17 November 2014
Taupo Laments Loss of Wellington Flights
Taupo has been named the hottest destination for backpackers - but good luck getting here from Wellington if you want to fly. At the same time Taupo was celebrating taking the title of the ‘‘Best New Zealand Destination’’ award at the Golden Backpack Awards, Air New Zealand made an announcement of its own, axing its Taupo to Wellington flights from April, 2015. From then Taupo customers will have to use the service from Rotorua, or connect from Taupo via Auckland, which would be the only direct flight left in the region. Mayor, David Trewavas, said he was "extremely disappointed" the service had been cut and expected there would be a flow-on effect from the decision, given Taupo’s position as a notable visitor and conference destination. ‘"Previous discussions had indicated this would be an issue we could face in five to six years time," Trewavas said. "Since I have been in office, I have been in constant contact with Air New Zealand and no indication had been given that this issue was on the immediate horizon ... it has come as a bolt out of the blue. We invest a large amount of money marketing ourselves as a visitor and events destination, and host a huge number of national and international tourists every year. You could forgive us for feeling as though we’ve been slapped in the face. Great Lake Taupo was announced as best New Zealand destination in the 19th annual Golden Backpack Awards, which will only lift our profile further. I would like to reassure our community that as a Council we will be working extensively with Air New Zealand to ensure our remaining air services are retained and that they will service our growing business community in the most effective way." Destination Great Lake Taupo general manager, Vanessa Freeman, said the Golden Backpack Award had demonstrated the quality of product the region delivered to both international and domestic visitors. "The recognition is a credit to the hard work our tourism operators put in 365 days of the year. With tourism being worth $400 million to this region, it is a significant industry that delivers both dollars and jobs for Great Lake Taupo." The suspension of the Taupo to Wellington flight, has left many locals wondering what the impact will mean for the region. Leigh Hynes said she flew the route "at least six times" a year and always saw a lot of tourists on them. "The flights always seem to be full to me and I see a lot of tourists on these flights, which means that there will probably be a flow on effect there." The Auckland to Taupo flight next year will move away from the 19-seater aircraft to the new 50-seater aircraft, which Air New Zealand said would "make tickets cheaper, which would then result in more utilising the service." However, some are questioning why the Wellington flight was cut without testing the market using the more affordable 50-seater aircraft, which Air New Zealand estimated would see ticket prices drop by around 15 per cent. Many of those who commented on the Taupo Times Facebook page, said the cost deterred them from using the service. Arran Knox said it was often cheaper to "fly to Rotorua and drive to Taupo." If the larger planes were used on the routes, he believed a reduction in fares would see more use the direct service. He said axing the direct flight would make it hard for him when he joined police college, as he would be based in Porirua for 18 weeks, separated from his partner and child. "Not having flights as an option is disappointing ... it probably will mean we will use Skype and less face to face." He also said it would "emotionally [be] much harder on [the] family", especially when he couldn’t make the trip. Air New Zealand chief executive officer, Christopher Luxon, said the 19-seat aircraft was the smallest in the Air New Zealand fleet and always had the highest cost. "This has led to Eagle Airways, which operates the 19-seat fleet, losing $1 million per month for the past two years, or the equivalent of $26 per oneway passenger journey." Eagle management, staff and unions are working to determine the future of the business. Once they have a proposal for the future of Eagle Airways, redeployment opportunities within the Air New Zealand group will be identified for staff who may be affected.
Source : Taupo Times
Posted by Steve L at 11:11 AM