31 December 2015

2015 - The NZ domestic airline scene in review

2015 has to be the year of recent times for the emergence and expansion of domestic air services. Key to from a regional point of view this was Air New Zealand's withdrawal from Kaitaia, Whakatane and Westport and other provincial services. This saw expansion for Great Barrier Airlines (that later rebranded itself as Barrier Air), Air Chathams and Sounds Air. 2015 also the emergence of new airlines - Originair, Kiwi Regional Airlines and the short lived North Shore Air. Then the final chapter of the year was Jetstar's entry to the regional market. But there were other events in the year as well, perhaps the most significant was the cessation of the Boeing 737 from service with Air New Zealand.

The following is a review of the highlights of 2015...

30 January 2015
Sounds Air commences new Blenheim - Paraparaumu service
Sounds Air's Cessna Grand Caravan ZK-SAW at Paraparaumu on the first day of operations on 30 January 2015

28 April 2015 
Air New Zealand withdraws from Kaitaia, Whakatane and Westport
Beech 1900 ZK-EAN departs Westport operating the last Air New Zealand flight on 28 April 2015

28 April 2015 
Sounds Air commences Wellington - Westport service using Pilatus PC12s
Sounds Air's Pilatus PC12 at Westport on the first day of operations, 28 April 2015

28 April 2015
Air Chathams commences Whakatane-Auckland service using a Fairchild Metroliner and occasionally Convair 580s
Air Chathams' Metroliner ZK-CIC arriving at Whakatane on 28 December 2015

29 April 2015 
Great Barrier Airlines commences Kaitaia-Auckland service using Piper Chieftains.
Embraer 820 ZK-RDT operated the first service to Kaitaia. It is seen here departing Auckland on 19 December 2015

4 May 2015
Sunair offers twice weekly service from Great Barrier Island to both Hamilton and Whangarei. Whakatane included as destination on flights to and from Gisborne and Napier. 
Sunair Aztec ZK-ERM at Whakatane on 6 November 2015

15 May 2015 
Sounds Air withdraws from Wanganui-Wellington route
Sounds Air's Cessna 208 Grand Caravan ZK-SAY arrives at Wanganui on 22 October 2014

22 May 2015
The last of New Zealand's bank data courier flight was flown... Previously Air Napier flew bank data between Gisborne and Napier and Sunair flew it from Napier to Hamilton. This freight is now carried on Air New Zealand flights. 
The bank data courier flight being loaded at Napier on 23 November 2011

2 June 2015 
Sounds Air commences Taupo- Wellington flights using Pilatus PC12s
Sounds Air's first departure from Taupo to Wellington on 2 June 2015. Pilatus PC12 ZK-PLZ.

16 June 2015 
Sounds Air commences Paraparaumu-Nelson flights using Cessna Caravans
Sounds Air's Cessna Caravan ZK-SAN at Nelson on 18 November 2015

14 July 2015
Great Barrier Airlines changes its name to Barrier Air as its Cessna Grand Caravan arrives

11 August 2015
Barrier Air's Cessna Grand Caravan enters service for their flights to Kaitaia and Great Barrier Island
Barrier Air's Cessna 208 Grand Caravan departs Auckland for Great Barrier Island on 29 September 2015 

12 August 2015
Originair commences operations flying Nelson to Palmerston North

13 September 2015
Originair commences services between Nelson and Wellington
Originair BAe Jetstream ZK-JSH arrives into Wellington on 18 November 2015

21 September 2015
The Boeing 737 departs from the Air New Zealand fleet... ZK-NGI departing Auckland on 21 September 2015 operating a positioning flight, NZ1737, to Christchurch bringing an end the national carriers long history of operating Boeing 737s on domestic services.

