How to get to Auckland Airport for $4.80

To celebrate our band shows which start in Auckland next month (Thurs April 5 and Fri April 6), I'm sharing one of my favourite hacks to getting around Auckland.


The AK train network. Note the airport icons at Onehunga and Papatoetoe stations

After seven years spent in the city, I realised only last year that you can take public transport to the airport, at nearly a tenth the price of the $45 flat fare Discount Taxi I used to take, or less than a third of the $18 bus fare with Skybus.

My recent reconfigure of my performance rig means I can now take public transport on tour - even changing trains and buses without too much effort, so I decided to use this method when heading from some band practices in Auckland, to Dunedin to develop a future show. 

Here's what you do: 

- You'll need an AT HOP card to get the best price. Tag on and off at each stage (unless changing trains) and you won't be charged any special fare for going to the airport. 

- Walk, or use your nearest public transport to get to a Railway Station heading south on the Southern, Onehunga, or (if you're out East) Eastern lines. Or North, of course, if you're starting from south of Papatoetoe. 

- Take the first train that comes past. Depending on which train you've taken, get out at either Papatoetoe Station (Southern or Eastern) or Onehunga Station (Onehunga lines). 

- Outside the station, wait for the Orange 380 Airporter bus - it comes every 15-20 minutes during the day, 365 days a year. Note here - the bus from Papatoetoe is faster - taking 20-25 minutes. If, like me, you don't like buses - you might opt for this route for more train time. From Onehunga, the bus stops at a labyrinth of local Mangere and airport business zone stops and takes 30-35 minutes. This said - the train to Onehunga is an express train stopping at less stations, so your total travel time is likely similar, and the trip through the shops, state houses and remaining agricultural areas of Mangere is quite pretty.

That's all! I would say allow 2 hours for this journey in case you have bad luck with transfers on the bus or the train.

Or even better - try it returning from a flight, when you don't have time pressure. In that case - same instructions in reverse - take the first 380 bus you see from the airport - which will go to Onehunga or Papatoetoe, and train from there. 

Below are the times and prices I logged for my trip on a Monday from Fruitvale Road in West Auckland, to the airport. 

9.22 Arrived at Fruitvale Road Station in West Auckland, Western Line. 

9.27 Western line train arrived (on time)

9.57 Changed Trains at Newmarket - walked straight onto an Onehunga bound train (lucky transfer)

10.09 Arrived at Onehunga Station and tagged off - charged $3.30. It costs $4.80 from Fruitvale to Mt Eden station (three zones), but funnily if you keep going past Mt Eden you leave the City zone and reenter the Isthmus zone, so end up only paying two zones. 

10.12 Boarded the 380 Aiporter at Onehunga (another fortunate transfer)

10.44 380 Airporter arrived at the Domestic Terminal, so a 32 minute trip from Onehunga. Tagged off - charged $1.50. 

Total Travel Time: 1 hour, 22 minutes (Or one hour, 17 mins if you start from first train arrival) I suspect this is close to the best case scenario time. Google maps puts the travel time from Fruitvale road at 1 hour 14 if taking the train to Mt Eden and using Skybus (which would cost $22.80), and 24 -48 minutes by car.

Total cost:  $4.80. 

It's the mark of a reasonable city to provide a method of getting to the airport that is the same price of a normal public transport fare, so I'm happy that, at present, Auckland has one - even if they seldom publicise it.

I hope they choose to be a reasonable city when they decide the price structure for light rail in the next decade:

Update: after taking the return journey via Papatoetoe Station - I've decided this route is probably better - this is because Papatoetoe is on both the Southern and Eastern Lines, so has trains to Britomart up to every 5 minutes at peak times. The bus ride from the airport to Papatoetoe is a pretty one over the estuary, and it seems to dodge peak hour traffic (or at least the 5pm traffic when I took it) well.

Anthonie Tonnon