14 November 2014

Twice a Day to Timaru

The number of Air New Zealand flights between Timaru and Wellington is set to reduce by almost half but the number of available seats will increase by 44 per cent. The change is part of a regional revamp announced on Tuesday by Air NZ in which services for Kaitaia, Whakatane and Westport will end and subsidiary Eagle Airways will shut down. Air NZ currently operates 22 flights from Timaru to Wellington each week using a 19-seat Beechcraft aircraft. From March 2016, the flights will drop to 12 with a 50-seat aircraft. Air NZ chief executive Christopher Luxon said the change would increase the number of seats by 44 per cent. The company expected to be able to reduce the average airfare by 15 per cent "because of the better economies of scale achieved from spreading the fixed operating costs across 50 passengers as opposed to 19". Aoraki Development, Business and Tourism and South Canterbury Chamber of Commerce chief executive Wendy Smith said it was the news the organisations had been waiting for. "It ensures we retain and build on our ease of access to the capital." Smith said both organisations had actively engaged with the airline for several years. "A few months ago we hosted a regional workshop with Air NZ representatives, discussing the current and future growth of the district and the need for an ongoing and reliable service to the capital," Smith said. South Canterbury Chamber of Commerce president Tony Howey stressed the need for businesses to use the service. "I am confident that usage will pick up with the larger and more reliable planes." Smith said a larger aircraft opened up opportunities. "That could mean an increase in people coming in for conferences, sports or business." PrimePort chairman Roger Gower said it was good news the service was being retained and he would like to see the schedule work with the business community. "It would have been bigger news for us if it wasn't being kept," he said. Those waiting to board the 11.50am flight to Wellington yesterday were happy Timaru was not on the national carrier's chopping block. Porirua residents Donald and Lyndel Borrie were visiting family member Grant Keeley. Keeley said it was wonderful his sister and her husband could fly into Timaru and it saved him the expense of driving to Christchurch. "It saves time, money and is convenient." Lyndel Borrie said she enjoyed the flight but felt the cost of flying into Timaru was too expensive and would welcome cheaper airfares. South Canterbury District Health Board chief executive Nigel Trainor, who was off to a meeting in Wellington yesterday, welcomed the news a larger aircraft would be operating in and out of Timaru. "It will be far more comfortable," he said.

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