Parking squeeze at Queenstown airport sees some private jets turned away
Lack of space at Queenstown airport has seen several private jets turned away already this summer and a solution is some years away.
Air Center One services private jets landing at the resort town and expects 15 to arrive in January.
Chief executive Robin Leach said that with the larger size of today's corporate jets and increased airline traffic, they had run out of parking spaces on several occasions already this summer.
In some cases private jets had to drop their passengers and relocate to another airport, or the did not come at all and that was a great loss to the tourism industry.
"The thing with these folk is that their spend per head is much more than a lot of people getting off a cheap flight."
Getting air crew accommodation in Queenstown at short notice was also difficult this summer, but having enough room for aircraft was a bigger issue, Leach said.
"Realistically we need to be able to cope with eight or nine [private] jets at the peak period.
"That was the maximum we had the Christmas before last, but at that time there was not the increase in airline traffic.
"Smaller corporate jets don't operate here any more. Most of these are the larger Gulf Stream 650 type of aircraft, which are as big as Air Buses and 737s that operate down there, so that complicates the parking issue because they occupy a bit of space."
They juggled parking spots as best they could but some days they simply had to say "sorry mate, it just can't be done."
Leach said Queenstown airport was doing the best it could under the circumstances, but it was likely to be another four years at least before the issue was resolved.
Queenstown airport's general manager operations and safety Michael Clay said while it was disappointing having to turn private jets away, this did not happen often.
The airport had space for up to six private jets on the airfield depending on their size and did not currently have enough available land to extend the apron to cater for what was a very seasonal demand.
"We do have plans to increase the private jet space during the medium to long term as part of Queenstown Airport's 30 year master plan process which is currently underway and due for release in the New Year," he said.