28 September 2015
North Shore Air commencing services between North Shore and Tauranga
A damp day made even damper with the water canon salute greets North Shore Air's Piper Navajo into Tauranga on 28 September 2015

4 October 2015
North Shore Air commence flights between North Shore and Kerikeri

5 October 2015
Sunair withdraws from Napier. Napier had been Sunair's first destination. The Whangarei-Great Barrier Island flights offered in May 2015 were also withdrawn
Sunair's Piper Aztec ZK-EVP at Napier on 15 April 2009

24 October 2015
Air Chathams add a weekly DC-3 summer service between Auckland and Whakatane
Air Chathams' Douglas DC-3 ZK-AWP at Whakatane on 8 November 2015

27 October 2015
Kiwi Regional Airlines begins Dunedin-Queenstown services. The same day the airline announces a reduction of frequency on this route from 14 flights per week to two. Four times a week Dunedin-Nelson-Hamilton services began on 28 October 2015.
Kiwi Regional's Saab 340 touches down at Hamilton on its inaugural service to the Waikato on 28 October 2015

29 October 2015
Jetstar introduces Wellington-Dunedin flights
Jetstar Airbus 320 VH-VQB at Dunedin on 18 December 2013

30 October 2015
North Shore Air ceases all operations
North Shore Air's Piper Navajo at Tauranga on the the first day of services on 28 September 2015 

5 November 2015
Sounds Air commences Blenheim-Napier service

30 November 2015
Kiwi Regional withdraws from Queenstown

1 December 2015
Jetstar commences Auckland-Napier and Auckland-Nelson regional services using Bombardier Q300s
Jetstar Bombardier Q300 VH-TQL on the taxi on Auckland before departing for Nelson on 19 December 2015

December 2015
Barrier Air commences a weekly Whangarei-Auckland service and a twice weekly Claris-Okiwi shuttle service
Barrier Air's Partenavia ZK-PLA at Auckland on 30 December 2015

15 December 2015
Airwork introduces Boeing 737-400 ZK-PAK to its fleet. This is the first of three Boeing 737-400 freighter aircraft which will be used by a Joint Venture company formed by Fieldair Holdings and Airwork Holdings that will replace the airfreight service currently performed by Air Freight NZ's Convairs Airwork's Friendships.
Boeing 737-400 arriving into Christchurch on its first flight. 

I hope you've enjoyed 3rd Level New Zealand this year.

A BIG THANKS to all those who have sent through photos and alerted me to local news in your area. It is getting harder to find what is happening regionally so I have really appreciated tip offs on recent news.  

THANKS also those who have added interest to the site with your comments and those who have sent through corrections to counter my poor proof reading. 

Also a HUGE THANKS for the airlines who have sent me press releases and news with what's happening with your company. I hope you've got a few new punters from what I have posted!  

THANKS also to all those who follow the blog and have sent emails of appreciation.

I hope you have a HAPPY NEW YEAR and all the best for 2016


  1. pak.....the "convair killer"

    1. The plan was to definitely not be flying the convairs this week, but 737 having some teething problems so connies been flying every night. They aint dead just yet ^_^

    2. Is the end of the Convairs imminent??? And what of the F27s and Metros???

  2. Thank you Steve for keeping me up to speed on this aspect of the NZ aviation scene.
    Very much appreciated.
    Cheers for 2016.

  3. A supurb years work.
    Many thanks.

  4. Thanks for all the updates. I enjoy reading about what is happening elsewhere in NZ!

  5. Thanks for all the updates, always a pleasure to read what you have written.

    What do you think will happen for the NZ Airline industry in 2016? I can see Air NZ dropping TIU and TUO (and maybe PPQ) and a few other routes such as HLZ-PMR, CHC-BHE, PMR-WLG. This leaves a few new markets open for players like Air Chathams, Originair, Sunair and KRA.

    I also think Jetstar might open up some new routes like WLG-HLZ, CHC-PMR, CHC-NSN, CHC-DUD and CHC-IVC.

  6. Interesting question...

    So my predictions

    Air NZ - I agree TIU, TUO are possible cuts. I would also add HKK as it is not a great timetable. However I don't think there will reductions in routes in 2016...

    Jetstar - Agree there will expansion, maybe not next year. I agree with you on WLG-HLZ, CHC-NSN, CHC-DUD and CHC-IVC. Not sure about PMR-CHC... maybe also WLG-NPE and WLG-NPL

    Originair - The rumour is NSN-NPL. I think also NSN-NPE and NSN-CHC are possibilities.

    Kiwi Regional - Already announced they are going to NSN-TRG. I think they will need a second aircraft to survive. Where else they would fly remains a mystery without them going into a main centre. I think Ewan would have been better off trying international out of HLZ again... Air NZ wouldn't compete... but then maybe they might put Tiger into HLZ as the new Freedom.

