01 April 2010

25 years ago Air Albatross Metroliners first came to Christchurch

25 years ago today Air Albatross began operating its Swearingen Metroliner II aircraft into Christchurch. Up to that point Air New Zealand operated a single Nelson-Christchurch service on a route first pioneered by Trans Island Airways. Speaking to the Nelson in Evening Mail in June 1984 Air New Zealand District Manager Barry Kempton said, “Nelson flights served Wellington with several flights daily during the week and direct flights daily also to Christchurch and Auckland. Both these longer services had high load factors. It's difficult to satisfy everyone with timetables but we seem to have satisfied the majority with our 11.40 am to Christchurch and 10.40am service to Auckland. The Christchurch flight left on the return trip to Nelson at 2.15pm and the Auckland return service landed passengers in Nelson at 8.35pm.” Yet Air Albatross was certainly the airline that proved people would fly on smaller commuter aircraft if times and fares were right.

The Air Albatross flights to Christchurch which began on 1 April 1985 were flown twice daily (except week-ends). Southbound, the flights left Nelson at 7:40 a.m. and 4.40 p.m., arriving Christchurch at 8.30 a.m. and 5.30 p.m. Flights departed from Christchurch at 8.50 a.m. and 5.50 p.m., arriving at Nelson at 9.40 a.m. and 6.40 p.m. There was one flight in each direction on Saturdays and Sundays. The fare was $80 one way, $3 less than the fare charged by the only other scheduled operator on the route, Air New Zealand. Air Albatross, also offered a 10 per cent discount on the advance purchase of 10 tickets.

While Air Albatross didn’t survive, it collapsed in December 1985, its legacy continues. Throughout New Zealand commuter aircraft fly frequent services from the provinces to the main centres. 25 years ago today there were two Metroliner and one Friendship flights between Christchurch and Nelson on a week day. These days Air Nelson Q300s fly seven flights each weekday!

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