Auckland Airport’s new boss: Air NZ’s Carrie Hurihanganui brings wealth of aviation experience

The new boss of Auckland Airport Carrie Hurihanganui brings broad experience from her 21 years at Air New Zealand.

She started as a flight attendant, flew through the ranks and was seen as a contender for the top job at the airline, and will succeed Adrian Littlewood who will end his nine years as chief executive at the airport next month.

Hurihanganui will be the airport’s first woman chief executive and joins at a critical time for the company as it battles its way back from the pandemic. In her latest role at the airline – chief operating officer – she has also been in the thick of its ”survive and revive” part of Air NZ’s Covid-19 journey, which has seen its network and workforce slashed.

Her deep insight into the aviation sector means her appointment will be welcomed by those within it.Airports and airlines have historically had a tense relationship over fixed pricing in particular but the pandemic has forced greater collaboration within the sector and her presence and the airport will deepen this as signs of a vaccinated recovery grow stronger by the week.


She will be a big loss to Air New Zealand, whose executive is almost unrecognisable now compared to pre-Covid.

Just David Morgan, chief operational integrity and safety officer, remains among the eight-member team who was there before Greg Foran took over as chief executive early last year.

The executive has shrunk from 10 and those who have gone include chief revenue officer Cam Wallace and chief financial officer Jeff McDowall (both now at MediaWorks)networks boss Nick Judd to Tourism Holdings and brand supremo Mike Tod to CBA.

Foran paid tribute to Hurihanganui whose extensive career he said has been an inspiration to many within the company.

”Carrie has developed exceptional leadership skills and operational knowledge. It will be very sad to see her leave the company, but great to see her lead an organisation we work so closely with,” said Foran.

“It was no small feat to keep our operations running across engineering, airports, airline operations, properties, supply chain, cabin crew and pilots during a constantly changing crisis.”

He said the aviation industry was not out of the crisis yet ”but it will be nice to know Carrie isn’t too far away as we work together to rebuild aviation for New Zealanders.”

The airline will get underway with a process to appoint a successor in the coming months.

Born in the United States she came to New Zealand 32 years ago and joined Air NZ in 1999 as a flight attendant while she studied for a Bachelor of Business Management degree.

She has a range of strategic and operational experience having held several senior roles at Air New Zealand including general manager offshore airports, general manager customer experience, and group general manager regional airlines and airline Operations. In her role as chief operating officer, she oversees a workforce of over 6000.

Hurihanganui will take up the new role early next year and said today it was an honour to be named the next Airport chief executive

”I have a long history with the airport and I am very excited by the opportunities that lie ahead. I look forward to working closely with the board, the airport team and all of the airport’s partners as we continue to deliver for New Zealand and support the country’s recovery.”

The challenge is enormous at the airport which went early to the market to raise funds, has sought and received banks’ support for debt facilities and has put on hold billions of dollars in capital projects.

In August, it announced its first full-year loss since listing on the sharemarket in 1998.

Its underlying profit has plunged by $230 million to a loss of $41.8m in the year to June 30.

Revenue for the 12 months to June 30 was down 50.4 per cent to $281m as it suffered the lowest number of international arrivals and departures since 1972.

Auckland Airport chairman Patrick Strange said: Hurihanganui was a highly regarded
leader in aviation who joins Auckland Airport following one of the most
challenging times in its history.

”We are confident that her leadership, operational knowledge and focus on customer experience will ensure Auckland Airport’s strong recovery from the pandemic and return to growth as the emerging robust recovery in international aviation and travel reaches New Zealand.”

Strange thanked Littlewood.

“I would like to thank Adrian for his dedication and exceptional leadership over
many years, during which time he has led a sustained period of growth and
development and seen the company through the immense disruption of a global

Littlewood will finish in his role on November 12 – he is yet to announce his next move – and Mary-Liz Tuck has been appointed interim chief executive.

Carrie Hurihanganui

• Now: Chief operating officer at Air NZ

• Moved to New Zealand 32 years ago when she came here on a holiday.

• Began her career as a flight

attendant in 1999 with Air New Zealand while she studied for her Bachelor of

Business Management degree.

&bull: Roles at Air New Zealand include general manager offshore

airports, general manager customer experience, and group general manager

regional airlines and airline operations.

• Left the airline in 2017 to join National Australia Bank (NAB)

based in Melbourne as executive general manager customer experience before

returning in 2018 to the chief ground operations officer role.

• She has a Bachelor of Business Studies from Massey University and has completed various programmes of study, including INSEAD and Harvard.

• Aged 50, has two children aged six and 20.

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