Queenstown Airport

Coordinates: 45°01′16″S 168°44′21″E / 45.02111°S 168.73917°E / -45.02111; 168.73917
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Queenstown Airport
Airport typePublic
OwnerAuckland Airport Corp, Queenstown Lakes District Council, Shareholders
OperatorQueenstown Airport Corporation Ltd.
ServesQueenstown, Arrowtown
LocationQueenstown, New Zealand
Elevation AMSL357 m / 1,171 ft
Coordinates45°01′16″S 168°44′21″E / 45.02111°S 168.73917°E / -45.02111; 168.73917
Queenstown Airport is located in New Zealand
Queenstown Airport
Queenstown Airport
Location of Queenstown Airport within New Zealand
Direction Length Surface
m ft
05/23 1,777 5,830 Grooved Bitumen
14/32 720 2,362 Bitumen
Statistics (2022)
Passengers total1,460,034[1]
Aircraft movements10,101[2]

Queenstown International Airport (IATA: ZQN, ICAO: NZQN) is an international airport located in Frankton, Otago, New Zealand, which serves the resort town of Queenstown. The airport handled 2.25 million passengers as of 2018[3] making it the fourth busiest airport in New Zealand by passenger traffic. The airport is known for its scenery and challenging approach to land due to the nearby high terrain.[4]


Queenstown Airport from a Glenorchy Air aircraft
Queenstown Airport's control tower
Artwork outside the Queenstown Airport
Inside Queenstown Airport.

Queenstown Airport was first licensed to operate in 1935,[5] but it was not until the 1950s that commercial flights became commonplace, particularly commercial sightseeing operations to Milford Sound.

A regular scenic route between Queenstown and Dunedin was first established by Southern Scenic Air Services Ltd on 17 July 1950.[6] In the 1960s, the original grass runway was lengthened. Mount Cook Airline was the pioneer of tourist flights into Queenstown. Regular services from Christchurch began on 6 November 1961, operating DC-3s with three flights a week on a Monday, Wednesday, and Friday to Queenstown via Mount Cook and onto Te Anau-Manapouri.[7]

Ansett New Zealand introduced the first jet aircraft flights into Queenstown Airport in 1989 using British Aerospace 146 aircraft.

In 1995, Air New Zealand began operating Queenstown Airport's first trans-Tasman flight from Sydney. Since this, an almost continuous expansion programme began to cater to passenger and airline demand.

In 2010, runway lighting was installed to enhance low-visibilty operations during daytime. In 2012, the airspace around Queenstown was redesigned to allow for Required Navigation Performance, Authorisation Required (RNP AR) operations.[8] In April 2012, Queenstown Airport opened its new sealed cross-wind runway on the former grass runway; the cost of this project was $800,000 and took 10 months to complete. Sealing the runway reduced the number of disruptions as well as further improved safety."[9]

After announcing plans to expand the airport in 2010, work began in 2014 to extend the international terminal. On 23 June 2015, the new $17 million international terminal was opened. The 4,100sqm expansion to the southern end of the terminal building doubled the size of the airport's international operations, and brought a new mezzanine level on top to enable airbridges to be built at a later stage.[10]

In November 2015, Queenstown Airport commenced a $17 million series of major airfield infrastructure improvements designed to improve operations for evening flights in winter 2016 and improve overall safety and efficiency of operations.[11]

In June 2015, the airport launched its new international terminal.[12]

In May 2014, New Zealand's Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) and Australia's Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) approved Queenstown Airport's foundation safety case for after-dark flights, reliant on some additional infrastructure, including upgraded runway lights and widening the main runway to 45 metres.[8][13] On 4 May 2016, the airport's runway lights were officially switched on by transport minister Simon Bridges. The runway lighting allowed the airport to extend operations beyond sunset to its 10:00 pm noise abatement curfew. The first after-dark flight was a Jetstar flight from Melbourne on 24 June 2016.[14]

The airport was voted 'World's Most Scenic Airport Landing' in 2015 by international private jet booking service PrivateFly.[15]


Queenstown Airport has a single terminal that handles both international and domestic flights. It has been expanded several times since the 1990s to cope with the introduction of international flights and the rapid increase in passenger numbers. The terminal consists of a single level with nine gates. The terminal does not utilise jet bridges, however an expansion of the international departures area in 2015 included the construction of a mezzanine level to allow for the possible future provision of jet bridges.[16]


Air New Zealand currently operate domestic flights to Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch, while Jetstar operates domestic services to Auckland and Wellington. Air Safaris currently operate a link service to Lake Tekapo airport.[17]

International services have increased over recent years with services to Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, and the Gold Coast operated by Air New Zealand, Jetstar, Qantas and Virgin Australia.

