Christchurch Airport Closes Doors to Airport Sleepers

Airport Sleepers are not welcome at Christchurch Airport.

On May 6, the airport adopted a harsh policy of closing and “clearing” its international terminal between the hours 12am-5am, leaving travellers to sleep in bus shelters, car parks and on the streets in freezing temperatures as they await their early morning flights.

The reason for the new policy:  airport officials have had enough of our freeloading ways after discovering there were up to 200 travellers a night who were choosing to sleep on the airport floor rather than in a hotel.

In an interview with TVNZ, airport boss Jim Boult said they are “not in the accommodation business”.

He said that after the earthquakes the airport had allowed people caught between flights to stay in the terminal overnight, but numbers got out of control.

“Word spread and numbers grew, not just of people caught between flights, but of people who didn’t want to look or pay for accommodation in Christchurch ahead of a flight, and not just in the early morning, but sometimes 24 hours ahead of a daytime flight.”

He says that there were cases of people sleeping at the airport for up to a week at a time, leaving hotels to complain that the airport was taking their business.

Other reasons cited for the new policy include complaints from staff about “aggressive” airport sleepers.  Shame on those airport sleepers for giving us a bad reputation!    Additionally, flight crews were allegedly put off by the airport’s “third world” environment and they didn’t  appreciate “having to climb over bodies sprawled on the floor to get through the terminal”.

In the meantime, officials at Auckland Airport have indicated they have a “don’t move” policy and they won’t be changing it anytime soon.  Auckland Airport was named our 2012 Best Airport in the South Pacific and one of 2010 Best Airports Worldwide.

Source: TVNZ

May 20, 2013 Update:  After causing an uproar over its unpopular decision to lock the doors at night, TVNZ is reporting that Christchurch Airport will now allow travellers to stay inside the terminal starting Wednesday, May 22.  However, travellers MUST have proof of an early morning flight.  They don’t want “people who are abusing the system by staying as many as 11 nights in a row”.  Airport boss Jim Boult says some tourists had been found cooking food in the toilets, “lying all over the floor”, setting up tents, drinking alcohol and abusing staff.  Come on guys, behave yourselves!  Apparently they are looking to build affordable backpacker accommodation near the airport and they hope to have an announcement in a few months.


Donna McSherry is a former travel consultant specializing in South America. As creator of The Guide to Sleeping in Airports she may be the only person who arrives at an airport super early and intentionally books flights with long layovers -- just to hang out (and nap) in the airport! A photography enthusiast, her travel photos have appeared in The Washington Post. Her favourite places are northern Chile, New York City and Hawaii. She currently lives in Toronto, Canada.


  • Man this is harsh… I understand where they are coming from, but still don’t think it is the way to go. I’m sure other solutions could be possible.

  • Can someone verify whether anyone with a bus ticket(not air ticket) departing in the morning is allowed to stay(not sleep) inside the airport ? It will be mid winter and I will be freezed to death if I have to stay outdoor.

  • The update article is not correct. Even customers can prove they are catching an early flight. They still can not stay inside the airport from 2am untill 5am. Some people were waiting the airport reopen the door. It’s cool outside the airport.