13 November 2014

Another Whakatane Contender

East Bay Aviation is considering expanding its business to include scheduled flights to Auckland following yesterday’s shock announcement that Air New Zealand is pulling out of Whakatane. Director Graeme Lee has confirmed the charter and scenic flight company is investigating the possibility and will be discussing it with Whakatane District Council in the next few days. “We already have the infrastructure in place to be an active airline; it’s just a case of turning our attention to scheduled flights now that Air New Zealand has made the announcement,” he said. “April gives us a reasonably good time frame in which to get ourselves properly geared up to tackle this sort of business opportunity. “We need to carry out some work around the logistics and marketing … but we are a local airline already in the sense that we do charter work out of Whakatane, and we have facilities and infrastructure already in place for that. “So it is quite a logical thing for us to be looking at scheduled flights out of Whakatane.” He said the company was very excited about the idea and expected to be able to release further information over coming weeks. Air New Zealand announced yesterday afternoon it was dropping 13 regional routes, including the Whakatane-Auckland route, effective April 2015, as part of a shake-up aimed at delivering sustainable air services and lower prices for customers. The 19-seater Beech aircraft that services Whakatane is considered uneconomic, in spite of average passenger flight loadings of between 60 and 70 per cent. Mr Lee said East Bay Aviation operated four-seater and six-seater aircraft for charter purposes and would look at sourcing a larger aircraft for scheduled services. “There’s probably room for a 12- to 14-seater aircraft available in New Zealand and we  think we can operate that size aircraft quite economically so that’s probably where we would be heading.” He said the company had no inkling of yesterday’s announcement, although there had been the odd rumour circulating some time ago that Air New Zealand, at some point, might pull out. The actual announcement came as “something of a surprise”, he said. “But it is timely for us because we’re already looking at expanding our current operations out of Whakatane. So it fits in quite nicely for us.” East Bay Aviation has three commercial pilots on its books and operates charter services to anywhere in New Zealand on a private hire basis along with scenic flights to White Island and the central mountains. It has an office and base at Whakatane Airport and is well-publicised. The scenic flights and charter business would continue to operate alongside any scheduled flight service, Mr Lee said. “That part of the business is in expansion mode right now and that’s one of the things we were considering for this coming summer – how we could best take on the expanding market in the tourist area.

1 comment:

  1. Would most likely support this bid rather than Sunair. Have had some bad experiences on Sunair and East Bay Aviation is local. Like the slogan locals helping locals. Ultimately any profits from this service will be injected back into the local economy. You've got my support East Bay!!