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Review: Wellington International Airport – Wellington, New Zealand

New Zealand’s capital Wellington has a compact airport that’s just 5.5km and around 20 minutes’ drive from the city centre. Karryon discovers firsthand what amenities are on offer.

New Zealand’s capital Wellington has a compact airport that’s just 5.5km and around 20 minutes’ drive from the city centre. Karryon discovers firsthand what amenities are on offer.

A good airport often offers a portal to the host city’s character, providing a glimpse of the local lifestyle, culture and people before you even exit the terminal. That’s something Wellington Airport does exceptionally well.

New Zealand’s second-busiest airport after Auckland with almost 3.5 million passengers in 2022, Wellington Airport (WLG) is also recognised as the world’s third-best airport for sustainability in a GRESB global review.

Offering flights to Australia, the Cook Islands and Fiji and domestic services, WLG incorporates both domestic and international terminals in the same building with three piers: South, South-West and North-West. International flights depart from gates 41-49 in the North-West section.

With a footprint of just 110ha, it’s one of the most innovative and efficient airports in the world however, it can only accommodate narrow-body aircraft on its single runway surrounded by water.

Air New Zealand, Qantas, Fiji Airways and Jetstar operate international flights to and from Wellington Airport.

Heading off

A windy welcome at Wellington Airport.

After online check-in via the Air New Zealand app or website, it’s a case of walking straight into Wellington Airport and using the self-service kiosk to print a boarding pass and luggage tags.

With six auto bag-drop units plus a premium bag-drop machine, the queue moves quickly. An Air New Zealand staff member checks boarding passes and passports and then you can place your tagged checked baggage on the bag-drop machine, scanning your tag, which takes less than 10 minutes.

After farewelling your checked luggage, passengers can access the open-plan departures hall with various amenities, including eateries and shops.

Note: There are limited dining options airside, so be sure to pick up any food and drink requirements before heading through security and passport control.

Departures Hall

Qantas International Business Lounge.

WLG has a select number of eateries that are mostly Wellington-born-and-bred businesses – international chains are at a minimum here with just Ben & Jerry’s available in pre-departure and Subway on the airside section.

Passengers have plenty of dining options whether it’s coffee and a snack or something more substantial before your flight.

In the departures hall, choose from Wishbone – a grab-and-go takeaway, Best Ugly Bagels, Three Quarter Society – a specialty coffee bar, U.B.W. (United Brew Works) Coffee & Beer, The Blue Lady coffee, Gorilla Burger, Lil’ Rosie’s Cantina, TJ Katsu (sushi, poke, dumplings and noodles), Peleton Bar + Eatery and Mojo Coffee.

For retail therapy, shop at Trenery, Icebreaker, 3 Wise Men (a menswear shop), Te Papa Store (the national museum in Wellington), The Gift Company, The Travel Store, Relay newsagency, M.A.C cosmetics and Witchery.

The overall space is light and airy with ample modern seating, ranging from comfy armchairs and tables and chairs for dining to high tables with stools. Travellers will also find many power outlets.

As with pretty much everywhere in Wellington, Weta Workshop (Sir Peter Jackson’s production company) has contributed some of the eye-catching artwork. 

For Wellington Airport, the standout pieces are two massive eagle structures (one complete with Lord of the Rings’ Gandalf) that hover over the terminal and create the airport’s most recognisable feature.

Airside

An airside workstation at Wellington International Airport.

Once you’ve had your pre-flight fill of food and drink, international departures leave from gates 41–49.

Again, the security and passport control processes are streamlined and efficient. You’ll need to remove large electronic devices, jackets, boots that reach above the ankle and liquids and gels from your luggage and pass through the security scan.

After the passport e-gates – a swift 10-minute process – you’re straight into Lotte Duty Free and the departure gate section.

Wellington International Airport has two airline lounges – Qantas Business Lounge and Air New Zealand Lounge / Star Alliance Gold – plus a now-defunct Virgin Australia Lounge.

As mentioned, there are limited food and retail options airside with a small duty-free for all those last-minute New Zealand wine, spirits and confectionery purchases along with the usual international brands of cosmetics, liquor and electronics.

For food, there’s a takeaway Subway and a Mojo coffee lounge area with seating that also includes a convenient departures board so you can keep an eye on your flight.

Shoes on stone carpet at Wellington International Airport
The ‘stone’ carpet feature reflects the terminal’s ‘rocks’ architectural design.

Families will find a tiny open kids’ area with play equipment suitable for toddlers only and a TV screening children’s programs.

Passengers without lounge access can use the grey modular bench seating, high booths with stools and powerpoints or standard departure gate seating in the main terminal. There are also power outlets available for those who need to plug in and free Wi-Fi throughout the airport.

For overnight stays or shower and gym amenities, the 4.5-star Rydges Wellington Airport hotel opened in 2019 and is integrated with the international terminal. It offers direct access from the international passenger lounge and includes Peloton Bar + Eatery and Whisky Lima Golf restaurant.

Our take

In all, Wellington Airport is small but full of character – much like the NZ capital itself. Offering a considered, modern, functional design with minimal queueing and plenty of seating, it’s a refreshing change of pace and space.

Find out about flying into Wellington International Airport from Australia here.

For more info, head to wellingtonairport.co.nz