02 February 2015

Bright Future for Whakatane air service

I think Air Chats will be a good air service provider for Whakatane. Not only have they, as this piece says, grown the Chathams service, they also did a fantastic job in Tonga. One wonders if they will pick up any other routes???

Higher certification levels, larger capacity and the experience of building a localised air service are some of the benefits Air Chathams will bring to the Eastern Bay. The airline’s chief executive Craig Emeny, has been in the Eastern Bay this week drumming up support for the airline in the wake of Tuesday’s announcement that Air Chathams has been chosen as the preferred provider of scheduled flights between Whakatane and Auckland when Air New Zealand pulls out. “Their last flight is on the 28th and our first is on the 29th,” Mr Emeny said. Mr Emeny is well versed with the scenario of a region losing its air service, having started Air Chathams under exactly those circumstances. “They pulled out of the Chathams in the mid-1990s and we’ve grown the business three times since then,” he said. By working with tourism operators, groups such as iwi and councils, Mr Emeny said he hoped to grow the Eastern Bay business in the same vein. “We bring larger-capacity planes to the service and can therefore transport large groups, which the planes used by Air NZ could not,” he said. A pilot with 35 years’ experience, Mr Emeny said that after closing the Whakatane service, Air New Zealand would offer incentives for Eastern Bay people to travel to Rotorua or Tauranga to use their services – as opposed to flying with Air Chathams. By making a conscious decision in support of the new airline, Eastern Bay residents could make a valuable contribution. “We hope we will be supported in making this business viable and to grow it,” Mr Emeny said. “That residents will fly with us instead of hopping into the car. “Loyalty is not a given – you have to earn it,” he said. Mr Emeny said his airline’s 50-seat Convair 580 airliner and the 19-seat Metroliner would provide two return flights a day on weekdays and one return flight on weekends, depending on booking numbers. “Both planes are more fuel efficient than the Beechcraft 1900D planes that are used by Air New Zealand,” he said. “The Convair is also a lot roomier and has overhead lockers.” During the week, Air Chathams would provide up to 100 flying seats a day, a higher capacity than offered by Air New Zealand. “Air New Zealand has been very good with providing us with statistics,” Mr Emeny said. “We will meet the current pricing levels.” That meant a one-way trip would come in at $167 on average, with some fluctuations depending on dates and booking methods. “Travellers will be able to book on-line and we will encourage travel packages,” Mr Emeny said. By working with charter fishing operators, motel owners and other tourism companies, Mr Emeny said he hoped to help increase Eastern Bay visitor numbers. Both aircraft to be used on the route had higher technical certification level than the planes currently providing the Whakatane-Auckland service, he said. “The Convair is the fastest turbo-prop plane flying in New Zealand,” Mr Emeny said. “There are currently eight of the type flying in the country.” Mr Emeny said the planes were fitted with ILS – instrument landing systems, GPS and “all the modern navigation equipment”. Council public affairs manager Ross Boreham said the cost of bringing the airport up to the standard required for the airport to handle Air Chathams’ aircraft had not yet been fully calculated but was not expected to be substantial. He said the issues identified by the Civil Aviation Authority for attention were around signs and security. “There will also be some additional operating costs relating to quality control and management.”

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