Queenstown Airport

Queenstown Airport (IATA: ZQN, ICAO: NZQN) is located in Frankton, Otago, New Zealand, and serves the resort town of Queenstown. The airport is 8 km (5.0 mi) from the Queenstown CBD. The airport handled 2.25 million passengers as of 2018[4] making it the fourth busiest airport in New Zealand by passenger traffic. The airport consists of two runways, one of which is paved, and has a single-level terminal building with nine gates.

Queenstown Airport
Airport typePublic
OwnerAuckland Airport Corp, Queenstown Lakes District Council, Shareholders
OperatorQueenstown Airport Corporation Ltd.
ServesQueenstown, Arrowtown
LocationQueenstown, New Zealand
Elevation AMSL357 m / 1,171 ft
Coordinates45°01′16″S 168°44′21″E
Queenstown Airport
Location of Queenstown Airport within New Zealand
Direction Length Surface
m ft
05/23 1,891 6,204 Grooved Bitumen
14/32 890 2,920 Bitumen[1]
Statistics (July 2017 to June 2018)
Passengers total2,140,669[2]
Aircraft movements41,769


Queenstown Airport from a Glenorchy Air aircraft
Queenstown Airport's control tower
Qantas Boeing 737-800 departs Queenstown airport. Passing over Queenstown Hill
Artwork outside the Queenstown Airport
Check in Hall at Queenstown Airport

Queenstown Airport was first licensed to operate in 1935,[5] but it was not until the 1950s that commercial flights became commonplace, particularly commercial ‘flightseeing’ operations to Milford Sound. A regular scenic route between Queenstown and Dunedin was first established by Southern Scenic Air Services Ltd on 17 July 1950.[6] Mount Cook Airline was the pioneer of tourist flights into Queenstown.

In the 1960s, the grass runway was lengthened and regular services from Christchurch began on 6 November 1961 operating DC-3s with three flights a week on a Monday, Wednesday and Friday to Queenstown via Mount Cook and onto Te Anau/Manapouri. Services to other domestic destinations soon followed. Later in 14 October 1968, HS-748 aircraft were used which could carry between 42 and 58 passengers.[7]

A mainstay of the Milford route was the Britten Norman Islander which began service in September 1970. They were used extensively on the flights to Milford Sound as well as on the Queenstown-Te Anau and Queenstown-Alexandra-Dunedin routes.

Ansett New Zealand in 1989 starts the first jet aircraft flights (BAe 146 Whisper Jet) into Queenstown Airport. Air New Zealand followed in 1992 with Boeing 737-200 aircraft.

In 1995, Air New Zealand landed Queenstown Airport’s first trans-Tasman flight from Sydney and more flights quickly followed, mainly bringing skiers during the winter. From then on, an almost continuous expansion programme began in order to cater for passenger and airline demand.

The next major milestone was in 2004, when Qantas pioneered RNP AR (Required Navigational Performance, Authorisation Required) operations technology to Queenstown. The precision of the technology significantly improved service reliability which was a considerable benefit to the local community and to visitors.

Since then, passenger growth has been phenomenal and Queenstown Airport is now New Zealand’s fourth busiest airport and one of Australasia’s fastest growing airports. It serves as the direct domestic and international gateway to the lower South Island, providing easy accessibility to Queenstown. The airport even has its own claim to fame as a visitor attraction, being voted ‘World’s Most Scenic Airport Landing’ in 2015 by international private jet booking service PrivateFly.[8]

RNP AR flight procedures introduced by Airways New Zealand in 2012, allowed jet aircraft to fly very precise paths in a range of weather conditions, improving airspace capacity and operational efficiency. The advanced navigation technology put in place has been a key enabler for the airport to pursue evening (after-dark) flights.

In May 2014, both New Zealand's Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) and Australia's Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) approved Queenstown Airport's foundation safety case for after-dark flights, contingent on the some additional infrastructure and onboard technology being implemented.