Queenstown Airport is also used for sightseeing flights, especially to Milford Sound and Aoraki Mount Cook.

Airlines and destinations[edit]

Air Milford Milford Sound, Te Anau[18]
Air New Zealand[citation needed] Auckland, Christchurch, Melbourne, Sydney, Wellington
Glenorchy Air Milford Sound, Stewart Island[19]
Jetstar Auckland, Gold Coast, Melbourne, Sydney, Wellington[20]
Qantas Brisbane, Melbourne,[21] Sydney
Virgin Australia Brisbane, Melbourne, Sydney[22]


Annual passenger traffic at ZQN airport. See Wikidata query.
Busiest international routes to and from ZQN (2023)[23]
Rank Airport Passengers
1 Sydney 377,215
2 Melbourne 250,185
3 Brisbane 133,189
4 Gold Coast 51,820

Strategic partnership with Auckland Airport[edit]

On 8 July 2010, Auckland International Airport Limited, the operator of Auckland Airport, announced it had agreed to take a 24.99% shareholding in Queenstown Airport Corporation Limited and formed a strategic alliance between the two airports.[24] The alliance was expected to generate an extra 176,000 passengers annually through Queenstown Airport.


On 22 June 2010, a Pacific Blue flight to Sydney departed from Queenstown. At the time, the airport had no runway lights, so the airline mandated that departure occur at least 30 minutes before evening civil twilight, allowing enough time for the aircraft to return to the airport case of an emergency. The Boeing 737–800 took off on a departure requiring a visual segment, after the departure time limit and in poor weather conditions. Passengers described a distressing take-off procedure, with the aircraft flying at a low altitude above Lake Wakatipu and the surrounding mountain terrain. The take-off was deemed an endangerment to the safety of the 70 passengers and crew aboard by the Civil Aviation Authority.[25][26] Both pilots were suspended over the incident, and in April 2011, the flight's captain was charged under the Civil Aviation Act with unnecessary endangerment. This charge was later reduced to one of a careless use of an aircraft, with a maximum fine of NZ$7,000.[27][28][29] In March 2013, the pilot, Roderick Gunn, was found guilty and fined $5,100.[30]

