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An Air New Zealand 777-200 in Los Angeles (Photo: AirlineGeeks | William Derrickson)

Auckland Airport Completes Runway Maintenance Amid Pandemic

Auckland Airport has finished its runway maintenance project, allowing the runway to return to its full length, the airport said in a press release. Earlier this year, the airport was forced to close its runway twice after faults appeared. The incidents took place on Jan. 24 and Feb. 6, and the airport was closed for 43 and 68 minutes respectively.

Auckland Airport shortened its runway by 1.1 km during the construction and carried implemented a displaced threshold. According to the airport, the method could result in the need for airlines to reduce the weights of their aircraft.

The maintenance project was originally planned to be started at a later date, but the significant reduction in flights amid the coronavirus pandemic provided an opportunity to bring the maintenance forward.

According to the airport, some projects have been suspended in response to the coronavirus, but “Auckland Airport has remained committed to completing a number of key infrastructure projects focused on essential safety and asset maintenance, including runway pavement replacement.”

“As challenging as COVID-19 has been for those of us in aviation, the downturn provided an opportunity to bring forward this important 26 million [New Zealand dollar] ($17 million) project,” Andre Lovatt, Auckland Airport’s General Manager Infrastructure, said in the press release.

Following the completion of the runway project, Auckland Airport was considering another smaller-scale project at the western end of the runway.

“Just as with the project at the eastern end, this is work we’ve already planned and budgeted for,” said Lovatt. “COVID-19 gives us a chance to bring that work forward to take advantage of the downturn in aviation traffic and minimize disruption for airlines.

New Zealand has successfully eradicated COVID-19, and the country lifted its travel restriction on May 13. The airport revealed passenger numbers have been skyrocketed to 231,600 in June, but compared with the same time last year, the volume was still depressed by 85%.

According to the airport, 89% of passengers were domestic travelers. Christchurch became Kiwi’s favorite destination, and Auckland-Christchurch was the most popular route in the country with 10 flights a day. In addition, domestic travel demand remained at 60% of last year’s. Auckland Airport also revealed it was the busiest airport in June compared with Australia, Singapore and Hong Kong’s airports.

“While we’re on the right track and it’s encouraging to see people returning to travel, we still have a long way to go,” Scott Tasker, Auckland Airport’s General Manager Aeronautical Commercial said.

However, the pandemic is far from over in New Zealand, as the coronavirus resurfaced after 100 days of no local transmission in the country. As a result, Air New Zealand has faced significantly reduced travel demand again recently.

In the meantime, Air New Zealand has urged passengers on flights departing Auckland need to wear face masks, and food and beverage services on domestic flights will be suspended. Meanwhile, empty seats will be allocated between passengers traveling alone.

Will Lee
Will Lee
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