in fairness the Air New Zealand side isn't all that much better.

For detailed information and specific shops, check out the airport's maps page.

Lounges

International:

  • Air New Zealand Koru Lounge (also available to Star Alliance Gold)
  • Qantas International First and Business Lounges (also available to oneworld Emerald and Sapphire, respectively)
  • Emirates Lounge
  • Emperor Lounge, run by the airport, is a buy-your-way-in (NZ$49 if prebooked) lounge also used by other airlines

Domestic:

Hotels

Only one airport hotel is within walking distance, and it's next to the international terminal: the Novotel Auckland Airport. It's the obvious choice for international passengers.

Other international business-standard options near the airport include the Hotel Grand Chancellor Auckland Airport and the Holiday Inn Auckland Airport, with numerous local options also available.

To and from the airport

Auckland Airport's public transport is awful, but navigating Auckland's traffic and streets is even worse -- there's no one motorway that gets you into the city, so you end up making your way through poorly signed suburbia.

The Airbus will cost you NZ$16 one way or NZ$26 return, stopping in several locations in the city.

Taxi fares are likely to be around NZ$60-NZ$80 for the city centre, depending on location and, more importantly, traffic. Don't be concerned when your taxi heads off the motorway and takes the back roads, since there isn't a direct freeway into the city. 

Super Shuttle has a monopoly on airport shuttles in Auckland, so it's them or nobody. They're not much cheaper than a cab, so unless you're keen for a scenic drive around Auckland dropping everyone else off, you're best to skip the shuttle.

For more information, check out the airport's "to and from" page.

Insider tips and tricks

It's a real pain to get into and out of Auckland city. Consider organising meetings at the airport or in a halfway suburb like Ellerslie instead.

If driving, this is one city where a turn-by-turn GPS unit is a real bonus. We normally rely on smartphone maps, but not in Auckland -- get a proper GPS from your car rental company.

On arrival you can pick up a local SIM card for your phone or tablet from either Telecom or Vodafone, just after the arrivals door in the international terminal. Telecom has the better network coverage, but is slightly pricier. Overall, remember that making mobile phone calls in NZ is ridiculously expensive -- that's why Kiwis seem addicted to SMS!  

When departing, international terminal Gates 5-10 are primarily used for larger planes from airlines that are not Air New Zealand or its Star Alliance partners. They're a decent 5-10 minute trek from security and the lounges when departing, so make sure you leave plenty of time.

The Novotel Auckland Airport is a minute's walk from the international terminal and is a fantastic hotel with a decent amount of meeting space. (Check out our review of the hotel for more information.)

The Novotel's restaurant, Square, is a real gem -- so if you have a long-ish layover consider nipping in for a bite to eat rather than relying on airport nosh or gambling on lounge food.

AusBT reader tips

If you're a frequent traveller through Auckland Airport, or even if you've just discovered a nifty trick about the place, now's your chance to share your insider knowledge with other AusBT readers.

Leave a comment below or join the conversation on Twitter: we're @AusBT.

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About John Walton

Aviation journalist and travel columnist John took his first long-haul flight when he was eight weeks old and hasn't looked back since. Well, except when facing rearwards in business class.

 

Have something to say? Post a comment now!

1 on 3/4/12 by timb07

I haven't stayed at the Hotel Grand Chancellor Auckland Airport, because I was scared away by the less-than-stellar reviews of it on Tripadvisor.  However, I have stayed at the Bella Vista Express Hotel Auckland Airport, which is rated much higher on Tripadvisor; I thought it was fine.  A new hotel has also recently opened up right next door to the Bella Vista, which is also rated highly on Tripadvisor: Sudima Auckland Airport.

2 on 3/4/12 by Colin

A bonus we found flying AKL-MEL was the ability to buy duty free (including alcohol) airside and be able to carry it onto the plane, avoiding the MEL duty free maze.

At international departures, QF Club members/Business and high level FF have their own seperate checkin (left of the main area) with its own immigration staff, allowing for speedy moveing through immigration.

The "10" minute walk from International to domestic is fun in the rain, especially when the bus isnt running (or hiding somewhere, or staff are on a break).

3 on 3/4/12 by lkennedy

I highly recommend the walk between international and domestic terminals, especially if you have just gotten off a long flight.  Even at the airport the air is relatively fresh and its a pleasant, if quirky walk.  It takes me about 8 minutes, but if your in a rush, you'll be able to jog it quicker than the shuttle bus !

As to Auckland traffic - just turn around and get back on the plane - its the worst traffic this side of Bangkok ! On a friday afternoon (after 2:30pm) you need to allow 2 hours to get from the city to the airport.

4 on 4/4/12 by danny

I commute AKL-SYD every week, here are some tips that may save you some time.

On arrival and departure to/from AKL Australians and Kiwis can use Smartgate immigration clearance.  This saves a tremendous amount of time.

Flying Air NZ, if you are eligible to use the premium check-in counter, you also get to use the fast-track elevator taking you directly to Air NZ's own immigration counter on the departures floor.  Typically you can get from curbside to Lounge in around 10 mins.

If you are travelling on the airbus alot then you can purchase online a book of 10 return tickets for around $220.  This is the cheapest way to get into/out of town. If you are catching the airbus, goto maxx.co.nz, enter in the bustop number you are catching your bus from and it will provides you with the real-time arrival times for the next 30 mins.

Duty free at AKL airport is pretty good value especially if you are purchasing with AUD.  There is duty free available airside both in arrivals and departures.

If you are travelling for business/leisure, pick-up one of the tourist booklets, they have discount vouchers that you might find handy.

If you are getting picked up by car at AKL, don't get picked up right outside of arrivals, parking wardens are now taking pictures with their phones. Although I'm not sure whether they follow-up.  If you must, get picked up at the drop-off point.  Otherwise, get your chauffeur to park (it's not that expensive).

Customs/biosecurity are pretty strict but generally pretty good if you declare.  If in doubt you can always email them before the flight on enquiry@maf.govt.nz.

5 on 5/4/12 by Smithy

There is an option for shuttle service into the city & return with a max of 1 share person Good service, great owner (not me) & good prices  Here is the link http://www.shuttleexcellence.com/?gclid=CPvitfXInK8CFWlLpgodVDU_iQ

6 on 9/7/12 by Graham S

Firstly no airport is on anybodys bucket list as a must do. As a regular into & out of Auckland airport I was rather surprised at some of the comments for my experiences have always been positive. Customs has always been a breeze, & no worse than anywhere else & much better than many. The rental cars offices are 60 seconds right turn out of customs exits, the car park is a 2 minute walk ( as a solo traveller!!) and Auckland CBD is about 45 minutes non peak. For a taxi, I highly recommend Corporate Cabs, owner drivers and well maintained new vehicles, Agree Ellerslie is ideal 1/2 meeting point & though highly recomend The  Pullman, Auckland. close to the motorway & on the CBD edge. Traffic out of town is pretty hopeless for a late afternoon / early evening flight out but where isn't? QF Club check in is easy, with a customs desk & your precleared boarding pass there's no queues onto airside. And best of all the cheapest duty free and you'd be mad not to take advantage of the exchane rate. One main factor not mentioned in the article is there is none of the over the top, moronic parking & drop off security bozos circulating the entrances as though Osama bi Laden himself is driving up to collect / pick-up. Very low key. Why people even picnic outside the terminal in the small parkland. 

7 on 9/7/12 by Brian Steel

Telecom NZ have dropped their prepaid rates to NZ 44 cents per minute

8 on 9/7/12 by Brian Steel

Telecom NZ have dropped their prepaid rates to NZ 44 cents per minute

 

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