Windy Wellington International Airport

Most people flying to New Zealand probably arrive at either Auckland or one of the two main airports on the South Island, Queenstown or Christchurch. But, oh boy, do they miss out! Not on magnificent airport infrastructure (sorry Wellington!) but definitely on an adventurous landing into Wellington International Airport (IATA: WLG). It was, without a doubt, the windiest approach into an airport that I’ve ever experienced – and l’ve experienced a few! Plus, they tell me that was a calm day! These guys here seem to agree with me.

Wellington International Airport, even though located in New Zealand’s capital city, is a relatively small airport with only one runway and not a lot of flights in and out. Interestingly, all pilots are super experienced and well trained to deal with the “thrilling” arrival conditions (watch this, but be warned, this is not for the faint-hearted! The airport today is designed to predominantly cater for Domestic passengers so you won’t find much on the international section when departing as most business is done on the public side.

It seems, however, that the airport’s owners have recognized the international side might need an expansion if it’s going to be able to manage the probable increase in traffic thanks to international low-cost carriers continuing to increase their route network in and out of Wellington. So, work is furiously underway on a, well, interesting extension which will open to the public on 21 November 2010 and has been creatively named “The Rock”. Why? Because it is built in the form of – wait for it – a big brown rock. Really! You can already see the exterior clearly when driving to the airport.

Let’s now cut to the interesting to-do-list. Note, all tips are from the “public side” of the airport unless noted otherwise.

  • Have a look through a great range of skin care products from New Zealand at “Essity
  • Stock up your winter warming wardrobe with clothes from the Icebreaker store or simply find the most ridiculous puffa outfit and try it on – just for fun!
  • Feed your empty stomach with one of the many different “Prêt-a-Manager” inspired sandwiches at “Wishbone” (towards gates 4-17)
  • Want something quieter, more exclusive yet totally affordable? Head to the “Wild at Heart” lounge upstairs where you can purchase a day pass, indulge in their food and beverage offer, surf the net or just chill out (day pass weekdays NZ$25, weekends NZ$15). The weekend rate is a bargain when you think that you will easily spend that kind of money on a coffee and a sandwich downstairs! Great value – Great idea!
  • Enjoy a perfectly brewed coffee from the stylish Mojo coffee shop (right before the entrance to the International side of the terminal). I was told Mojo was the best coffee Wellington has to offer – after trying a few coffee shops – l tend to agree and the competition is stiff! The Wild at Heart lounge (see above) also offers Mojo coffee by the way.
  • If you’re looking for some excellent wine from the close-by Marlborough region, you’ll find it in the Duty free section on the International side. You will, for example, find Oyster Bay Sauvignon Blanc for NZ$ 17.90, Wither Hills Chardonnay for NZ$ 14.90, Stoneleigh Pinot Gris NZ$ 25 or the famous Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc for NZ$ 35. Remember to check the allowance of your final destination though (i.e. Australia allows for 3 standard-size bottles (2250 ml to be precise) per person. Not nearly enough but hey, rules are rules.

Airport Facts and Ratings

Airport Name Wellington International Airport
Design Plane Award Point
Shopping Plane Award Point
Toilets Plane Award Plane Award Point
Overall Plane Award Plane Award Point
Chanel No 5 Eau de Parfum, 100ml at the Duty Free Shop NZ$ 198
Bottle of Veuve Cliquot at the Duty Free Shop NZ$ 99 including ice jacket

[Picture from – all rights reserved]

  • I guess this is something that will be a great welcome for first time tourists. I wonder if I can survive this, a little turbulence already makes me so nervous.