“God, This Is A Mess” – Welcome To New Zealand

This account was sent to us by a reader who landed at Auckland International airport today.

The author is an experienced international traveller who is hoping that processing at the airport improves before next year’s rugby world cup.

Eventually this will be incorporated into our popular series of  Migrants Tales.

Made it through Auckland international airport. Immigration was ok because there was a NZ residence lane. International passports was long but there were enough staff on.

But bio-security is dreadful. Random lanes to process 3 planes of passengers, air crews led to the front jumping the queue, building works showing what might be the future way through, but just adding to confusion. I had plenty of time and was expecting it but many of those new to NZ standing around me were exasperated and said so loudly – especially those with connecting flights who were aware that bus transfers to domestic airport only go every 15 minutes.

Of 4 x-ray machines available 3 were working and at the height of the queuing bio-security shut one!! Looked like a 15.00 hours shift change for afternoon tea.

It might not be a bad as some american terminals but to the untrained eye it was haphazard, with the wrong landing cards given back to people, groups moved through together with the consequence that many bags were not put onto the machines at all, officers forgetting who they had spoken to and flight crews completely unchecked. Even the bio-security man who dealt with me agreed “God, this is a mess” when asked about the process by the american lady close to me.

My thoughts run to 2011 and plane loads of rugby fans who will not be ready for the wait, are not likely to be the well mannered passengers normally seen at the airport and who may have imbibed alcohol on the flight. What a welcome for them and I’m sure the staff will respond to it accordingly!

One wonders whether any one from the appropriate departments in power ever travel through the system as a “secret customer” and experience what those who travel far (and if from the UK pay lots given the new tax) find when they get to Auckland.

One improvement – the landing declaration card is just one page now instead of the tear off waste of 2 additional pages that used to get stuffed into the plane seat pockets. No doubt someone’s “green efficiency” targets just got met!

There are some similarities between this account of conditions at Auckland airport and a blog we published in July –

New Zealand Is the “Gunna Country”,

“We came across another article raising concerns about New Zealand’s ability to successfully host the Rugby World Cup, this time in the Sydney Morning Herald, where Greg Gowden spoke in less than glowing terms about the way spectators and fellow colleagues were treated as little more than just sheep at the recent Christchurch test – widely viewed as a dry-run for next year’s tournament.

In his article he talked about how the Christchurch test was good opportunity to see how the facilities would cope with a major international event. The Wallabies flew into Auckland to check out how efficient the customs facilities were for visiting teams.

Here are a few of his observations, firstly the Auckland arrivals hall that :

“…can be a debacle. Sure, New Zealanders are proud they are a wool nation, but it doesn’t mean tourists have to be herded into a sheep pen. If you can get through the baggage area in less than half an hour, think yourself lucky. And then you have to confront the nightmare of travelling into Auckland where a highway suddenly dissolves into a one-lane suburban street, prompting delays and further frustration.”

Not much has changed since then has it?

One bus every 15 minutes between the international and domestic airports is woefully inadequate, given the distance between the two terminals there should be a at least one bus every 5 minutes at peak time.

Another common complaint among arrivals is that it’s hard to tell the transfer buses from the normal services because they aren’t clearly marked, thus adding further frustration and inconvenience to an already dissatisfying experience.