In June 2015, the airport launched its new international terminal and began the rollout of its next initiative - to introduce evening flights by winter 2016. Evening flights will allow the airport to further expand its capacity without building additional terminal infrastructure in the short term and take advantage of its full consented operational hours between 06:00 and 22:00, moving from an approximate 8-hour operating window during the winter peak to a 16-hour operating window. This will spread the peak times more evenly, unlock more opportunities for passengers to access the region, provide locals with more travel options and create job opportunities for the community.


Queenstown Airport has a single terminal which handles both international and domestic flights. It has been expanded several times since the 1990s to cope with the introduction of international flights and the rapid increase in passenger numbers. The terminal consists of a single level and does not utilise jet bridges meaning that all access between the terminal and planes entails walking across the apron. An expansion of the international departures area in 2015 included the construction of a mezzanine level to allow for the possible future provision of jet bridges.[9]


Domestically, Air New Zealand connects Queenstown with Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch while Jetstar Airways operates services to Auckland and Wellington. Auckland is serviced with Airbus A320 aircraft while Wellington and Christchurch are operated by a mix of A320 and ATR 72 aircraft. International flights have grown rapidly over recent years and year-round services operate to Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and the Gold Coast. Four airlines operate to these ports: Air New Zealand, Jetstar Airways, Qantas and Virgin Australia. International flights are operated on Airbus A320 or Boeing 737-800 aircraft. The winter season is a very busy one with over 59 direct flights arriving from East Coast Australia on average per week during the peak winter months.[10]

Queenstown Airport is heavily used for tourist 'flightseeing', especially to Milford Sound and Aoraki Mount Cook, and is New Zealand's busiest helicopter port. Weather permitting, there is substantial daily charter traffic of light aircraft (mostly Britten-Norman Islander, Cessna 206, and Cessna 172) to Milford Sound and Te Anau on sightseeing trips. Air Safaris runs a link service to Lake Tekapo Airport.[11] Private jets are also a growing market, both short and long haul, with aircraft now flying direct from north Asia and the West Coast of the United States. [citation needed]

Airlines and destinations

Air Milford Milford Sound, Te Anau[12]
Air New Zealand Auckland, Brisbane,[13][14] Christchurch, Melbourne, Sydney, Wellington
Glenorchy Air Milford Sound, Stewart Island[15]
Jetstar Auckland, Gold Coast, Melbourne, Sydney, Wellington[16]
Qantas Brisbane, Melbourne[17] Sydney
Virgin Australia Brisbane, Melbourne,[18] Sydney


See source Wikidata query and sources.

Busiest International Routes to and from ZQN (2017)[19]
RankAirportPassengersAnnual changeCarriers
1Sydney315,596 15.8%Air New Zealand, Jetstar, Qantas, Virgin Australia
2Melbourne142,025 8.0%Air New Zealand, Jetstar, Virgin Australia
3Brisbane75,856 6.1%Qantas, Virgin Australia
4Gold Coast47,098 1.6%Jetstar

Further upgrades

In July 2011 newly installed runway lights were turned on for the first time. The lighting upgrade was designed to lower diversion rates at the airport due to low visibility. Queenstown is the last major airport in New Zealand to receive such an upgrade. The $2 million project included 34 transformers, 25 km of airfield lighting cable, 124 lights, and was funded by Airways NZ.[20] Until this upgrade, the airport had only Precision Approach Path Indicators (PAPI) available for pilot aid, so flying was limited to daylight hours.