In another separate incident in June 2010, two airliners were found to have had a high potential to have breached the 1000 foot vertical separation required, according to a report by the New Zealand Transport Accident Investigation Commission. Both were Boeing 737 aircraft, one operated by Qantas and the other by Pacific Blue. The report states that whether the minima was breached was not investigated further because in the circumstances it was clear that the potential for such a breach was high and that alone was a safety issue that needed addressing.[31] Because of the report and other concerns, Airways New Zealand and the Civil Aviation Authority have changed the procedures at Queenstown Airport. Flight paths have been altered for large passenger aircraft along with the use of multilateration air traffic management which both organisations say will ensure this situation is unlikely to be repeated.[32]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Passengers – Queenstown Airport (2022)". Retrieved 7 March 2023.
  2. ^ "Scheduled Aircraft Movements – Queenstown Airport (2022)". Retrieved 7 March 2023.
  3. ^ "News" (PDF). queenstownairport.co.nz.
  4. ^ "The challenge of landing at Queenstown Airport". Australian Aviation. Retrieved 14 September 2022.
  5. ^ "Airport no stranger to debate in community". ODT. Retrieved 25 August 2020.
  6. ^ "Southern Scenic and NAC". 3rd Level NZ. 22 August 2010. Archived from the original on 11 April 2017. Retrieved 24 March 2017.
  7. ^ "Queenstown Airport time line". Otago Daily times. 12 July 2010. Retrieved 22 March 2017.
  8. ^ a b "Lighting up the dark" (PDF). International Airport Review. 20 (3): 36–39. 2016.
  9. ^ Business / Queenstown Airport Archived 6 February 2012 at the Wayback Machine. Queenstownairport.co.nz. Retrieved on 2013-07-16.
  10. ^ "New Queenstown Airport international terminal opens". Scoop. 23 June 2015. Archived from the original on 5 July 2015. Retrieved 5 July 2015.
  11. ^ "Queenstown Airport begins runway, lighting upgrades". Australian Aviation. Archived from the original on 8 December 2015. Retrieved 4 November 2015.
  12. ^ Events, UKi Media & (22 June 2015). "New Queenstown Airport international terminal opens". Passenger Terminal Today. Retrieved 15 November 2022.
  13. ^ Foden, Debbie Jamieson and Blake (28 January 2016). "Queenstown Airport winter night flight plans concern residents". Stuff. Retrieved 15 November 2022.
  14. ^ Kuprienko, Dasha (4 May 2016). "Transport Minister unveils 'revolutionary' Queenstown Airport lights". Stuff. Retrieved 23 June 2022.
  15. ^ "Queenstown is voted world's best runway view 2015". PrivateFly.com. Archived from the original on 1 July 2015. Retrieved 17 May 2015.
  16. ^ "New international terminal opens". Queenstown Airport. Archived from the original on 15 August 2017. Retrieved 15 August 2017.
  17. ^ "Lake Tekapo Link: Christchurch-Tekapo-Queenstown". Archived from the original on 12 May 2015. Retrieved 9 April 2015.
  18. ^ "Air Milford to offer Queenstown-Te Anau flights". 3rd Level New Zealand Blog. 8 December 2016. Archived from the original on 20 December 2016. Retrieved 9 December 2016.
  19. ^ "Stewart Island Fly Explore Fly".
  20. ^ "Sale finished – Jetstar". jetstar.com.
  21. ^ "Qantas launches another Queenstown service with three flights per week from Melbourne". Stuff.co.nz. 26 February 2019. Archived from the original on 26 February 2019. Retrieved 26 February 2019.
  22. ^ "Virgin Australia international network". Executive traveller. Retrieved 28 September 2022.
  23. ^ "International Airline Activity—Time Series". BITRE.
  24. ^ "Auckland Airport acquires 25% of Queenstown, to boost strategic alliance: Airport share wrap". CAPA – Centre for Aviation. Retrieved 15 November 2022.
  25. ^ "Pacific Blue admits takeoff after deadline". Television New Zealand. 27 July 2010. Archived from the original on 30 July 2010. Retrieved 5 May 2011.
  26. ^ "Pacific Blue flight from Queenstown ignored rules". The Southland Times. 27 July 2010. Archived from the original on 30 July 2010. Retrieved 5 May 2011.
  27. ^ "CAA lays charges in Queenstown case". Civil Aviation Authority of New Zealand. 14 April 2011. Archived from the original on 29 April 2011. Retrieved 5 May 2011.
  28. ^ "Pilot to face court after 'dangerous' takeoff". The Southland Times. 14 April 2011. Archived from the original on 5 May 2011. Retrieved 5 May 2011.
  29. ^ "Pacific Blue pilot elects trial by jury for 'late takeoff'". The Southland Times. 9 August 2011. Archived from the original on 25 October 2012. Retrieved 27 August 2011.
  30. ^ "Aviation Cases –".
  31. ^ "Aviation inquiry 10-007: Boeing 737–800, ZK-PBF and Boeing 737–800, VH-VXU, airspace incident, near Queenstown Aerodrome, 20 June 2010". taic.org.nz. Transport Accident Investigation Commission. Archived from the original on 30 October 2015. Retrieved 31 August 2019.
  32. ^ "Queenstown Airport Mlat – photo's". airways.co.nz. Airways New Zealand. August 2012. Archived from the original on 22 May 2013. Retrieved 3 June 2013.

External links[edit]

Media related to Queenstown Airport at Wikimedia Commons