Fishing dentures from the trash: Meet Auckland airport’s unsung heroes

Anne Manaia, left, with team-mate Zamia Hussein are among the 350 background staff at the Auckland International Airport.

Rubbish bin recoveries are a surprisingly often occurrence for the unsung heros working at the country’s largest airport. 

They carry official titles such as cleaners, baggage handlers or X-ray machine operators, but they often go above and beyond the job description to keep Auckland International Airport humming. 

There are about 350 of these background staff in Auckland – including Ann Manaia.

Manaia starts work at 5am and will be working through the holidays, as she’s done for the past 10 years. 

“Believe it or not, Christmas day used to be quiet, now it’s busy-as”.

The festive season is the busiest time for the airport with Saturday, December 22 expected to be its busiest day, possibly ever, with 43,000 passengers passing through.

“He couldn’t eat with them so he put them on the side of the tray, but accidentally threw them in the bin,” Manaia said.

“He was upset because they’d cost him $800.”

She and her teammate spent half an hour sifting through bin bags to find the missing teeth, resulting in the man distributing big hugs to them both.

Other rubbish bin recoveries include a paper bag with around $500 cash in it, she said.

The distressed owner had been about to fly out to Samoa. “We do go through the rubbish quite a lot!”‘

The less-visible support staff worked for OCS, a commercial facility management company. 

Marisa Leon, OCS Client Services Manager at Auckland International Airport, said the job was all about going the extra mile. 

“Passengers who have travelled a long way can be tired and stressed, when you understand that, it’s easier”.

Her team have helped find all sorts of lost items, such as laptops, passports and cash.

She said everyone working at the airport knows they are among the first or last Kiwis that international visitors will talk to.

“Everyone here is also an ambassador, and that’s actually a privilege”.

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