Bay of Plenty-based operator Air Discovery is offering unscheduled, as-required flights linking Gisborne, Tolaga Bay, Ruatoria, Waihau Bay, Opotiki, Whakatane and Tauranga. Pilot Daniel Gillett said the decision to extend passenger flight service to Tairawhiti was in response to the region’s need for an alternative travel solution to navigate across the region. “We fly on demand,” he said. Airstrip agreements have been signed and there are plans to include Te Araroa as part of the available flight locations. Air Discovery hoped to team with local operators to fly the legs closest to Gisborne, he said. “We are looking to strike an agreement with the Gisborne-based aircraft charter company, so our prices will be significantly less for flights to and from Gisborne, Tolaga Bay and Ruatoria,” Mr Gillett said. Prices begin from $199 per person on a minimum two-passenger flight. Flights around the Gisborne area are expected to cost more at this stage – around $500 for the more expensive flights. “If we have to ferry an aircraft from Whakatane to Gisborne, then obviously there is an expense to fly from there,” Mr Gillett said. Mr Gillett said although things were still “very much in the works”, feedback had been positive.
“At this stage the rate is good for any flights closer to our side (Whakatane and Tauranga) but everything else is more expensive than we would like.” As part of the plan to bring prices down, Mr Gillett hoped to eventually turn the as-required flights into a daily service. But it was “a numbers game”. “It’s going to start as an on-demand service but if we can work up the numbers, we will hopefully put in a daily scheduled flight service. If the numbers are there, we will look at a route we would fly every day. It would bring the flight down to possibly $50 between Ruatoria and Gisborne.” “It takes an awfully long time to get around the Coast in a car... I think there will be a big market for us flying trades-people around the East Cape, and of course there’s the tourist market as well,” he said.
He referred to workmen who recently needed to fly from Rotorua to Ruatoria to fix a mobile oxygen system. Mr Gillett had been aware of demand for alternative transport in East Cape for a while but the recent flight from Rotorua “basically confirmed it for us”.
Air Discovery was in contact with a number of accommodation providers regarding potential package deals for tourists. “There’s a real big interest regarding Waihau Bay for game fishing and a spot of hunting.” The flight service would be the first of its kind for the region in at least 20 years, Mr Gillett said. Air Discovery is expected to meet with Gisborne District Council regarding the potential airstrip use in Te Araroa on August 12.