Airways - Making your world possible

Managing the holiday travel peak

radar screen

Christmas and the New Year period is without a doubt the peak time for air travel in New Zealand. Auckland Airport, our largest airport, is expecting around 37,500 passengers to pass through the international terminal on each of its ten busiest days this December and January.

No matter where travellers are coming from or going to, they’ll no doubt be wishing for a smooth journey through the airport, onto their plane and to arrive comfortably and safely at their destination.  

Auckland Airport handles the majority of the country’s international air traffic – it recently announced it is expecting around 162 international flights to arrive and depart daily during the summer peak. Across New Zealand, our controllers will be directing up to 275 international flights daily – that’s 16 per cent more than we would manage on an average day. There will also be 1,200 domestic flights operating daily up and down the country. 

With so many people taking to the skies, what are we doing to help to make sure everyone gets away on their holidays, and home again, as smoothly as possible? 

We start early and plan, making sure our staff rostering will cater to the demand of a 24-hour per day operation. While you’re eating your Christmas dinner, or putting some lamb on the barbie, we'll have extra controllers dotted around the country for those still travelling. There will be more than 200 air traffic control and technical staff at work on Christmas Day. 

On peak days, controllers at New Zealand’s busiest airports will be handling up to 50 flights every hour. The pace certainly keeps them on their toes, but our controllers are all experienced in handling peak traffic. Visitors are often quite surprised at how calm the tower seems, even when it’s hectic. 

We also work closely with the airport and airlines during the planning phase to make sure we’re taking all requirements into consideration.

Technologies including our flow management tools come into play to help manage traffic. 

Collaborative Arrivals Manager (CAM) is an advanced aircraft sequencing technology that shares real-time information between airlines, airports and Airways. Aircraft departing major airports are held on the ground with engines off until they can be given an optimum departure slot that allows them the most uninterrupted and efficient route to their destination. Once they’re in the air, the system allows flights to be reshuffled if the situation changes. This helps to reduce the need to flights to hold in the air waiting to land. 

By controlling traffic departures, measuring flights to the second and altering flight speeds, we can avoid traffic jams at the other end. At such a busy time of year, when the knock-on effects of one delay can ripple on well after one particular flight’s departure, these tools play a big role in helping to keep things running smoothly. The system also helps to make air travel more sustainable.  Every year flow management is behind 11,500 tonnes of fuel savings for airlines in New Zealand skies, which equates to 37,000 tonnes of C02 emissions saved. 

Whether they’re heading home or away, thousands of travellers will be taking flight over the coming weeks. We’re glad to be playing our part in helping to get them where they want to be as a safely and as easily as possible.