Wellington Scoop

How to save $7 on your airport taxi fare

airport z

by Neil Douglas
“Walk to the Z Energy/Burger King and save the $7 airport stand charge – that’s what the young ‘uns do”, my Wellington Combined taxi driver told me on my early morning ride to the Airport last Thursday. “$7 is too much for the airport charge, we don’t get anything for it – it’s just Infratil making money,” he said. “Wellington needs another airport to give them some competition” he added.

I’d started by asking whether he liked the new layout at the airport. He definitely didn’t. “It’s worse than before for dropping off passengers, as it’s too tight with all the car parkers moving in and out, and they should get a more efficient system so we don’t need to use a card so much”.

On my return flight from Sydney last night I decided to save myself $7. It was just after midnight when I got out of the airport – a very pleasant night at 20 degrees with no wind. The Z Energy garage and Burger King restaurant were brightly lit. A taxi was parked there and the driver was inside buying a pie. I asked if he’d take me and he said yes but could he finish his pie first. I waited outside and two minutes later we drove off.

I told him that one of his fellow taxi drivers had told me of the $7 saving. He nodded. “Yes, a few people do walk to the garage,” he said.

I said that in Sydney the airport taxi surcharge was only $3 dollars. “Even three dollars is too much, it should only be two dollars as we don’t get anything for it. It took us ten years just to get a decent toilet. There’s 1,200 taxi drivers and all we got was one small stinking toilet. It was a right mess as you could imagine. We took photos of it and sent them to the Wellington Council. But they took no notice as they have shares in the airport too”.

He told me that each company pays $100,000 a year each for a five cab rank which he reckoned was a million dollars for all the taxi companies and bus shuttles using the airport. That’s only half of it as he went to the airport 4-5 times a day and paid $35 a day in rank fees which worked out at $175 a week and $8,750 a year. So over the 1,200 drivers that’s another million dollars a year that taxi users give Infratil.

Why don’t you organize and protest to try and get the charge down, I asked. “A few have thought about having a strike and refusing to go to the airport but we can’t get anything organized because out of the 1,200 drivers, 1,000 aren’t kiwis and they are so desperate to work that Infratil knows they can charge what they like and we just pass it on to our customers”.

So the $7 charge looks like it’s here to stay. But if you don’t want to pay it, you can do what I did. Walk three minutes to Z Energy and get your taxi from there. There’s likely to be one, because that’s where drivers refuel and even if there isn’t one, you can flag one down or telephone for one and it should be there pretty soon. The more that ‘do the walk’, the more taxi drivers will look out for us and stop at the garage.

Neil Douglas is a transport economist who uses Wellington Airport a lot

Read also
Taxi fares at Auckland Airport


  1. Mike Mellor, 24. November 2013, 11:22

    Similarly, walking just a bit further you can save $4 (cash fare) on the bus by catching a number 11 on Hobart St instead of an Airport Flyer. It’s slower, but more frequent at most times. You won’t get the Flyer’s advertised free wi-fi or leather seats (but then neither do Flyer passengers on the many services that seem to be operated by ordinary Go Wellington or Valley Flyer buses).

    One obstacle to both these taxi and bus options is crossing the busy, wide and fast airport access road. When I raised this issue a while back, the concern seemed to be that this would help just people who were trying to avoid airport surcharges, ignoring the many people (like me) for whom the airport is a short (30 min) walk – or an $18 taxi ride.

    It’s bizarre that two of walkable Wellington’s main links to the outside world, the airport and the Interislander ferry terminal, are barely walkable (the Interislander even advises people not to walk), when in both cases this could be achieved quite easily.

  2. Neil Douglas, 24. November 2013, 18:47

    Good comments Mike – there are some yellow footprints painted on to the pavement (going to the airport though). But it’s a bit of an obstacle course and walkers are definitely not foremost in the minds of the airport planners or the WCC. If you walk to/from the airport you are an oddball, so we won’t be catering for you with a well maintained pavement and a zebra crossing.

