Auckland Airport. Photo: Google Maps

How to get to Auckland Airport for $4.80

Commute Week: Musician Anthonie Tonnon spends a lot of time on the road – his latest tour finished up just last night – so he knows a thing or two about travelling smarter. Here he shares one of his favourite money-saving hacks.

After seven years spent in Auckland, 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. A 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. That said, the train to Onehunga is an express train stopping at fewer 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, follow the 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 1 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.

And I hope Auckland chooses to be a reasonable city when it comes time to deciding the price structure for light rail in the next decade:

Anthonie Tonnon is a musician and performer originally from Ōtepoti. He has a new EP, Two Free Hands, out at his website – anthonietonnon.com – and is performing a series of shows at the Otago Museum Planetarium in July. Tonnon is currently filming a new music video based on the Dunedin Commuter Rail system, which closed in 1983.


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