13 November 2014
More on Hamilton Service Changes
Hamilton Airport's commercial boss has called this week's Air New Zealand announcement a "win some, lose some" situation. The airline announced on Tuesday that it would cancel the Hamilton to Auckland route from February 2016, and upgrade plane size on some other routes. It is also selling its 16-strong fleet of Beech 1900D aircraft, operated and serviced by Hamilton-based subsidiary Eagle Airways. George Clark, commercial general manager at Hamilton Airport, said it was a matter of when, not if, Air New Zealand was going to restructure its domestic fleet. "It's not unexpected within the industry that this was going to happen. I guess the guessing game was around timing," he said. "The [Beech 1900Ds] do struggle to make a dollar." Other than the Auckland route, the only other Hamilton Airport destination serviced by the 19-seat Beech 1900Ds is Palmerston North. From August 2016, the twice-daily weekday flights will be replaced by a single return flight on a 50-seat Bombardier Q300 aircraft. Clark hoped the increased capacity would become a financial advantage for the airport. He said there was a finite number of business people who travelled between Hamilton and Palmerston North, but hoped the cheaper fares - estimated by Air New Zealand to be 15 per cent lower than Beech 1900D fares - would attract people who would otherwise drive or fly out of Auckland. Air New Zealand also said some routes serviced by 50-seat aircraft would be upgraded to 68-seat ATR 72-600 aircraft. Clark was not sure which routes from Hamilton might get the upgrade, but suspected the longer-range flights would benefit. "I can only surmise from what we've been told," he said. "Eventually when the Beechcraft are gone and these new ATRs come on board you'll probably see pretty much always the ATRs being the bigger ones to Wellington and Christchurch. So that in itself puts a bit more capacity into Hamilton, which is a positive." Air New Zealand said there were no current plans to adjust the frequency or the number of seats offered on Hamilton's Wellington or Christchurch routes. Hamilton City Council is the airport's largest shareholder and mayor Julie Hardaker said she was "disappointed" in the decision to can the Auckland route. "One of the advantages for us, however, is that we're going to have the expressway, which means it's a short journey up the hill. One of the things I'm interested in over the next couple of years is working with Air New Zealand, seeing if we can maintain that route with the bigger aircraft." She said the council would be involved in discussions with Air New Zealand, hoping to keep the airline's Hamilton maintenance facility operating.
Posted by Steve L at 5:24 PM