Auckland Airport launches immediate review into runway closures as pressure mounts

Auckland Airport launches immediate review into runway closures as pressure mounts.
Satellite photo of Auckland Airport. Photo credit: Getty

Auckland Airport has announced it is launching an immediate formal review into the recent runway closures that have seen planes diverted and passenger travel plans scuppered.

It comes as an international pilot group with over 100,000 members sent out a bulletin warning about the airport's runway issues, claiming parts of the runway are deteriorating faster than can be kept up with by those responsible for maintenance.

Auckland Airport has apologised for the inconvenience caused to people affected by the runway issues, but insists the closures had to happen for safety reasons.

"While the two recent closures were unrelated, Auckland Airport recognises they have occurred in close succession with an impact on travellers and our airline partners," the airport said in a statement released on Friday. 

"Auckland Airport has announced it will be conducting an immediate formal review into these incidents to understand what occurred, and the speed of our response to reopen the runway yesterday. The review will be completed over the next three weeks." 

The airport's announcement comes hours after a safety bulletin was published on the website of the International Federation of Air Line Pilots' Associations (IFALPA), a worldwide association of national pilots' associations.

"The Auckland Airport runway 23L/05R has been deteriorating over the past few years. The maintenance required to keep the runway surface in a usable condition has increased significantly, however, this has not kept up with the rate at which the runway is deteriorating," the IFALPA bulletin warns.

"Auckland Airport management are planning large scale works for the runway, including replacement of the concrete slabs near the touchdown zones of both 23L and 05R. However, this work will not begin until later this year and will take some months to complete."

The notice, which details the recent runway closures, also advises pilots about extra precautions to consider if they plan on landing at the airport.

"As these runway closures are not planned and are unable to be forecast, it is suggested that pilots should always carry a technical alternate for Auckland. Alternatively, consider carrying a minimum of 20 minutes extra holding fuel for arrival at Auckland."

Auckland Airport says its existing maintenance schedule, including the annual slab replacement programme, may be changed based on the results of the immediate formal review.