Cyclone Gabrielle: High winds force suspension of ground-handling operations at Auckland; no international or domestic flights can depart

Chris Hipkins speaks on the National State of Emergency. Video / NZ Herald

High winds have forced the suspension of ground-handling operations at Auckland Airport from now until midnight, meaning no international or domestic passenger flights can depart or arrive until tomorrow.

Travellers with booked flights tonight were asked not to go to the airport and to contact their airline. Those already in check-in were asked to return home or to their accommodation.

The airport said some travellers arriving tonight will not be able to collect their checked bags as normal, because they cannot be returned to them safely Instead, travellers are asked to complete a form and report their missing bags in the baggage hall.

Airport officials said the organisation was “working with airline partners to support stranded passengers”.

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“Safety comes first at Auckland Airport and given current high winds and the need to ensure the safety of everyone working in and around the airport apron areas, ground-handling operators have decided to suspend operations for the rest of the night,” said Auckland Airport chief customer officer Scott Tasker in a statement at 6.45pm.

“These are the people who manage the baggage loading and unloading, airbridge connections, passenger embarking and disembarking, and aircraft refuelling and ground handling services – they need to be safe when they’re working on the airfield, and the airport system can’t operate without them.

“We apologise to travellers for the disruption, particularly those that have already experienced significant travel challenges over the past couple of weeks. The weather just hasn’t been on our side, but the safety of staff and passengers come first as we manage through the impacts of this severe weather event.”

Cargo flights, medical emergency flights and private charter flights can still arrive and depart.

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