CAA responds to claims increased passenger fees could push airlines out of New Zealand

Airport and infrastructure fees make up 23 percent of an airfare.
Airport and infrastructure fees make up 23 percent of an airfare. Photo credit: Getty Images

The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has responded to claims that increased fees charged to airlines could be forcing them out of the New Zealand market.

The agency's chief executive officer says the country's aviation security infrastructure is going through a costly, crucial upgrade and the cost to passengers is "not a lot of money in the scheme of things", given the level of security provided in return.

On Tuesday the Board of Airline Representatives (BARNZ) warned that proposed cost increases for airlines landing in Aotearoa as well as current reduced demand may have a double-whammy effect on the industry.

BARNZ executive director Justin Tighe-Umbers said he didn't think "passengers realise how much of their air ticket is made up of fees and levies".

"In the past decade border agency costs in NZ have gone up around 89 percent and airports' up 16 percent," Tighe-Umbers said.

In a statement to Newshub, CAA boss Graeme Harris outlined the period of investing and updating infrastructure that aviation security service Avsec is going through to make air travel even safer.

"This includes the introduction of Advanced Imaging Technology, commonly known as body scanners, which can detect prohibited items such as ceramic knives, as well as the replacement of baggage x-ray machines," Harris said.

Avsec reviewed its security levy for passengers in 2018 and decided to increase the international passenger levy from its current level of $10.01 to $15.09 incrementally until July 2021.

Harris said passenger levies fluctuate depending on the level of funding needed for Avsec to carry out its duties.

"From 2007 to 2009 the international passenger levy was set at $15.00 per passenger and from 2013 to 2015 it was at a reduced level of $11.98."

He said the levy is not a lot of money in the scheme of things, considering the world class aviation security service being provided.

"In 2021, the Avsec levy for international passengers will still cost less than the price of a single checked-in bag for a trans-Tasman flight."

What does the levy pay for?

  • Avsec employs 1000 aviation security officers and more than 1200 staff in total, spread across six airports
  • More than 14 million passengers are processed through Avsec screening points each year
  • Last year Avsec officers screened more than 47 million bags
  • The Avsec team includes 35 explosive detector dogs, which are experts at detecting explosive materials and are regularly called on to support the police and defence force