Airspresso at Queenstown Airport turns five

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Queenstown Airport’s Airspresso café and bar turned 5 this month, so we spent some time with co-owner Justin Bird to hear about his journey over the past five years, growing the company’s presence from one to three airports, with outlets at New Plymouth, Queenstown and Dunedin.

How has Airspresso grown and developed the past 5 years?

Our customer numbers have almost doubled in five years at Queenstown. The move to open an International airside outlet, and more recently the kiosk in the domestic lounge, was a no brainer. Travellers just feel so much more relaxed post security and they can now enjoy one last local pint or espresso coffee at the gate, while capturing one last glimpse of our beautiful town before departing. It’s amazing the volume that the Airspresso landside island model can handle during peak times. I remember a tour leader once asking for 45 Blue Cod and Chips meals from our a-la-carte menu and I wasn’t sure if I’d heard her correctly. We love a challenge and assured her we could absolutely do it - our team did an amazing job to provide this last minute. What a final memory of New Zealand for this group.

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Airspresso opened an international outlet in 2017

What’s the most memorable day you’ve had at ZQN?

There have been many, but the one that sticks in my mind was our busiest day ever with a number of disrupts due to weather conditions. Travellers were all standing at windows watching with anticipation as planes attempted to land. One finally made it in after many prior attempts and there was loads of cheering, clapping and many happy faces. It was very entertaining. Just when we thought our big day had ended, it was announced that due to the cancelled flights, the Airport terminal was staying open overnight to accommodate everyone as all the hotels were booked in town. The staff rose to the challenge to provide fresh coffee and food to the revellers. That’s certainly a memorable experience for passengers and staff and there was a great, fun atmosphere that night. 

So what’s next for Airspresso? 

We opened our third Airspresso location at Dunedin Airport in July 2018 and a combination of the Dunedin “Fuel To Fly” and ZQN model is set to open in December with New Plymouth’s new terminal currently under construction. Those projects definitely keep us busy.

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Airspresso - providing healthy grab 'n' go options

How about your amazing staff that keep things running on a daily basis from 6am-10pm?

We started with 20 staff, including manager Angele who has been with us from the beginning. With the addition of other outlets here and an increase in customers, we currently we have more than 35 members of the team including some local students. Having the students gives us that sense of being part of the community and giving back. For most of them it's their first job in hospitality and we look forward to seeing them grow in the industry.

The ZQN team celebrating Airspresso's 5th Birthday

The ZQN team celebrating Airspresso's 5th Birthday

What’s your why? Why do you love coming to the airport every day?

I really enjoy what I do and love coming into the Airport every day. It’s that excitement of not knowing what the day will bring. There's always very high energy with so many different personalities and a great sense of fun. The airport community is just one big happy family willing to help one another. It’s my happy place. My why is believing in our staff and seeing them grow and develop within the team. I get a kick out of it.

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Airspresso opened a domestic airside outlet in 2018

What’s the hardest part of running Airspresso?

The only down side with Queenstown is the transient nature of people. So many staff come and go and it can make it challenging at times. You meet so many amazing people but then they leave to carry on their travels. You have to have a strong heart in this town.

Tell us something we don’t know?

Our Baristas have made 781,542 espresso coffees over the past five years with our most popular food item being our signature Cheese rolls with 147,209 sold! 

At ZQN, we love to showcase the best food, beverage and retail options throughout the region. Ensuring a memorable and unique experience you can’t get anywhere in the world is something we strive for and we’re proud to have Airspresso as a long-standing member of the airport community doing just that.

Congrats Justin and team. Here’s to another five!


Airspresso Landside 2017 003

Airspresso provides fresh, local food