This blog started off by focussing on NZ's smaller 3rd level airlines, past and present. It has evolved to trying to present some record of NZ's domestic airline operations and some of the larger charter operators, interesting NZ international airliner movements and photos I have taken around the country. Comments, corrections or contributions are welcome, Steve - firstname.lastname@example.org
The word that comes to mind in
regards to Kiwi Regional is SPANZ. In the 1960s this company tried to establish
a national network with lean routes. This is what Kiwi Regional seems to look
like. Tauranga-Palmerston North is route the Palmerston North airport company
was very keen on. It was last flown by Air Central in the 1980s which operated
a Palmerston North-Rotorua-Tauranga service without carrying much traffic.
Palmerston North-Blenheim hasn’t been
operated since pre-war Union Airways days and this was when it was part of the
service between Auckland and Christchurch and Dunedin and Union Airways’ DH86
Express aircraft were unable to use Wellington. Palmerston North-Nelson offers
some potential but unless it is a twice daily service timed for business
traffic in both directions I doubt it will generate enough traffic for a Saab.
Heading south Nelson-Queenstown is also an untried route. Mount Cook Airlines
flew into Nelson in the late 1980s and early 1990s effectively connecting the
two centres but my gut feeling is there is not enough tourist traffic to
justify linking the two centres. Dunedin-Queenstown is a link that has been
operated by a number of operators, usually via Alexandra, but it was always
found to be a very lean route. Hamilton-Nelson is a route that has been
operated by both Origin Pacific and Eagle Air. For both operators it didn’t
stack up. As for Auckland-Hamilton – an hour and a half to drive – Why fly?
SPANZ also were looking at a DC-6 service between Auckland and Wellington but
never got a licence. So an interesting idea for Kiwi Regional to try to use
Whenuapai but if they did get permission I would expect that Air New Zealand
and Jetstar would want a piece of the action. So all in all, in my book, Kiwi
Regional will be like the bird… it won’t fly. If it was around when the routes
came up for grabs it might have had a chance but with a start-up late this year
I think the chickens will have flown the coop.
One of the operators that had
high hopes for new routes was Sunair. Sunair have a large fleet of Piper Aztecs
and were willing to step up to a Cessna Grand Caravan. Sunair survives
operating on very lean routes throughout the central North Island and to Great Barrier Island and the Coromandel Peninsula. These operate on a scheduled air taxi service basis, in other
words they will fly if they have passengers. For this reason there fares are quite high. Suanir's plan seemed to planning Caravan operations with the same model, assuming not a full plane and charging high fares to meet costs. The
Sounds Air model is better – reasonable fares to encourage full planes. Since Grabaseat high
fares with empty seats just won’t work. Interestingly the new model of flights to Great Barrier and Whitianga seem to use cheaper fares and the response from my observations is that Sunair is doing okay on its new routes.
The routes still up for grabs…
This is one route I thought would
have been picked up by now. There was talk of an operator flying between Taupo
and Christchurch but, Mount Cook tried that some years ago with HS748s as part
of their Christchurch-Rotorua service but it didn’t work. Taupo needs to secure
a service to Wellington as soon as possible. I heard in the last few days of a
regular meeting that is held in Taupo because of its central location that is
being moved to Rotorua as there are no direct flights between Taupo and
Wellington. My pick of the current operators… Sounds Air using their second
Pilatus PC-12 would be the best fit.
Again, I’m surprised no one has
picked up this route. It’s had a lot of operators over the years… From memory,
NAC (certainly using DC-3s and Friendships??? I’d need to wade through
timetables to check), Capital Air Services (Cessna 402), James Air (Cessna 402 and 404),
Avcorp Commuter (Cessna 402 and 404), Air Albatross (Cessna 402 and
Metroliner), Associated Air (Cessna 402 and 421), Eagle Air (Piper Chieftain
and Embraer Bandeirante), Origin Pacific (BAe Jetstream) and Air NZ Link (Beech
1900). I think it has always had reasonable loadings and sure beats
transhipping at Wellington. My pick of the current operators… Sounds Air or
Air2there using Cessna Caravans.
Though not part of the latest
routes up for grabs I still think this route could sustain an air service…
Again, the Pilatus PC-12 would seem a good fit so long as the aircraft could find
work for the middle of the day.
Reduced frequency routes
This will be the interesting
feature of Air New Zealand’s provincial air route restructuring. Take the
Hamilton-Palmerston North service as an example. At present there are two Beech
1900 services each weekday to suit business traffic. One Q300 flight is not
going to fill the gap. Depending on timings it is not going to suit business
traffic in one direction so it opens the possibility of another operator
operating the same route. The only problem is Air New Zealand has said they
will strongly compete with any such opposition. Interesting times lie ahead.