    I did spot two walkers on Thursday morning though. One guy who was staying at a nearby motel, and a very happy all whites fan who was running and jumping his way to the airport

  3. Artvian Guessmark, 25. November 2013, 10:54

    Interesting…where do you start with this issue! At least you guys have an airport which is configured such that you can avoid the surcharge by walking outside the boundary.

    $7 – that is steep though…I haven’t been to Wellington Airport but given the congestion in and out of Sydney airport I reckon three bucks would be okay.


  4. CC, 25. November 2013, 11:52

    The $7 saving for one trip identified in this post is 350% more than Infratil got from its sale of Prestwick Airport (Scotland). Adding this sale to their ignominious exits from Lubick (Germany) and Kent (England) it is clear that Infratil can’t survive in the industry when massive overcharging as a monopoly provider and political collusion are non-existent.

  5. Adam Smith, 25. November 2013, 13:13

    Note that if you do buy a pie at the Z garage then a few cents will end up with Infratil anyway as they have a share of Z energy as well.

    Add in the Airport Flyer and the Mike Mellor’s #11 and all the other yellow, purple ses oh and 25% (?) of the green Mana buses as Infratil has their fingers well and truly stuck in these pies as well.

    Talk about a local monopoly!!!!

  6. Dave B, 25. November 2013, 13:53

    The National Govt just loves this sort of thing. Big business, big profits, big rorts. Vote national, for a rortier future.

  7. NigelTwo, 25. November 2013, 15:07

    @Mike. Totally agree with you. That road crossing is only for seasoned pedestrians when you have some luggage in tow.

    Also, how hard can it be to change the Lyall Bay terminus of the No.3 bus route to be at the southern end of the airport terminal?

  8. Neil Douglas, 25. November 2013, 19:01

    I have had it from a reliable source that you can arrange for a taxi from the Miramar Golf Course which will also save you the $7. Nice covered walkway too and you can watch some putters and swingers in action whilst waiting for your cab.

    Not sure about midnight putters and swingers though – they could be a worry.

  9. Mike Mellor, 25. November 2013, 19:17

    NigelTwo – changing the no 3’s Lyall Bay terminus would be hard, since it’s a trolley route and it runs southwestwards from Onepu Rd through Lyall Bay to its terminus while the airport is to the east.

    It would be easy to extend the no 14 from its new Rongotai terminus to the airport, at the same time restoring an off-peak service to Moa Point, but I’m not sure the numbers would justify it.

  10. Alana, 25. November 2013, 22:04

    One point about Infratil: WCC handed the Infratil owned Wellington bus company all of Manners Street a few years back, privitising a public street for the exclusive use of a profit making company without any charge to the company at all and Wellington rate payers and users of city services paid the cost of the conversion from the mall to a street. So Infratil buses save a few blocks and fuel on every trip by now using Manners Street rather than going around Dixon Steet. How many millions in fuel dollars does that save the company?

  11. Te Kupu, 26. November 2013, 10:47

    I predict that the way the airport is configured for traffic flow means they will eventually charge you to drop people off. It is happening already e.g. Stanstead. So more people will end up walking to the terminal to save that timebomb! I am a walker – drop car in offstreet and walk.

  12. Esjay, 26. November 2013, 16:58

    WIAL has provided footpaths as required under the District Plan. Can hardly imagine it was their choice as there’s no income from that source!

  13. Neil Douglas, 27. November 2013, 11:36

    Auckland Airport is having some problems with taxi drivers. A claimed 100 drivers went on strike a week or so and it was on the radio today that they are still unhappy. Something to with (1) a taxi driver alleged to have used a wrong ID and (2) the Airport having an area where taxis pay a higher taxi rank charge and the Airport pushing passengers that way.

  14. Mike Mellor, 27. November 2013, 19:36

    See http://www.nzherald.co.nz/business/news/article.cfm?c_id=3&objectid=11163274 for more about the Auckland taxi dispute. Apparently there has also been an issue there with access for rental car companies’ shuttle buses – according to one company, they had to engage Mai Chen to help resolve things with the airport company.

