Auckland International Airport said international passenger numbers through New Zealand's busiest gateway rose 5.4 percent last month, as the later timing of Chinese New Year led to a surge in travellers from China.
There were 726,529 international arrivals and departures in February, including transits, up from 689,063 a year earlier, the airport company said in its monthly traffic update. Domestic passenger numbers rose 3.3 percent to 590,524.
Arrivals from China soared 85 percent to 48,901, overtaking the UK as the third-largest source after Kiwis travelling across the border and Australians. The number of New Zealanders slipped 1.5 percent to 112,928 and Australians fell 3.6 percent to 65,017. Visitors from the US rose 5.3 percent to 26,121 while those from the UK fell 2.2 percent to 24,642. Passengers from India also surged - up about 50 percent to 5,429, to be the ninth largest source of visitors.
Chinese New Year fell in February this year and January in 2014.
The airport company said international aircraft movements rose 1.5 percent to 3,635 last month while domestic movements rose 2.2 percent to 8,501.
The airport's 24.9 percent-owned Queenstown Airport Corp had a 38 percent increase in international passengers to 30,382 and a 5.1 percent gain in domestic passengers to 92,357. Its quarter-owned North Queensland Airports Group reported a 9.7 percent drop in domestic passengers to 66,396 at Mackay airport, while at Cairns airport, international passengers rose 8.3 percent to 56,468 and domestic rose 8.6 percent to 293,285.
Shares of Auckland Airport fell 0.2 percent to $4.47 and have gained 16 percent in the past 12 months. The stock is rated a 'sell' based on the consensus of eight analysts surveyed by Reuters with a median price target of $4.09.