16 August 2015

Barrier Air - The new name to the Barrier and Kaitaia

Updated MARCH 2020

On the 22nd of September 2014 Graham Reynolds formed Great Barrier Airlines Ltd to take over Great Barrier Airlines Flight Operations Ltd, which traded under the name Great Barrier Airlines which had operated services to Great Barrier Island since 1983. Initially the company continued to operate as Great Barrier Airlines and operate its regular services from both Auckland and North Shore to Great Barrier Island using a mixture of piston aircraft, including two Piper Chieftains (one the Brazilian Embraer variant), a Britten Norman Islander and a Partenavia.

In late 2014 Air New Zealand announced its intention to withdraw its Auckland to Kaitaia service. After entering into an agreement with Far North Holdings, the Kaitaia airport operator, Great Barrier Airlines announced in February 2015 that it would offer services between Auckland and Kaitaia from the 28th of April 2015. The company planned to operate three daily flights each way on weekdays using a 12-seater Cessna 208B Grand Caravan with two flights a day on Saturdays and Sundays. Great Barrier Airlines' General Manager Murray Pope said the new service would bring many benefits for Far North residents. “Our schedules mean that business people will be able to undertake a full day’s business in Auckland before flying home in the evening. They will also be able to transfer to and from Wellington services.” 

Great Barrier Airlines first service from Kaitaia to Auckland took off from Kaitaia at 2.15pm on Wednesday 29 April 2015 with flight GBA616, being flown by Embraer EMB-820C ZK-RDT. The first inbound flight to Kaitaia, GBA619, was again flown in Embraer EMB-820C ZK-RDT. One of the passengers wrote on her Facebook page, Today was the first day that the new Great Barrier Airlines service between Kaitaia and Auckland operated and I really enjoyed being on the last flight in tonight. The WAKARERE was a 9 seater with 2 pilots and 4 passengers. Lovely takeoff, flight and landing. Bit bumpy coming in to KAITAIA but way quieter than the Air NZ flights used to be. Tenei taku whakatauki mo tena - Climb high, climb far. Your goal the sky, your aim the star. As well as using the Embraer 820C on the Kaitaia service Great Barrier Airlines also used Mainland Air's Piper PA31 Chieftain ZK-VIP and for a short time air2there's Cessna 208B Grand Caravan ZK-MYH. 

Cessna 208B Grand Caravan ZK-MYH which serviced the Kaitaia route for a short time. Photo taken at Auckland on 5 May 2015

On the 13th of July 2015 BN Islander ZK-FVD, Partenavia ZK-PLA and Embraer 820C ZK-RDT were registered to the new Great Barrier Airlines Ltd. 

A couple of days later on the 15th of July 2015 Great Barrier Airlines was renamed as Barrier Air. 

A tangible sign of the new company was the addition of Cessna Grand Caravan ZK-SDB to the fleet. The Caravan entered into service for the first time on the 11th of August 2015 flying from Auckland to Kaitaia and return. It flew to Great Barrier Island for the first time the following day.

Barrier Air's first Cessna Grand Caravan, ZK-SDB at Auckland on 29 September 2015
Also carrying Barrier Air titles is Britten Norman Island. Photo taken at Auckland on 26 October 2015

The Kaitaia schedule was reduced from the 17th of August 2015 with two flights being offered each way between Auckland and Kaitaia on weekdays and one flight each way on Saturdays and Sundays.

From November 2015 Barrier Air changed their Kaitaia timetable to better suit business traffic. The afternoon flights from this time were rescheduled to depart Kaitaia at 4.00pm instead of 2.00pm.

Embraer 820C ZK-RDT at Auckland on 19 December 2015
Piper PA31-Chieftain ZK-VIP at Auckland on 30 November 2015

In December 2015 Barrier Air introduced a Whangarei to Auckland service on Friday evenings with a return Auckland to Whangarei service on Sunday evenings. During the summer holidays Auckland-Whangarei return services were being offered on both Friday and Sunday evenings. Barrier Air also introduced a scheduled shuttle between Great Barrier Claris and Okiwi on Fridays and Sundays to connect Okiwi to Auckland and North Shore services. Piper Chieftain ZK-FOP was added to the fleet in December 2015 and it began flying for the company on the 27th of December 2015 when it operated the Kaitaia services. 

Barrier Air's Partenavia P68 ZK-PLA at Auckland on 30 December 2015.

