Flights have resumed at Auckland Airport (AKL) following a week of travel disruption caused by torrential rain and extreme flooding in New Zealand’s largest city and surrounding regions.

Auckland Airport
Auckland Airport has been severely affected by flooding. | © Kristina D.C. Hoeppner

Biblical-Scale Flooding At Auckland Airport

Auckland Airport and passengers planning to travel to and from the airport have been hit by a number of disruptions and flood-related incidents linked to the extreme weather event currently gripping the city and nearby areas.

The first incident occurred on Friday 27th January, when runway operations were halted due to an arriving aircraft causing damage to runway lighting. The incident caused delays for international arrivals, departures, and domestic flights involving large aircraft.

On the same day, the airport was forced to close its international terminal due to the airport itself being partially submerged and the dangers involved in allowing planes to arrive and depart.

Due to floodwater cutting off access to local roads, many passengers were forced to remain at the airport overnight. An army of volunteer airport staff helped to provide passengers with food, water and blankets.

Social media users have shared unbelievable footage of scenes at the airport, including passengers wading through dirty water and being forced to discard sodden footwear.

Auckland Airport Flooding Chaos
TikTok user pianowithlee documented his mind-blowing experience at Auckland Airport. | © pianowithlee (TikTok)

Normal Operations Set To Resume

The airport’s domestic terminal reopened at noon on Saturday 28th January, with international flights resuming the following day.

On Monday morning, the airport confirmed via its Twitter account that 20,000 passengers had arrived and departed the previous day on 80 international flights. On the day of the announcement, it was expected that 25,000 passengers would arrive at and depart from the airport on 122 international flights.

The airport has warned, however, that airport processes over the coming days, such as check-in operations, will still be subject to delays.

Auckland Airport
Domestic and international flights have resumed at Auckland Airport. | © Serge Voyageur

Wish We Were Somewhere The Flights To Nowhere

In another rather bizarre incident directly related to the recent flood chaos at New Zealand’s busiest airport, an Emirates flight bound for Auckland was forced to turn back to its departure destination, Dubai International Airport (DXB), halfway through its journey as the weather conditions at the time made it too dangerous for the plane to land. Passengers on board flight EK448 to, effectively, nowhere had to endure 13 hours in the air.

Passengers on board Auckland-bound American Airlines flight AA35 from Dallas–Fort Worth International Airport (DFW) also suffered a similar fate; for the same reason, their flight was forced to return to its point of origin, with passengers having to endure a 10-hour flight to the same location. Nowhere.

American Airlines Plane and Emirates Plane
Passengers on board recent Auckland-bound Emirates and American Airlines flights never actually reached their destination. | © Colin Cooke Photo (top image) and SAUD AL-OLAYAN (bottom image)

Other Flood-Related Airport Incidents

The chaos at Auckland Airport is not the first time an airport has been closed due to severe flooding.

In March 2021, the Australian city of Sydney and other parts of New South Wales were hit by a “once-in-a-century” flooding event in which the region was hit by 1000 mm of rain in a week. Thousands of residents were forced to evacuate their homes, and airports in the state were forced to ground flights.

More recently, in October 2022, Heraklion Airport (HER) on the Greek island of Crete was forced to close as a result of flash flooding. Over 140 mm of rain was reported to have fallen within 24 hours. As a result, the airport suffered from severe structural damage, with officials stating that poor infrastructure and insufficient drainage systems were primarily to blame.

Sydney, Australia, and Crete, Greece
Airports in Australia and Greece have been hit by flood damage recently. | © Aussie-Pete 4 (top image) and Pavlos Fafalios (bottom image)

Auckland’s Response To The Disaster

In response to the extreme rainfall, which began on Thursday 27th January, New Zealand’s National Emergency Management Agency issued advice to Auckland residents against non-essential travel. Auckland Emergency Management has opened three Civil Defence Centres (listed below) for those who need to evacuate their homes and are unable to stay with friends or family. Further details on the location of the centres can be found on the organisation’s website.

  • In Kelston at Saint Leonard’s Road School, 15 Leonard’s Road
  • In Randwick Park, at Manu Tukutuku, 32 Riverton Drive
  • In Albany, at the Massey University Albany East Precinct. Enter at Gate 1/Main Entrance off the Albany Expressway SH17. The centre is set up in the Sir Neil Waters Theatre

Over the next few days, an extensive clean-up operation will begin at Auckland Airport and at other locations around the region; however, with more rainfall forecast, residents in the region will need to remain vigilant.

Have you or your family/friends been affected by the disruption at Auckland Airport? Let us know in the comments.