Auckland Airport bus operator SkyBus opening Queen St store
The new owner of Auckland's airport bus service is opening a store in the downtown area of the city, with plans to install flight check-in kiosks.
Five months ago Melbourne bus operator SkyBus bought what used to be Airbus Express - the bus service transporting travellers to and from Auckland International Airport to the CBD.
After taking over the business and its fleet of 15 buses, SkyBus refurbished existing vehicles, introduced new ones, installed free wifi and introduced a new ticketing app allowing passengers to purchase tickets and board using heir mobile device.
Frequency increased too, with buses departing every 10 minutes at peak times.
SkyBus director Michael Sewards said the company, which is majority owned by a Canadian pension fund, had already spent more than $10 million on improvements.
"What we looked to do from day one was really ramp up the customer experience," Sewards said.
By the end of the year a further $8.8m will be spent.
"It's almost re-calibrating the business."
He would not disclose what the business was bought for.
A new SkyBus store is opening opposite Auckland Town hall in Queen Street later this month.
Sewards said SkyBus was working with airlines to introduce boarding pass and bag tag ticketing kiosks.
"We'll be creating an airport gateway that will enable passenger to start their journey."
Sewards said the technology would be introduced to the store within a few months of opening.
Jetstar spokesman Phil Boeyen said while it had been approached by SkyBus it had no plans to install a kiosk at the store.
However, it was always interested in exploring new ideas that can improve customer experience, he said.
Air New Zealand spokeswoman Kelly Kilgour said it was also constantly looking at ways to enhance its customer experience.
She did not say whether Air NZ was exploring the option of setting up a ticket kiosk at SkyBus' Queen St store.
The airline offers check-in kiosks at some domestic parking facilities for domestic travel.
Auckland Airport retail and commercial general manager Richard Barker said the airport supported SkyBus' plans to set up airline kiosks at its Queen St store.
"Being able to check in before you get to the airport is convenient for passengers and something we would support," Barker said.
SkyBus charges $16 for a single one way airport fare. It also offered a $5 each way special fee for staff that work at the airport precinct.
Sewards said a complimentary hotel shuttle service would also be offered from the store.
SkyBus has already taken delivery of six new buses and will take delivery of six more in September, with up to eight older vehicles being moved out of the fleet.
The goal was to take the fleet to 20 by the end of the year and grow the fleet to 25 in 2017.
The company employs 84 staff in New Zealand including 15 concierges - customer service staff who meet and greet people travelling with SkyBus and provide information about directions, hotels, attractions and public transport.
Auckland is SkyBus' first foray outside of Melbourne since the company started in 1978.
In Melbourne it has a fleet of 70 vehicles with an average age of one year.
In Auckland SkyBus is increasing patronage every month by an average of 14.5 per cent.
The previous owners were transporting about 750,000 passengers a year.
"That 750,000 is clearly a number we want to grow and grow very quickly."
Sewards said the company was aiming to attract 7 to 10 per cent of passengers travelling to and from Auckland Airport, which had 8.5 million passengers movements in the year to February, not including transit.