22 Feb 2024

Auckland Airport accuses Air New Zealand of seeking control and ticket price speculation

8:31 am on 22 February 2024
Buses and planes in Auckland sit parked during the covid-19 ouutbreak.

(file image) Photo: RNZ / Dan Cook

Air New Zealand and Auckland Airport are continuing to trade accusations over a planned increase to the airport's charges.

The same issue came to light last year, when some airlines claimed travel would become unaffordable as the airport announced a five-year plan to help fund its multibillion-dollar redevelopment plans.

Air New Zealand chief executive Greg Foran said based on "information that we receive from them [the airport] and we can see in the public arena", the airport's regulated charges would add about $46 to the price of a domestic ticket by 2032.

"When we do our calculations, we can see what it's going to go up for, you know, up by when you get to 2027 and then we calculate that out to 2032, and I stand by those numbers."

But the airport has hit back, saying the airline's estimates are simply speculation "and also verging on misleading".

"We've looked at the numbers every which way we can and we don't get to $50, it is lower than that by quite a bit," said Auckland Airport chief executive Carrie Hurihanganui.

"The reason we don't share the numbers is it's speculation, we haven't set the prices - the interest rates, cost of capital, all of those things come in it. So to be sharing numbers when we haven't set prices or engaged in that consultation is misleading," Hurihanganui said.

"There are price increases and we've been very transparent about that with the investment in the infrastructure at the airport. but it isn't going to be unaffordable."

Foran said they agreed the airport needed investment, but the problem was how far that investment should go.

"The question is how much and if we don't agree with that amount, do we at least have an ability to influence that amount? Now we've gone back to them already and said, hey, we think you can save a billion dollars off this. And basically, they've said, thank you. We don't agree with you. We're proceeding."

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

The airline is now seeking the commerce minister's intervention to bring in a negotiation and mediation process with airlines in the regulatory framework.

"Now, this actually isn't really an Auckland Airport issue. It's a regulatory issue. And that's exactly the approach we've taken," Foran said.

"That's why we're going to the minister and saying, hey, you've actually got a construct at the moment that doesn't require any more bureaucracy, no more red tape. You simply need to instruct the Commerce Commission to take a look at this and change some of the regulatory settings and put in something that we think would be more appropriate for an industry that effectively operates as Auckland Airport does."

On Wednesday, Commerce and Consumer Affairs Minister Andrew Bayly said it was important for the commission to conclude its review of the airport plan before determining if there was a case for a stronger regime.

Bayly said he would also be meeting with Hurihanganui to discuss the rising costs this week.

"I am concerned by the increased charges Auckland Airport proposes to pass onto airlines and ultimately passengers in the latest price-setting event," he said.

"I will express my concerns about the effect on the price of air tickets, and encourage the airport to constructively engage with airlines."

Auckland Airport's Carrie Hurihanganui said the airline already had a say in airport matters and accused the airline of now seeking control.

Carrie Hurihanganui​ has been appointed Auckland International Airport chief executive.

Auckland Airport chief executive Carrie Hurihanganui Photo: Supplied

"We spent 10 years talking to them about the replacement of the domestic terminal, the last couple of years in deep consultation around pricing and the different elements that go into that, of what's priced and not priced. We've made changes to the design based on their feedback in the last two years.

"So when they say they don't have a say, I think the difference is what they want is control because they have a commercial interest that if they can dictate the amount of spending in the airport, then they can protect profit margins, they can protect their dominant position at 86 percent market share."

The development would also increase capacity, Hurihanganui said.

"So 26 percent more gate capacity, 44 percent more capacity for processing passengers through the terminal. So it does create headroom and the ability for competitors to come on should they want to."

The airport's regulatory scheme, which has been in place since 2008, was reviewed by Parliament and found to be adequate too, Hurihanganui said.

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