Auckland Airport’s chief executive, Adrian Littlewood, is to step down towards the end of the year after nine years in the role.
The business said Littlewood would take an extended break after leaving before making any decisions on future jobs.
Airport chair Patrick Strange paid tribute to his outgoing CEO’s “considerable leadership skills” through “some of the most challenging times the business has ever faced”.
“With the sudden and highly disruptive impact of COVID-19 on the company’s core business, Adrian has led a business response that has not only ensured the health, safety and wellbeing of Auckland Airport staff and travellers, but has also ensured the business is well placed for the future,” said Strange.
Littlewood himself paid tribute to the “remarkable resilience” of the airport’s employees.
“I am particularly proud of the role they have all played in both the immediate response and the gradual recovery since COVID-19 hit our shores, ensuring New Zealand’s critical air connections remain open,” he said.
Strange said the board will commence a search for a replacement for Littlewood, with both internal and external candidates considered.
Initially, Air New Zealand operated 30 flights on launch day, and Qantas and Jetstar 29.
Qantas and Jetstar will operate 83 per cent of their pre-COVID capacity to New Zealand now the bubble has launched, and also start two new routes from Auckland to Cairns and the Gold Coast.
In total, the Qantas Group revealed will operate up to 122 return flights per week across the Tasman on 15 routes, or 52,000 seats each week. It had been operating at just 3 per cent pre-COVID capacity during the current one-way arrangement.
Air New Zealand’s 30 daily flights are set to grow to more than 300 per week operating from Brisbane, Melbourne, Gold Coast, Perth and Sydney into Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch.
Initially, Auckland Airport made headlines by predicting in February that trans-Tasman travel wouldn’t restart in the first half of 2021.
The airport made the comments after unveiling its six-month financial results that showed profits after tax down 80 per cent to $28.1 million.
More positively, Auckland said its domestic passenger numbers had recovered to 65 per cent of pre-pandemic levels as the country has remained mostly COVID-free.