Chaotic scenes at Auckland Airport today have seen huge crowds and hour-plus delays to international flights, as well as a medical incident on one already boarded flight to the US while the plane was waiting on the tarmac.
The cause of the delays were due to staffing issues with the Government run aviation security service who have apologised for an inability to cope with an increased passenger numbers on departing flights to North America for the Thanksgiving holiday.
A Herald reporter who was on a flight to San Franscisco scheduled to depart at 3.50pm says passengers were still clearing security and boarding by 4.45pm.
“They didn’t say why it was taking so long. I had an express pass so I skirted the queue but it was slow moving,” he said.
“Would be surprised if anyone got through in under an hour. Could have been 90 minutes.
The reporter said: “people were generally bad-tempered and annoyed” but he didn’t see any major flare-ups.
Auckland Aiport replied to a tweet sharing a photo of the queue, saying “sorry your day of travel hasn’t been the best. Our team is there assisting travellers, and government agencies and Aviation Security are working to get everyone processed as quickly as possible.”
Three paramedics were also brought onto the flight travelling to San Francisco.
One passenger said cabin crew told everyone to stay seated so the aisles were clear.
He said it was “an incident with a baby and the whole family had to get off”.
The Aviation Security Service (AvSec) said there were a number of factors that contributed to today’s delays in airport securtiy screening. AvSec is Government boarder agency run independely from Auckland Airport itself – and which Auckland Airport has no authority over.
“The Aviation Security Service acknowledges and apologises for the inconvenience to some passengers over recent delays in airport security screening. While safety is never compromised, we are conscious that when people are travelling time is of the essence,” an Aviation Security Service spokesman said.
“Lanes were opened where rostered and additional lanes where possible, which was dependent on staff availability. AvSec re-rostered staff from discretionary duties to assist where this could be done. Unfortunately, it was not enough to handle the high demand.”
The Aviation Security Service spokesman said the departing flights to North America for the Thanksgiving holiday required more screening time than normal – in part due to passengers having more carry-on luggage to be screened which slowed processing down.
“We will continue to review what has occurred over the last few days including the success or otherwise of any adjustments we have made. Resulting from this review we will continue to work collaboratively with all other airport stakeholders to ensure passenger screening runs as efficiently as possible.”
An Auckland Airport spokesperson said their customer and operations teams were on hand to assist travellers and worked with airlines to identify and fast-track anyone caught in the queue on a flight ready to depart.
“To ensure government border agencies and Aviation Security Service can effectively plan and prepare resources to match expected traveller volumes, Auckland Airport shares flight and passenger data in advance,” the spokesperson said.
“Alongside this, ahead of each day and across the day there are regular check-ins to identify any off-schedule running of aircraft or potential disruptions.
“We can confirm Auckland Airport Emergency Services responded to a request for medical assistance on board UA916, which delayed the flight departure time.”