For a pictorial post on Barrier Air's Cessna Grand Caravan operations see :

February 2016 saw further expansion. On the 4th of February 2016 Barrier Air commenced city hopper flights between Auckland International Airport and North Shore Airport allowing passengers to and from the North Shore a quick flight over Auckland's traffic congestion. This services were offered twice a day on weekdays. The first flight, GB310, was operated by Embraer 820 ZK-RDT. 

Then, on the 13th of February 2016, Barrier Air introduced flights between Hamilton and Auckland replacing the Air New Zealand service which had ended the day before. The first flight from Auckland, GB55, was operated by Cessna Grand Caravan ZK-SDB under the command of Travis McKee. 
The Hamilton schedule saw eleven flights offered each week as follows;

The mid-morning flights were timed to connect to Kiwi Regional flights to Nelson and Dunedin at Hamilton.

Announcing the arrival of Barrier Air flight 55 from Auckland 
Leading the way across the tarmac, Nick Pearson, Barrier Air's Logistics Manager (left) talks to the company's Chief Executive Mike Foster.

By the beginning of April 2016 the Hamilton schedule was reduced to operate on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays with flights leaving Auckland at 10.30am to arrive at Hamilton at 11.00am and leaving Hamilton at 12.00noon to arrive at Auckland at 12.30pm. The Okiwi-Claris and  Auckland-North Shore flights were withdrawn about this time.

Barrier Air added Piper PA31 Chieftain ZK-FOP to its fleet in December 2015. It is seen here arriving at Hamilton on 7 March 2016

On 2 May 2016 Barrier Air commenced weekday Auckland-Whangarei flights with Piper Chieftain ZK-VIP operating the first service. Flights left Auckland at 7.00am to arrive at Whangarei at 7.30am and Whangarei at 5.30pm to arrive at Auckland at 6.00pm. Between these flights the aircraft operated the doctors' flight between Whangarei and Kaitaia. Passengers could book flights between Auckland and Kaitaia subject to seats being available.

In August 2016 Barrier Air withdrew all three Piper Chieftains from its fleet. At the same time the doctors' flights between Whangarei and Kaitaia ended as well as the Auckland to Whangarei scheduled service. Flights between North Shore and Great Barrier Island were also reduced and these flights were usually operated by the BN Islander or Partenavia. 

Over the 2017/2018 summer there were a number of fleet changes. In October 2017 the Partenavia ZK-PLA was also withdrawn from the fleet, while in January 2018 a second Cessna Grand Caravan, ZK-SDC was added to the fleet. 
On the 20th of April 2018 Britten Norman Islander ZK-FVD was withdrawn from service after operating flight GB206 from Great Barrier Island to North Shore. 

The retirement of the BN Islander made Barrier Air an all turbine airline with two Cessna Grand Caravans. This was a significant milestone for the airline and a watershed moment which was the launch pad for a high level of professionalism, growing the business and  improving its passenger appeal. 

Cessna Grand Caravan ZK-SDC at Auckland on 25 June 2018

Before being withdrawn the North Shore service had been losing patronage and so Barrier Air took time to reassess the service before introducing the Caravan to the route. As part of this the company received the necessary certification to offer an IFR service on the route and have the Caravan certified for North Shore Airport. On the 10th of September 2018 Barrier Air resumed its flights between Great Barrier Island and North Shore. The Caravans were load-restricted to 12 passengers inbound and 10 out until two aircraft were fitted with a STOL kit which enables 12 passengers in and out. 

The first flights were operated in Cessna 208B Grand Caravan ZK-SDC which departed Great Barrier Island's Claris airport as flight GB204 at 11.16am and arrived at North Shore at 11:40am. The return flight, GB205, departed North Shore and 12.17pm and arrived at Great Barrier Island (Claris) at 12:41pm. The North Shore flights operate on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays.

Above and below, Barrier Air at North Shore in the form of Cessna Grand Caravan ZK=SDC - looking sharp in its new colour scheme on the 17th of December 2018

On the 16th of October 2018 Barrier Air added a third Cessna Grand Caravan to its fleet. ZK-SDD was also the first of Barrier Air's Caravan to appear in the company's new colour scheme with ZK-SDC being repainted a couple of weeks later. 

