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More tourists, same flights: Queenstown Airport announces fresh plans

Queenstown Airport expects 33% more passengers in the next decade. Technology allows the tourist resort’s CEO to maintain flight numbers.

On Wednesday, the Queenstown Airport Corporation, owned three-quarters by the Queenstown Lakes District Council and one-quarter by Auckland International Airport, presented its draught master plan for public comment.

The airport’s 2018 master plan indicated it would need to quadruple flights to one every four minutes to accommodate 5 million passenger movements by 2045, which sparked community outrage.

After the COVID-19 epidemic halted air travel, that proposal was scrapped.

In 2021, chief executive Glen Sowry stated the airport had learned from that traumatic experience and was now focused on meeting visitor demand for Queenstown while operating within the community’s social licence.

“There’s no question that Queenstown Airport’s relationship with the community was damaged five years ago when we were talking about significant growth,” he told RNZ.

“Post-Covid, we have new board and management. Our 10-year strategic plan and this new master plan reflect community views on what’s suitable. Passenger movements, which were 2.3 million in 2019, were expected to rise from 2.4 million this year to 3.2 million in 2032.

Queenstown Airport flights, which averaged 18,000 before the pandemic, have plummeted since March 2020 and were projected to return to pre-pandemic levels this year. To accommodate passengers, they would need to rise to little over 22,000 by 2032.

“Air New Zealand has introduced the A321neo aircraft, which is bigger than the A320, quieter, burns less fuel, has lower carbon emissions, and has around 27% more seats than an A320.

We can deliver this master plan by flying bigger, quieter, lower-emission aircraft into Queenstown.

“One of the commitments we made when we developed our 10-year strategic plan last year was to operate within our noise boundaries for the next decade.” To accommodate more passengers, the airport terminal was rebuilt. By 2032, the terminal would be 21,000 square metres, up 15%..


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