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Auckland Airport welcomed more overseas flights in '09, but fewer passengers

Friday 5th February 2010

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Auckland International Airport welcomed more international flights on to its runways in 2009, but fewer passengers.  

International aircraft movements rose 4.1% to 41,819 last year, according to the airport’s December monthly traffic update, even as total international passengers, which includes transits and transfers, declined 1.9% to 7.34 million.  

“There’s been an increase in supply, trans-Tasman, from the likes of Jetstar, Pacific Blue and Emirates,” said communications adviser Richard Llewellyn. “This has translated into steady growth, trans-Tasman, and that’s why” there had been an increase in international flights, he said.  

Airports and airlines had a tough year in 2009 when the first global recession since World War II led to widespread unemployment in Europe and North America, and forced people to cut down on their discretionary spending, such as long-haul holidays to the South Pacific. Still, Auckland Airport stock surged 24% last year as share markets recovered from their steep falls in 2008. The shares sank 2% to $1.92 in trading today, and have declined 2.7% this year.  

Auckland Airport has come under pressure in recent weeks after it announced it bought a quarter stake in two North Queensland airports, with investors questioning the company’s long-term goals. The airport went to retail and institutional investors to raise some $126 million to pay for the acquisition.  

The airport boosted its earnings guidance in December to the “high end” of its range between $93 million and $100 million, saying passenger volumes for the first five months of the 2010 financial year were ahead of forecasts.  

On a monthly basis, December passenger numbers bounced back for the airport, with total international passenger movements up 0.3% to 702,118 from a year earlier, and domestic numbers rising 8.8% to 534,369.  

Australians continued to see New Zealand as a cheap holiday destination, as visitors gained 8.9% to 84,785. Last year, Prime Minister John Key and Air New Zealand Ltd. launched a joint marketing campaign to lure tourists from across the Tasman. Key estimated the campaign would inject some $65 million into New Zealand’s economy.  

More Americans visited New Zealand in December, rising 13% to 20,740 from the same month in 2008, though Chinese arrivals sank 17% to 11,139.  International aircraft movements rose 3.9% to 3,740 in December, while the number of domestic flights shrank 2.6% to 9,660.  

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