Flight costs hinder growth of the Bay
It has come to this: Flights in and out of Hawke's Bay through Napier airport are considered so expensive that a farmers' group has recommended to its members that they instead fly to Palmerston North and share a car. Deer farmers say Napier is a good spot for their national conference this year but the cost of getting there is "a bit of a problem". Setting aside the understatement, they are right on the money. The high price of regional air routes bedevils transport in and out of centres such as Napier and inhibits tourism and business in Hawke's Bay. No amount of Grabaseat deals or cheap fare sales, welcome as they are, can make up for the fact that daily flights between Napier and the major centres we like to visit and do business with are just too expensive. Yesterday, my wife and I drove from Hastings to Wellington and back in a day for an appointment. Would we have preferred to fly? Yes. Did we have nearly $450 to spend on getting to the appointment? No. We opted to spend nearly nine hours driving instead. It is true that slightly cheaper fares can be obtained for flights to Auckland, Wellington or Christchurch if booked well in advance or on special but the fact remains that the usual cost of flights in or out of Napier makes many people think twice about flying. There is no competition and, therefore, the region can not expect Air New Zealand to move on cost unless we make a concerted effort to pressure the airline. Considering it is an issue that hits at the heart of regional development, we think it would be worth the effort.