The great leap backwards: Auckland airport

My apologies that this blog has lain fallow for so long; life gets in the way of good writing far more than the truth gets in the way of a good story I am afraid. Part of the reason why I have been conspicuously absent, however, has been a trip home to New Zealand, both to spend Christmas with my family, and to get on top of a number of things that needed to be taken care of for my wedding.

Of course, because user experience is “what I do” I reflected on the poor user experience that the modern traveller has come to accept as the norm on a number of occasions (warning: don’t do this, being angry at how simple it would be to make things better will only make the way you feel now worse). Much of that poor experience has to do with standing in line — to check in, to clear customs, to clear security, to get on the plane, to get off the plane, to clear customs, to collect your bags, to clear biosecurity (New Zealand and Australia, at least)… It’s fairly endless, and in combination with security restrictions (and the people who don’t follow them) is the main reason why the minimum check-in time for New Zealand to Australia is now exceeding the flight time in some cases (having said that, it seems in most cases that if you show up late they come looking for you anyway — “anyone for the flight to Nadi?”).

Of course, some of these lines can be reduced or eliminated by self-service (and this is happening in some cases, notably with self-check-in), but I’m not going to talk about that. What I am going to talk about is the Auckland airport departure fee.

When you leave New Zealand via Auckland Airport, there is a $25 NZ departure fee that is payable at the airport. I’m not complaining about the fee itself, which is relatively low (departure fees from most Australian airports are around the $200 mark, but since they are collected by the airlines they are hidden in the cost of your ticket). However, paying the fee is an annoying step in the process of exiting Auckland Airport, which is the major airport in New Zealand. The real problem, though, is that the Auckland Airport management team have just made the decision to allow Travelex to collect the fee, when it used to be collected by the Bank of New Zealand. This means that travellers can no longer pay their departure fee at an ATM, the way they used to, but must now line up for yet another thing leaving the airport — it might mean the airport gets a few cents more of the fee, but it is significantly inconvenient for every single passenger (in a way that raising the fee might not have been).

Sadly, much like Microsoft and personal computing, Auckland Airport has a near-monopoly on the New Zealand international travel market, and so the market has little choice but to bear this great leap backwards in user experience. Still, though, I am seriously thinking about selling my shares in Auckland Airport, if only I can figure out how to do it…


1 Response to “The great leap backwards: Auckland airport”

  1. 1 Sara Jervis Friday, February 8, 2008 at 9:35 am


    By the time you read this you will be MARRIED. My congratulations to you and Mike.

    I use public transport on a semi-regular basis. I travel to Hamilton, Vic. by train and bus, sometimes via Warrnambool; I have travelled to Adelaide by train and bus; I travel (more than occasionally) to work by tram or train.
    And I have travelled by plane – to Adelaide, to London, NY, KL, NZ, etc.

    My way with any frustration whatsoever, and this includes 10 hour delays in LA, luggage left at terminal X but land in terminal Y,


    1. Have book + another one or two for backup. I save the books I desire to read with all my heart, if I have a trip coming up. I would even read the book in the queue to pay the departure fee.

    2. Write short stories in my head about every thing I see, especially people at airports or on trams or waiting at bus or train stops in the middle of the country at 3:00 am. Who are they, what are they doing, is that girl going off to college for the first time, is that man seeking work away from his family, did that couple emigrate from the Ukraine and why?

    I may have seen you and Mike and wondered if you were on your way to your wedding.

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