Hamilton, January 22, 2024
All the avid travellers, first-time flyers and globetrotters are going to have a breezy experience as the airport experience when flying out gets more traveller-friendly.
From today, Monday, January 22, 2024, all International travellers flying out of Auckland, will join Christchurch and Wellington and not need to take their laptops and liquids out of their carry-on bags.
Technology offers ease
New Computed Tomography (CT) scanning machines, which can create high-quality 3D images and allow aviation security officers to better assess the contents of bags are now in place at the three major airports of the country, ensuring ease of travel for all passengers.
The Civil Aviation Authority said while the new technology is focused on fostering safety and security, it also enhances the passenger experience by streamlining screening for passengers.
Electronics such as laptops and tablets, and liquids, aerosols and gels can be left in travellers’ bags.
Group operations manager Karen Urwin said, “With this new capability we can take items out of bags virtually on the screen, so there is no need for passengers to struggle with unpacking while standing at security screening”.
Follow the guidelines
Auckland Airport has reminded passengers that sharp items, such as nail clippers, scissors, pocket knives and metal nail files, should not be packed in carry-on luggage. Please ensure any items of this kind are packed in your check luggage. Detection of these items at screening points will increase the wait time for passengers.
“Please ensure you do not carry any inflammable liquids gasses or other dangerous goods with you or in your bags. Those items will also be removed by security staff when detected. The volume of liquids, aerosols and gels, carried by travellers on an International flight still applies, and should be carried in individual containers of 100ml or less, with the total number of containers that are 100ml or less not exceeding one volumetric litre,” stated the advisory.
Passengers travelling with camera film, however, would need to pack their film in checked luggage as the CT scanning process can cause damage.
“We acknowledge this might present an inconvenience to those passengers, but security is our primary focus. The last thing we want is for someone’s wedding memories or holiday snaps to be destroyed going through screening, so please put your film in your checked luggage,” said Ms Urwin.
The CT scanning capability was being installed at all passenger screening points across the country and the changes to the screening experience will follow at the remaining international screening points over the coming months and are planned for domestic screening points later this year.
Return of the blue coats
Auckland Airport is also delighted to have its much-loved ‘bluecoats’ customer service ambassadors back on hand offering support and care to travellers around the airport.
The ambassador programme was put on hold in March 2020 when New Zealand’s borders closed at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic. But with international travel now back to normal and the airport’s frontline customer service roles fully staffed, the volunteer roles are being reinstated.
“Our bluecoats are treasured members of the airport community who help with almost any issue from directions to lost toys,” says Auckland Airport Chief Operations Officer Chloe Surridge.
“Many have long-standing links to the airport as retired staff of ours or our agency partners, and bring a wealth of aviation experience that makes for a special welcome or farewell to our travellers.”
23 customer service ambassadors returned to Auckland Airport in December 2023, after a three-year hiatus during the pandemic, with more expected to return in the new year.
Identified by their distinctive blue coats, the ambassadors can be found at six help desks across the domestic and international terminals.
“Just as we have missed having the bluecoats around the airport, we know many have missed the activity in our busy and buzzing terminals,” Ms Surridge said.
“Auckland Airport has been on a recruitment drive to get our frontline team ready for the summer peak. We also have a flexible workforce coming on board for support during school holidays and other peak travel periods.
Janet Igrisan was almost bursting when she returned to the airport as a bluecoat customer service ambassador this week, after three years away.
“I felt like throwing my hands in the air and yelling, ‘We are back!’” she says.
Her team of Bluecoat colleagues did not want to lose contact during that time and continued to meet for lunch each month. “It kept our team together,” Ms Igrisan said. The majority are returning now the programme has resumed, with Janet herself rostered on for three-morning shifts a week.
As a former Air New Zealand flight attendant, and with her husband being an aircraft engineer, aviation has always been central to her life. When retired, she went in search of a volunteer programme to help fill her days, and the Bluecoats ambassador programme was the perfect fit.
“I love meeting people and love being an ambassador for the airport because I feel that I am actually an ambassador for New Zealand. It may sound corny, but once travellers have collected their bags and made their way through Customs, we are often the first faces they see. If we greet them nicely, it can set the scene for their whole visit.”
Returning Bluecoat Paul Wong is also happy to be back amongst the buzz of the airport.
“I travelled during the Covid-19 pandemic and saw the airport at its quietest during that time. It is great to see it has sprung back into life and I am loving seeing people arriving from all over the world once again.”
Paul’s 25-year career with Bendon as a production manager and quality assurance manager made him a frequent flyer and familiar with the airport experience, which means he appreciates some of the concerns or worries international travellers can experience upon arrival.
He likes to be able to greet anyone who may look anxious with a smile and tackle any problems they face with a positive attitude. Mostly, those range from how to get from A to B, connecting with transport or help with lost items.
“They appreciate that even if you cannot solve an issue they may have, we can point them in the right direction and there is relief they have somewhere to go and someone who cares.”
Paul’s favourite part of his role is making sure people are welcomed into the country and receive a good impression. Being part of the ambassador programme means a lot to him, personally.
“It keeps me in touch with people. I am retired, but I can still be active in the community.”
Praneeta Mahajan is an Indian Newslink reporter based in Hamilton.