8 Jun 2023

Auckland Airport says airlines are posting 'healthy' profits, can afford price hikes

3:05 pm on 8 June 2023
A rendition of how Auckland Airport will look after the redevelopment.

A rendition of how Auckland Airport will look after the redevelopment. Photo: Supplied / Auckland Airport

Airlines and Auckland Airport are at loggerheads as the airport looks to progressively lift airline charges over the next five years, after a year-long price freeze.

The airport said the new charges would come in from July and help fund its multibillion-dollar redevelopment plans.

Airline domestic jet charges would increase 130 percent, reaching $15.45 per passenger by 2027.

International charges would nearly double to just over $46 per passenger, and domestic regional charges would increase 141 percent to $10.70 per passenger by 2027.

In a joint statement, the airport's two biggest users - Qantas and Air New Zealand - said the steep price increases would deter travellers and called on the airport to rethink its $3.9 billion redevelopment plan.

The airlines said air travel might become unaffordable for some travellers because of the higher charges.

Airlines typically pass on additional costs to customers through airfares.

The two airlines said, given the airport's intention to spend "billions more", they expected further significant increases to follow in the next pricing period from 2028 to 2032.

"We all agree that some investment in Auckland Airport is necessary," Air New Zealand chief executive Greg Foran said.

"However, this is an enormous spend over a short period of time that adds almost no additional capacity. All it is expected to result in is more costs for everyone who uses, relies on, or passes through the airport, including the aviation industry, the tourism industry, the whole economy, and Air New Zealand's passengers."

Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce said Auckland Airport's proposals went beyond its needs and did not believe it was affordable.

"Based on Qantas' experience, the necessary first phase of this redevelopment could be delivered for significantly less than $3.9 billion, and we're conscious that the final number will probably be higher, with cost overruns common to most large infrastructure projects."

Board of Airline Representatives executive director Cath O'Brien said the higher charges were disappointing.

"We have been in consultation with the airport and have consistently said that the capital costs are too high and the price rises are too significant. Our view is this will gradually damage demand."

Airport hits back

Auckland Airport said it was disappointed by the airlines' response and rejected claims that its infrastructure spending would hurt the travel market.

"Our independent studies show it's not true," a spokesperson said.

"Airlines have suggested that we keep travellers in the existing domestic terminal for longer. Travellers don't want that, and it's not the right outcome. "The terminal is 57 years old and needs replacing. It will not get any easier or cheaper."

The airport said airlines have benefited from "very low domestic charges" that reflected the age and condition of the domestic terminal.

"Major airlines are reporting very healthy or even record profits, with some committing to multibillion-dollar investment in their own fleet and airport hangars.

"We need to do the same to ensure travellers have a great experience when they travel through Auckland Airport."

The airport said its charges made up about 3 to 5 percent of an airfare in the 2024 financial year.

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