In April 2012 Queenstown Airport opened its new sealed cross-wind runway on the former grass runway; the cost of this project was $800,000 and took 10 months to complete. Sealing the runway reduced the number of disruptions as well as further improved safety."[21]

After announcing expansion plans in 2010, work began in 2014 and the airport opened its new $17 million international terminal on 23 June 2015. The 4,100sqm expansion to the southern end of the terminal building doubled the size of the airport's international operations and features new and improved facilities, products and services. Key features include two new gate lounges which continue the theme of floor-to-ceiling alpine views, a new-look Duty Free store, a state-of-the-art Customs processing area, expanded airside retail outlets, a third baggage carousel and back-of-house handling areas. The new terminal has a mezzanine level on top to enable aerobridges to be included at a later stage.[22]

In November 2015, Queenstown Airport commenced a $17 million series of major airfield infrastructure improvements designed to pave the way for evening flights in winter 2016 and improve overall safety and efficiency of operations.[23]

Strategic partnership with Auckland Airport

On 8 July 2010, Auckland International Airport Limited, the operator of Auckland Airport, announced it had entered into an agreement to take a 24.99% shareholding in Queenstown Airport Corporation Limited and formed a strategic alliance between the two airports. [citation needed] The shareholding cost NZ$27.7 million, through the issue of new shares. The alliance was expected to generate an extra 176,000 passengers through Queenstown Airport.

Auckland Airport has an option to increase its shareholding in Queenstown Airport to 30-35% at any time up to 30 June 2011, subject to the approval of the Queenstown Lakes District Council. The new share capital would allow Queenstown Airport to fund growth of the airport's operating capacity and to pay regular dividends back to the community via the Queenstown Lakes District Council shareholding.[24][25][needs update]


On 22 June 2010, a late-running Pacific Blue flight to Sydney took off from Queenstown. At the time, the airport had no runway lights, and the airline mandated a departure curfew of 30 minutes before evening civil twilight, allowing enough time for the aircraft to return to the airport in case of an emergency. The Boeing 737-800 took off on a departure requiring a visual segment, after curfew, and in poor weather. Passengers described a distressing takeoff procedure, with the aircraft flying very low above Lake Wakatipu and the surrounding mountain terrain. The take-off was deemed an endangerment to the safety of the 70 passengers and crew aboard by the Civil Aviation Authority.[26][27] Both pilots were suspended over the incident, and in April 2011, the flight's captain was charged under the Civil Aviation Act with unnecessary endangerment. This charge was later reduced to one of a careless use of an aircraft, with a maximum fine of NZ$7,000. [28][29][30] In March 2013, the pilot, Roderick Gunn, was found guilty and fined $5,100.[31]

In another separate incident in June 2010 two airliners were found to have had a high potential to have breached the 1000 foot vertical separation required, according to a report by the New Zealand Transport Accident Investigation Commission. Both were Boeing 737 aircraft, one operated by Qantas Airways and the other by Pacific Blue. The report states that whether the minima was breached was not investigated further because in the circumstances it was clear that the potential for such a breach was high and that alone was a safety issue that needed addressing.[32]

Because of the report and other concerns, Airways New Zealand and the Civil Aviation Authority have changed the procedures at Queenstown Airport. Flight paths have been altered for large passenger aircraft along with the innovative use of multilateration air traffic management which both organizations say will ensure this situation is unlikely to be repeated.[33]

