1/29/1966: The Official Opening of Auckland Airport

Today, in 1966, Auckland Airport, the largest and busiest airport in New Zealand, opened its doors.



January 29, 2024

DALLAS — Today, in 1966, Auckland Airport (AKL), which happens to be the largest and busiest airport in New Zealand, first commenced operations. Notably, AKL also holds the distinction of being the third busiest international airport in the Australasia region.

The Governor-General, Sir Bernard Fergusson, had the honor of inaugurating this facility. To commemorate this momentous occasion, a spectacular "Grand Air Pageant" took place for three days. The event attracted an astounding crowd of over 200,000 enthusiastic attendees.

During the festivities, visitors were granted the opportunity to stroll along the tarmac and marvel at the array of aircraft that had gathered in honor of the occasion.

Auckland Airport’s international terminal took shape in 1970. Photo: Auckland Airport.


Aviation activities at the site can be traced back to 1928, when the Auckland Aero Club utilized the Mãngere Aerodrome as a venue for its operations. However, it was in 1960 that significant efforts were initiated to transform this area into Auckland's primary airport.

Before this development, the city's main civilian airport was situated at the Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) Base Auckland in Whenuapai. Unfortunately, the location of this site posed limitations on the types of aircraft that could effectively utilize the facility.

The inaugural departure from the newly established airport occurred in November 1965. The prestigious distinction of being the first aircraft to take off from this airport was bestowed upon an Air New Zealand Douglas DC-8, which embarked on its journey to Sydney.

Crowds cheer as the first Boeing 747 jumbo jet arrives at Auckland Airport in 1972. Photo: Auckland Airport.


Initially, the present domestic terminal served as a facility for both domestic and international flights. However, a significant change occurred in 1977 with the unveiling of a new international terminal, which was named in honor of Jean Batten, the renowned aviator from New Zealand.

Substantial expansion efforts were undertaken during the 1990s, resulting in a redevelopment project that carried a price tag of $180 million. This endeavor nearly doubled the size of the airport, allowing for increased capacity and improved facilities.

In 2014, plans were proposed to shape the future of AKL over the next three decades. These plans outlined a vision to consolidate the international and domestic terminals into a unified structure centered around the international terminal. Additionally, a new northern runway is set to be constructed.

The ultimate objective of these initiatives is to establish AKL as an esteemed aviation hub, not only for New Zealand but also for the broader Pacific Rim region.

Featured image: Aerial photograph of Auckland Airport under construction in 1966. Photo: Auckland Airport