by Neil Douglas
I was stuck at Wellington Airport the other night. It was after midnight and there were no taxis for the passengers who’d arrived from overseas.
I had arrived on one of the late-night flights from Australia. With other unhappy travellers, I queued for twenty minutes. At half past midnight we were still queuing because there were no taxis in sight.
Why? Two drivers told me they blame the new layout. Because of it, they said, less of them are willing to drive out to the airport.
Luckily for me, I was able to queue jump when a friendly driver took me earlier than otherwise, because I was on my own. He doubled me up with someone going to Aro Valley.
This is what he told me on the way home:
(1) He now has to drive through four airport barriers. If any one of them fails to recognize his card, then he gets stuck and has to call the airport to get someone to let him out – this has happened twice in his last 15 trips. He says the airport has told him it is ‘going to fix it.’
(2) If he parks in the car park for more than twenty minutes while he waits for passengers to arrive, he now has to pay $5 even if he leaves with no passengers – he discovered this when he received a call to leave the airport and collect a passenger from Kilbirnie.
(3) Taking a lane off the road near the golf course for more car parking has reduced road capacity
I spoke to a shuttle driver too and he said the new layout is a stuff up that needs sorting out quickly.
While I was queueing, I took the two photos on my mobile phone – it’s not good for families arriving in Wellington with young kids to have to wait for 20-30 minutes for a cab at half past midnight.
There was an added issue. A mother with two children was at the end of the queue. She told me that the immigration smart gates can’t be used by anyone under 16, so she and her family had to go through the ‘manual’ system. And on the night in question, the NZ/Australia desks were closed and everybody had to queue in just two “Other Passport’ lanes. It took about twenty minutes for me and the family of four to get processed, before we joined the next queue waiting for the invisible taxis.
Dr Neil Douglas is a Wellington-based transport economist who was returning from a conference in Brisbane.