See also


  1. "News/Queenstown Airport". Retrieved 11 May 2014.
  2. "ZQN News Monthly traffic update". Queenstown airport. Retrieved 17 July 2018.
  3. News / Queenstown Airport Archived 15 September 2012 at the Wayback Machine. Queenstownairport.com. Retrieved on 2013-07-16.
  4. "News" (PDF). www.queenstownairport.co.nz.
  5. "Airport no stranger to debate in community". ODT. Retrieved 25 August 2020.
  6. "Southern Scenic and NAC". 3rd Level NZ. Archived from the original on 11 April 2017. Retrieved 24 March 2017.
  7. "Queenstown Airport time line". Otago Daily times. 12 July 2010. Retrieved 22 March 2017.
  8. "Queenstown is voted world's best runway view 2015". PrivateFly.com. Archived from the original on 1 July 2015. Retrieved 17 May 2015.
  9. "New international terminal opens". Queenstown Airport. Archived from the original on 15 August 2017. Retrieved 15 August 2017.
  10. "Flight arrivals information for Queenstown Airport". www.queenstownairport.co.nz. Archived from the original on 21 April 2015. Retrieved 9 April 2015.
  11. "Lake Tekapo Link: Christchurch-Tekapo-Queenstown". Archived from the original on 12 May 2015. Retrieved 9 April 2015.
  12. "Air Milford to offer Queenstown-Te Anau flights". 3rd Level New Zealand Blog. Archived from the original on 20 December 2016. Retrieved 9 December 2016.
  13. "Air New Zealand Trans-Tasman service changes in NW18". Archived from the original on 21 July 2018. Retrieved 2 September 2018.
  14. "Air New Zealand announces new Trans-Tasman routes". Archived from the original on 9 April 2018. Retrieved 9 April 2018.
  15. https://www.glenorchyair.co.nz/destinations/stewart-island/stewart-island-fly-explore-fly/
  16. "Sale finished - Jetstar". www.jetstar.com.
  17. "Qantas launches another Queenstown service with three flights per week from Melbourne". Stuff.co.nz. 26 February 2019. Archived from the original on 26 February 2019. Retrieved 26 February 2019.
  18. "Virgin Australia launches Queenstown, Wellington flights". Archived from the original on 24 April 2018. Retrieved 16 April 2018.
  19. "Infoshare — International Travel and Migration - ITM — Table: Total passenger movements by NZ port and selected closest overseas ports (Annual-Dec)al-Dec)". Statistics New Zealand. Archived from the original on 19 May 2019. Retrieved 14 May 2018.
  20. Business / Queenstown Airport Archived 28 March 2012 at the Wayback Machine. Queenstownairport.com. Retrieved on 2013-07-16.
  21. Business / Queenstown Airport Archived 6 February 2012 at the Wayback Machine. Queenstownairport.co.nz. Retrieved on 2013-07-16.
  22. "New Queenstown Airport international terminal opens". Scoop. 23 June 2015. Archived from the original on 5 July 2015. Retrieved 5 July 2015.
  23. "Queenstown Airport begins runway, lighting upgrades". Australian Aviation. Archived from the original on 8 December 2015. Retrieved 4 November 2015.
  24. "Queenstown Lakes District set to benefit from an alliance between Queenstown and Auckland Airport: Media & downloads of Queenstown Airport". 8 July 2010. Retrieved 8 July 2010.
  25. "Auckland Airport and Queenstown Airport strategic alliance - Auckland Airport". 8 July 2010. Archived from the original on 23 December 2010. Retrieved 8 July 2010.
  26. "Pacific Blue admits takeoff after deadline". Television New Zealand. 27 July 2010. Archived from the original on 30 July 2010. Retrieved 5 May 2011.
  27. "Pacific Blue flight from Queenstown ignored rules". Stuff.co.nz. The Southland Times. 27 July 2010. Archived from the original on 30 July 2010. Retrieved 5 May 2011.
  28. "CAA lays charges in Queenstown case". Civil Aviation Authority of New Zealand. 14 April 2011. Archived from the original on 29 April 2011. Retrieved 5 May 2011.
  29. "Pilot to face court after 'dangerous' takeoff". Stuff.co.nz. The Southland Times. 14 April 2011. Archived from the original on 5 May 2011. Retrieved 5 May 2011.
  30. "Pacific Blue pilot elects trial by jury for 'late takeoff'". Stuff.co.nz. The Southland Times. 9 August 2011. Archived from the original on 25 October 2012. Retrieved 27 August 2011.
  31. https://www.amclegal.co.nz/page/256449
  32. "Aviation inquiry 10-007: Boeing 737-800, ZK-PBF and Boeing 737-800, VH-VXU, airspace incident, near Queenstown Aerodrome, 20 June 2010". www.taic.org.nz. Transport Accident Investigation Commission. Archived from the original on 30 October 2015. Retrieved 31 August 2019.
  33. "Queenstown Airport Mlat - photo's". www.airways.co.nz. Airways New Zealand. August 2012. Archived from the original on 22 May 2013. Retrieved 3 June 2013.