  15. Ross Clark, 28. November 2013, 1:39

    CC – Infratil’s airport operations in Europe fell over because the airports concerned are all on the respective peripheries of their urban areas. In the days of the low-cost boom, before the main airports and legacy airlines could get their acts together, it was sensible to pay a bit extra in travel costs, and take longer to get out to one of these airports. Now, between the GFC and sharper pricing from the main airports/airlines, the peripheral airports (Prestwick is thirty miles from Glasgow, Glasgow’s main airport is about eight miles or so), are no longer viable.

  16. Neil Douglas, 28. November 2013, 10:35

    I am putting together a table to compare taxi charges at different airports. There is the obvious rank charge, which is usually shown alongside other charges on the passenger side. There are other hidden charges such as the fixed rank charge that ultimately gets added on to your general fare.

    At the moment, I have Sydney the lowest at A$3; Auckland at $7 the same as Wellington; and Christchurch topping the Table at $10 (there are some discounts on this however). So next time when you are at a cab at Dunedin, Wanganui, Gisborne post the taxi rank charge on this site. Thanks in advance to all you scoopers. I’m interested in any other interested stories you have re airport taxi charging.

  17. CC, 29. November 2013, 7:27

    Ross Clark – your comment seems to add weight to the point that was being made: Infratil can’t survive in the industry when massive overcharging as a monopoly provider and political collusion are non-existent.

  18. Ross Clark, 3. December 2013, 5:13

    CC – not so sure – you would have to look at Infratil’s overall returns for Wellington Airport, before you could say that it was earning monopoly returns.

    Where airports really do make money is in their parking charges – probably about ten percent of Wellington’s total till revenue, which is currently running at $99m per year. http://www.infratil.com/our-businesses/airports/wellington-airport/financial-summary/. At a stab I would guess that this is a good deal more than ten percent of their profits as well.

  19. CC, 3. December 2013, 16:27

    Ross Clark – isn’t WIAL the near monopoly provider of airport parking (and pick-up and waiting areas for taxis) that are generally considered extortionately expensive? Once again you seem to be confirming: Infratil can’t survive in the industry when massive overcharging as a monopoly provider and political collusion are non-existent.

  20. Guy, 4. December 2013, 3:59

    Looking forward to a mythical future where travel to the airport may be taken more by public transport than by private car…. And perhaps I’m dreaming, but I’d quite like to see that day, and arrive at the airport by a speedy light rail, the key to this working therefore is for Infratil to own / run the light rail system, so they can make money off it. Luckily they own the bus company already, so it is a distinct possibility. Fleecing the car drivers and the taxi drivers already actually works on the side of the public transport system – by discouraging people from taking their car – now we just need to work on Infratil to provide a better bus service. Quicker and a less tortuous route would be a good start…

  21. CC, 4. December 2013, 9:21

    Guy: are you suggesting that Infratil should be licensed to fleece light rail users as well as bus users* and anyone who finds it necessary to park at the airport? Yes – let’s have light rail efficiently linking the city and airport, however let’s have it operated by a service oriented provider rather than Infratil, a proven rapacious profit taker.

    *Bus fare examples: Wellington CBD to Airport: $1.125/km – Auckland CBD to airport: $0.73/km – Melbourne CBD to airport: $NZ 0.61/km – London CBD to airport: $NZ 0.35/km.

  22. Guy, 4. December 2013, 13:58

    CC – I’m saying that if you try to fight them, you’ll lose. Better to have them getting something out of it, and fighting WITH you, than to try and head them off at the pass. GWRC and WCC can regulate the fare if need be – thing is to get Infratil onside or else they’ll just build more carparks and taxi-ranks. Chances of getting any other provider in there are next to zero.

  23. Neil Douglas, 7. December 2013, 16:04

    I have just come back from Perth WA. The taxi rank charge there is only $2 to pick up a passenger.