    Sunair. Announced that they will operate from NOR. I think they need to think NPE-HLZ when Eagle ends and NPE-HLZ traffic would have to fly via WLG instead of AKL... They might also need to replicate the model they have used for GBI and Whitianga flights on the East Coast flights... cheaper fares mean more pax. Not easy to get the balance on a light twin on lean routes. Also I think they need to think of something with a bit more appeal than the Aztec.

    Air Chathams - Another Metro or two??? AKL-MRO and WHK-WLG are possibilities.

    Sounds Air - consolidation. GMZ-WLG when Air NZ ends its overnight service to HKK??? But that would take another Pilatus. A better option would be PPQ-CHC with the Pilatus but not sure about the range of the Pilatus. From what I have heard Air NZ's loadings on that route weren't that bad.

    Barrier Air - Consolidation. An AKL-TUO overnight might be another route that might work with Air NZ's new Q300 timetable.

    A number of Air NZ regional routes now operated by Beech 1900s will not operate business friendly flights in both directions with the Q300 replacement service. HKK-CHC, CHC-BHE, WLG-TIU, HLZ-PMR, TUO-AKL are all examples. There will be room for other operators but Air NZ have promised fierce competition for any competitors. All in all interesting times

    1. Great analysis Steve,
      You put some very interesting perspective on the airline industry. Yes I agree with TIU and TUO will struggle. Air NZ should base a Q300 overnight in TUO to make a business friendly schedule like other ports. TIU may get higher load factors if they switch to a TIU-AKL non stop route being the biggest market to get traffic from.
      Also Sounds Air could start Greymouth GMN-WLG with another PC-12.
      I can expect the HKK service to continue to struggle with such high airfares up to $300 one way for the 20 mins flight. If they were only more affordable the flights could have much better load factors and more likely to survive long term.
      I don't think JQ will bring the Q300s to CHC. They will keep their focus on AKL. My predictions are for AKL-ROT, AKL-TRG and AKL-WRE to give more feed for JQ INT and EK/QF/AA from AKL.

    2. I agree, whilst CHC sounds like a really compelling and lucrative market for Qantas Grouo to get involved with the infrastructure doesn't really support another regional operator. The regional end of CHC airport is at absolute capacity, both the departure lounge area, the podiums at the departure doors and the physical gates themselves.

      Major changes would be required to allow another major operator to fly regionally from CHC.

      Of note Air NZ is selling some very very reasonable fares on the AKL-WAG and AKL-TUO Q300 upguaged flights which fully take over from the beech in February. Fares start at $45

  7. Kiwi Regional could attempt DUD-PMR... surely a market that could work. Connect it onto HLZ so there would be a daily connection between DUD and HLZ. Even add IVC to the leg as well but that is a lot of flying for one plane.

    I think Sounds Air's PC12 would be too small for PPQ-CHC or WLG-HKK/GMZ. Maybe Originair? They could create a WLG base and jump into routes like WLG-TIU or WLG-PMR if Air NZ were to cancel them. Not sure why Sounds Air is operating NPE-BHE, I think they could deploy the PC12 on about 5 better routes than that.

    Air Chathams should attempt AKL-MRO, I think it could work quite well as long as the timetable and fares are right. And not sure about WLG-WHK just not sure if there is a market for any plane over 10 seats.

  8. I can't see TIU or HKK being dropped from the Air NZ network anytime soon. That being said i do agree the HKK schedule is disastrous. TUO is one I am keeping a close eye on, the schedule is also rubbish, and with ROT a hour away, it could be interesting.

    WAG has seemed to do alright out the changes. Departures at 6.55am, 10.30am and 5.10pm make for a decent schedule. Air Chathams are on the hunt for another Metro from memory. Think WHK - WLG is on their radar. I for one would use this link, but I do wonder at the sustainability of it. I can't help feeling MRO is now a lost cause. The fares would have to be right for people to use it. 1hr15 on a Metro is not exactly desirable, and Hood Aerodrome would have to complete runway upgrades for Metro ops. Not thinking Sounds Air BHE-NPE will last long, I do question the logic of starting a Link like that.

    Kiwi are stunted In their growth now until they acquire another aircraft. Not sure where they will go next. Have heard Origin may be making a entry to Taranaki, but I could be wrong.

    Oh how things have changed with our National carrier. Thinking back to the days when you could fly to KAT, WHK, MRO, WSZ, MON, WKA, and OAM!