Cessna Caravans ZK-SDD and ZK-SDC wearing Barrier Air's new colour scheme at Auckland on 17 December 2018

As well as moving to a standardised colour scheme Barrier Air was also moving to develop the technology employed on the company's aircraft. All three Caravans feature the same G1000 GPS glass cockpit suite and Garmin integrated autopilot systems. The technology also includes synthetic vision systems. In practice, using GPS and other databases, the pilot can “look through” clouds and see terrain. If the terrain is coming too close the terrain turns red! Getting the technology right has been a major investment exercise for Barrier Air. Flying into Auckland can mean a lot of holding for larger aircraft. The new technology and patient working and developing of relationships with Airways and the airport company has enabled Barrier Air to develop IT systems to coordinate arrival slots in Auckland. The G1000 suite allows quick response to ATC requirements as the Barrier Air Caravans approach Auckland at busy times. All this investment has significantly reduced holding times at Auckland and vastly improved the quality of the service delivered to the customer. 

The glass cockpit as seen in ZK-SDB in November 2015

The Caravan has proved itself as a good platform for Barrier Air. Matt Cameron, Barrier Air’s chief pilot believes “Having more than one Caravan was the game changer for Barrier Air. The Caravan is incredibly reliable with a dispatch rate internationally of about 99% and our experience would match that - that’s with the Caravan possibly operating for 7 to 9 hours a day. For every hour flown money is put aside for maintenance so there is always money for maintenance. Most maintenance is done at Flight Care in Napier with the checks being done every 200 hours. When the Caravan is done there a swarm of engineers work on it so all the checks are done it can be returned to service as quickly as possible.  The Caravan is incredibly reliable but for the other niggles that come up between servicing at Napier support is provided by Oceania at Ardmore.” Barrier Air remains committed to ensure the high standards of safety and ensuring the aircraft are presented looking good. 

With increasing numbers of passenger, from the 15th of October 2018, Barrier Air added two extra Auckland-Great Barrier weekday return flights to the schedule with an additional flight on Saturdays and Sundays. In summer there are days when 15 flights can be operated between Auckland and the Barrier. Barrier Air's Chief Operating Officer Grant Bacon says the airline has “really focused on getting Aucklanders to experience Great Barrier Island. It’s a good, local ‘overseas’ destination that you fly to from an international airport and it’s off the grid! People love the Barrier and there are a growing number of accommodation providers giving different options for people wanting to get away from it all. Often our flights are full both ways, especially with weekend traffic. Freight is also growing and two supermarkets have deals with Barrier Air to fly groceries to the Barrier. You can have anything from 6 to 60-70 boxes a day.”

Barrier Air Cessna 208 Grand Caravan ZK-SDC taken at Great Barrier Island on 8 April 2019
Barrier Air's third Cessna Grand Caravan, ZK-SDD at Auckland on 30 December 2018

On the 4th of March 2019 Barrier Air added an additional six return flights a week to its service between Auckland and Kaitaia thereby giving Kaitaia a daily service. The new flights were offered Wednesday through to Monday, departing Auckland for Kaitaia at 11.00am and the return flights departing Kaitaia at 12.40pm. On the 30th of July 2019 a Tuesday flight was added to this schedule giving a total of 13 flights a week between Auckland and Kaitaia. Grant Bacon, Barrier Air's Chief Operating Officer, told 3rd Level NZ that "The loads to and from Kaitaia have been excellent and well received by the market." 

Cessna Grand Caravan ZK-SDD at Kaitaia on 2 March 2020

Northland Age, 26 March 2019

From the 27th of September 2019 Barrier Air operated its first "double Friday evening flight" to Kaitaia. Due to increasing passenger numbers the airline adds an additional Friday evening service to and from Kaitaia whenever the 6.15pm departure from Auckland is full, with the second flight departing from Auckland at 6.30pm.

Barrier Air's inaugural double Friday evening service to Kaitaia... Cessna 208 Grand Caravans ZK-SDC and ZK-SDD on the ground at Kaitaia on Friday on 27 September 2019

Since its inception as Barrier Air the airline has transformed itself to a very professional airline with state of the art equipment, technology and systems. The investment has paid off with increased passenger numbers and the airline gaining a reputation with Great Barrier Island and Kaitaia locals as a solid operator. This is reflected in expanded timetables to both centres. This will surely be the foundation for further growth and development of Barrier Air's services in the future.


  1. Its a shame they have cut back on a lot of flights as they were covering a lot of ports. Who took over the Doctors flights was it Sunair?