Auckland airport is bringing forward runway pavement replacement work while operations are at a minimum during the Covid-19 outbreak.

“We’ve experienced a significant reduction in flights and passenger numbers, with aircraft movements currently 90-95% lower than a normal busy day,” Andre Lovatt, general manager of airport development and delivery, said in a statement on 11 May.

“This project has been planned for some time,” he adds, “but it was clear that we had an opportunity to bring construction forward to the earliest available time while runway movements are at an all-time low.”

The operator says construction begins in two weeks and will last eight to 10 weeks. Using a displaced threshold method, the existing runway will be shortened by 1.1 km but aircraft continue to operate while work is carried out safely.

Under normal circumstances, there could be a need for airlines to reduce aircraft weight but the operator says it does not anticipate this with fewer fully laden aircraft flying.

This project, valued at NZ$26 million ($15.8 million), is “a critical component of Auckland Airport’s much reduced infrastructure development programme over the next couple of years, one which prioritises selected capital projects that are focused on essential safety and asset maintenance”.

The operator says these were designed to accommodate passenger numbers that were projected to double by 2044.

Lovatt said: “It’s extremely disappointing to put on hold much of the [NZ$1.2 billion] worth of construction projects already underway around the precinct prior to the Covid-19 outbreak.

“But with no certainty around when the aviation market will recover it just isn’t realistic to keep progressing these projects at this point in time.”