29 April 2015
Sounds Air Wine Country Service Seems More Likely
Wine lovers will likely be able to zip between Hawke's Bay and Marlborough on a new air service as soon as August. Sounds Air managing director Andrew Crawford said there was a "high likelihood" a service would be up and running between Napier and Blenheim. "Our hands are tremendously full, as you can imagine," he said, of the carrier's expansion. It has recently picked up two services which are being dropped by Air New Zealand: a Westport service starting tomorrow, and a Taupo-to-Wellington route starting soon. A nine-seater Pilatus PC12 plane could be flying between Hawke's Bay and Marlborough as soon as August. "Securing the Taupo service, Hawke's Bay is looking more likely because it means we've got to buy another aircraft." A Hawke's Bay service, first tipped to be in the pipeline last month, would initially consist of two return flights on Mondays and Tuesdays - one in the morning and one at night, Mr Crawford said. The Marlborough region is the country's biggest wine producer, while Hawke's Bay is the second biggest. "What we're trying to achieve is for people in the wine industry and people who want to commute between the two wine regions, of which there are a lot." But it could also be used by tourists and locals. The company currently has two Pilatus PC12 planes, and is considering buying a third. The Swiss-made planes seat nine. Mr Crawford said people should not be fooled by the aircraft's single engine - the flight from Napier to Blenheim would take only 45 minutes. "They're pressurised. They go high and fast - very fast. They're a turbine-powered aircraft. The biggest user [of them] is the [US] air force." Sounds Air has operated for more than 25 years and is regarded as a specialist Cook Strait flyer. The company has its own airport near Picton and also links Nelson, Wellington, Paraparaumu and Wanganui. Mr Crawford said the cost for passengers of a Napier-Blenheim service had yet to be worked out. A check last night showed the cheapest fare on the national airliner from Napier to Blenheim on Saturday and returning on Sunday was $537. Napier Mayor Bill Dalton said the proposed service was "very exciting for Hawke's Bay". "I think it's fantastic, not just for Napier but for the whole of Hawke's Bay. We choose to live in Napier and Hawke's Bay because of the lifestyle, but we do need connectivity with the rest of the country and the world. Any connectivity coming in and out of Napier has got to be good for tourism." Hawke's Bay Airport chief executive Nick Story said the company was "very much looking forward" to working with Sounds Air. "The Sounds Air proposal for a direct air link between Hawke's Bay and Marlborough is great news for our wine industry in particular, and also has the potential to stimulate tourism growth in the respective regions over time." Last month, the airport announced a $5 million terminal upgrade and a new name - Ahuriri Airport Hawke's Bay.
Posted by Steve L at 11:40 AM