Airport’s best ever month

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Nelson Airport has recorded its busiest month ever, with a whopping 22 per cent increase on passenger numbers from the same time last year.

That saw 78,509 people either fly in or out of the airport during January and follows on from a record December the month before. But it wasn’t the only good news the airport announced this week, 2015 was also a record year, with 778,384 passengers passing through the airport.

It beat 2014 by more than 10,000 passengers.

Three new airlines to the region is the major reason for the huge jump in passenger numbers, but it is putting pressure on the airport’s infrastructure.

Plans for a new airport terminal are progressing well for a 2018 opening, but Nelson Airport manager Rob Evans says they couldn’t wait that long for a car park upgrade due to the terminal’s heavy use.

“The front of the terminal is really quite dangerous at the moment. There’s a lot of mixed traffic going on, with people trying to jostle around. There’s a high volume of people trying to cross the crossing to the short term car parking and it’s actually becoming a real health and safety issue.”

So the current short term parking will become more space for rental cars, where demand has dramatically jumped. The short term parking will move to a section of the current long term parking section.

A dedicated zone for public drop offs – separate to where taxis and shuttles pick up – will be created.

Rob says the other major factor for the change was the “outdated” ticket system.

“It’s constantly breaking down and it’s become untenable for us. It already well past its useful life, it’s a constant source of frustration and complaints by customers.”

He says the new ticketing system is “top of the range” and will be recycled when the new terminal is built.

Plans for that new terminal are progressing well, says Rob, with the expecting opening date still set at September 2018.

The new terminal will be a complete rebuild and see the car parks jump from the current 650 to 1200. Rob says the huge increase in passengers this summer highlights the need for a new terminal.

“Even before this summer the new terminal was certainly on the radar and it is a project that certainly needs to be done. The growth we’ve had this summer has accentuated that need.”

The change in car parking will also see a change in the prices. For those parking for a week or more the rates will drop but one hour parking rates will jump from $1 to $1.50.