Auckland Airport still closed, no flights until at least noon

SARAH CROUCH/SUPPLIED The Auckland airport was flooded on Friday night. People could be seen walking around in almost knee-deep water.

Auckland International Airport remains closed due to flooding, after heavy rain hit the super city on Friday night.

There will be no flights into or out of Auckland until noon on Saturday at the earliest, the airport said in a statement overnight.

The Auckland region is under a state of local emergency.

Information on when flights will go ahead will be provided when there is clarity around the operation of the domestic and international terminals.

More than 200 passengers due to fly to Sydney at 6.15pm on Friday were kept on a plane overnight, as they had already boarded when the flight was cancelled.

Passenger Mark Andrews said they were kept on the plane until 1.45am. They were treated as if they were flying anyway, with crew providing meals and turning the lights off so people could sleep.

Those in business class were treated to champagne.

Only half of the plane’s toilets were working, Andrews said.

“They [the crew] were worried about that.”

He added that the vibes on the plane were good, with passengers chatting to one another and sharing charging cables.

The passengers were let back into the airport at 1.45am as the plane was running out of water.

Inside the airport it was like “zombieland”, Andrews said, with about 1000 displaced people walking around or sleeping on the floor. Staff working in the duty-free area were also stuck in the airport.

No one could leave as the downstairs terminals were flooded. It was too flooded outside the terminal for cars or buses to approach.

Potato chips and cookies were given to passengers, but ran out quickly. Blankets that were promised to passengers were not handed out until 5am.

“A lot of people were cold.”

Andrews said he believed the airport needed to have a better plan for when events like this happen, adding that it had a duty to care for its patrons.

Customers have been advised to visit the Air New Zealand travel alerts page for updates.

People ticketed to travel between now and January 30 for flights to, through and from Auckland have two options, the airport said overnight. They can choose to hold the value of their fare in credit for 12 months, from the time they request a credit. Alternatively, those booked to travel on affected flights can transfer their travel to another date or destination up to and including Monday, February 6.

The airport’s closure came hours after a landing plane hit and damaged several runway lights, causing major delays to flights.

A statement from the airport earlier on Friday said the damage to the runway lights was “impacting” international departures and large domestic flights.

The lights were fixed sometime before 9:30pm but by then wide-spread flooding in the terminal forced the closure.

Roads around the airport were also hit by the flooding and heavy rain, causing traffic delays.

Earlier, Air New Zealand’s chief operational and safety officer David Morgan said a flight from Melbourne “made contact” with the runway lights.

He said the plane was able to taxi to the gate and passengers and crew disembarked “as normal”.

”In line with the airline’s standard operating procedures, we have alerted the Civil Aviation Authority.”

Wellington local Michael was on a plane due to take off from Auckland Airport at 5pm when the heavy rain began.

All passengers had to go back to the lounge, where they were told the airport was being evacuated completely.

Now outside the airport, Michael was told he would have to wait at least 24 hours until he could fly on to Wellington. He had already flown from Dublin.

“It’s like a war zone here. They’ve started handing out water, people are laying their coats on the ground to try and get some sleep. It’s chaos,” he said on Friday night.

He said there was only one member of Air New Zealand staff available to help with re-booking flights.

Rain had begun to leak through the ceiling, drenching bags that had yet to be collected.

“There are elderly people in wheelchairs who have been left to evacuate themselves. We need help, please.”

Grant Baber and his family were on their way home to Palmerston North when Air New Zealand cancelled two flights.

The family of five will now spend a night with a cousin.

“There’s water inch-deep on the tarmac.”

Baber said there were also puddles on the floor, inside the terminal building.

“Is this a super city? I’m not feeling the super.”

He said at about 6:30pm the line outside Air New Zealand to rebook flights was about 500m long, but it didn’t appear there were any more flights.

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