30 April 2015
13 flights a week for Hokitika
Air New Zealand has confirmed fewer flights but bigger planes will operate out of Hokitika from next year. However, it says feedback from the main users will help set the new schedules. From May 2016, return flights between Hokitika and Christchurch are expected to drop from 24 a week to 13, following the replacement of the 19-seat Beech aircraft with 50-seater Q300 aircraft. The company yesterday signalled cheaper fares as a result of the economical change. However, Westland Mayor Mike Havill said he wanted assurance the flight scheduling would continue to suit the region, not the airline. He recently hosted a stakeholders meeting with Air New Zealand regional services manager Ian Collier, Among those in attendance were representatives from the West Coast District Health Board, Electronet, Development West Coast, Westland Milk Products and Department of Conservation. "There was a clear agreement within the business community that we send the message that when the new scheduling is set it is to suit the region, not Air New Zealand," Mr Havill said. He said it was understood the airline was proposing a minimum of two flights a day. A joint submission was being prepared to back up the consensus that the flights be scheduled around the business day. A large part of the timetable was being underpinned by the DHB, which needed the ability to fly in specialists first thing in the morning, Mr Havill said. "We need the ability for people to be able to leave the Coast early and get back later in the day. We don't want two flights wither side of lunch or just when they have a spare plane lying around." The company said in a statement yesterday it was planning ti take feedback from the stakeholders meeting into consideration. "We are currently awaiting a formal response from the Mayor’s office as to how we best meet the community’s needs before confirming the new schedule.” Later this month, Hokitika Airport will become the only West Coast regional link with the airline when Air NZ drops out of Westport, replaced by Sounds Air with nine-seater planes. Westport was one of three towns to lose its air services when the airline announced it would be progressively retiring its regional fleet of 19-seater Beech 1900D aircraft by August 2016. The national carrier said it had been losing $ million a month over the past two years on routes served by the Beech fleet. It has forecast that airfares will drop by up to 15% on the large capacity flights. “Where we transition a route to larger 50-seat aircraft we expect to be able to reduce the average airfare by 15% because of the better economics of scale achieved from distributing fixed operating costs across 50 passengers than just 19,” Air NZ said in a statement. Mr Havill said with the “sharper” pricing it was hoped more West Coast people would choose to fly over the hill rather than travel by bus or car.
Source : Hokitika Guardian, 2 April 2015
Posted by Steve L at 11:20 AM