01 January 2019

Crystal Ball Gazing for 2019

Happy New Year

May 2019 be a great year for you 
and those you love.
Safe Flying 
Fruitful Plane Spotting.

It's that time of of year again... time to speculate on the year ahead and what it might bring on the domestic air service scene...

So looking at the big players...

Last year Paraparaumu was unexpectedly dropped from the Air New Zealand network. The political outcry was intensive... I certainly think Air New Zealand wants to drop its smaller ports. While I think we will see more regional cuts I would suggest it won't be until inter-line agreements, not just inter-line baggage agreements are sorted out... They won't want the political fall out. So my read, no changes this year until behind the things are sorted out... but watch this space and keep an ear to the ground.

A big issue at present is the motorway access in and out of Auckland. It is horrendous at present but the improvements are expected to open in 2020. So while Auckland-Tauranga has been predicted for the last couple of years I wonder if that will ever happen especially with the road improvements on the way. So my read, no changes this year.

The Rising Stars...

Air Chathams has been taking a considered attitude to its growth... 2018 saw Kapiti Coast added. 2019 will see an international service to Norfolk Island added. One step at a time. There are big rumours about Air Chathams in regards to ATR 72s and Boeing 737s. Look for some action in regards to a new type. Last year I predicted maybe Saabs on Auckland-Whakatane once the RESA improvements were completed at Whakatane... the RESAs are underway so I think the Saab will be seen into Whakatane on peak services in 2019. Despite Kapiti Coast losing one of its three weekday flights (Air New Zealand went from 3 to 2 as well) I would expect Air Chathams to continue to grow the market. My pick for Air Chathams is a consolidation year, developing it charter ops and preparing itself for future Air NZ cuts.

Last year I wrote "I really thought Barrier Air was getting a second Caravan towards the end of 2017." In 2018 they got a second and third! They have restarted North Shore flights and Kaitaia is steadily building and the airline has added a lot of additional capacity to Great Barrier. Barrier Air has some really dynamic leadership and has really transformed itself. So watch this space. It is an airline that is looking at initiatives and thinking carefully before it starts something new. Barrier Air is another airline looking ready and waiting to pounce on any opportunity that offers itself.

Sounds Air had a quiet 2018 until the addition of corporate jet charter work. This will surely expand. On the airline front Sounds Air increased their frequency on the Blenheim-Wellington flights. With the demise of air2there Sounds Air might look to offer more services between the Kapiti Coast and both Blenheim and Nelson. A key question is how they would promote these services! For example how many people in the Kapiti Coast know Sounds Air fly there? I really wonder what future Originair has and therefore Nelson-Palmerston North and Nelson-New Plymouth might be possible routes for Sounds Air. I also think Blenheim-Palmerston North might work. With  the limitation of the size of their Pilatus and Caravan fleet I can't see Sounds Air picking up any Air NZ routes. Watch this space.

Air Napier is a rather unexpected addition to the rising stars, It is here purely because Air Napier has a new owner who has signalled development. Whether the Senecas and Navajo are the aircraft to do it with remains to be seen. But Napier-Hamilton, Napier-Tauranga, Napier-New Plymouth and Napier-Gisboren could all be possibilities with something like a PC12. Fares are the critical factor. Watch this space.

The Steady as She Goes Brigade

Contrary to my prediction last year Fly My Sky started a new route, Auckland-Whangarei. My prediction, is that Auckland-Whangarei quitely goes and they remain focussed on Great Barrier Island. With Barrier Air on the rise they may well need to look at re-equipping to keep up with the competition.

Sunair got airborne again but it hasn't been doing a lot of flying. Part of this issue is there are boxes to tick the more bases you have. My guess is 2019 will see the reintroduction of the East Coast service with flights connecting Gisborne, Tauranga, Rotorua and Napier.

The arrival of Golden Bay Air's Airvan at the end of 2018 was a real surprise. It seems to be developing Nelson to Takaka services for Heaphy Track customers. With wider use of bikes allowed on the Heaphy this can only increase the number of passengers. They seem to happy with ZIG and ZAG for the Wellington run but I wonder if something a bit bigger would be useful?

Again, steady as she goes. There two Islanders are perfect for what they are used for but one wonders when they will reach end of life?

Uncertain future

 Originair are once again in the midst of issues with operators not being able to provide their services. Three additional operators maintained their flights for some weeks but then there flights just stopped.  Even though their Facebook page advertised flights over the peak Christmas season no flights operated. Flights are available from the 18th of January but then Christmas flights suddenly disappeared from their system. Unless they can maintain consistency of service they have an uncertain future.


  1. I reckon you are bang on Steve :)

  2. I think Air Chathams are in a holiday mode pending the completion of the business case study to upgrade Chatham Islands airport which I see is due about now. It seems to me that the upgrade is the sort of thing the Provincial growth fund was designed for. It does create a bit of chicken and egg syndrome. The fund won't fund the airport redevelopment unless there is a commitment to operate larger aircraft. The operator won't commit to larger aircraft unless the infrastructure is there to support the operation. Look for some significant announcements about the Chathams Islands airport in the first 3 months of the year.

    1. I thought the purpose of the Chathams Island airport upgrade so it could take large aircraft up to a B737, hence the application to Provincial Growth Fund for the upgrade.

  3. Air NZ - I think it will be business as usual with Air NZ regional this year, as Air NZ is more focusing on the A320/A321neo introductions and streamlining the national jet operations as part to save an extra $30 million.

    I think Air NZ will what until the rest of the ATR72-600's are in service before there is a major shake up of the regional destinations, as they move to an all ATR72-600 or a possible to ATR72-600/ATR42-600S regional fleet.

    Air Chathams - As expected, they are becoming NZ's 2nd level regional carrier. I agree with Steve comments.

    Just a thought, I wonder if Air Chathams is talking to Air NZ about taking over some of ATR72-500 either as purchases and/or leasing, converting some to ATR72-500F as replacement for the aging Convair's?

    Soundsair - It will be business as usual. Picking up the the 2 J32's could be interesting concept.

    Stewart Island Flights - it will be business as usual.

    With regards to the other carriers, I agree with Steve's comments.

  4. My guess is all the operators will have increasing pressure for pilot supply. This may mean AirNZ will look at consolidating more towards ATR operations as the age of the Q300 increases (I am not saying a complete removal, just that the pilot supply will be directed to the ATR more).

    The Caravan operators will find it harder to get qualified pilots attracted to them, when the regional operators minimums are significantly lower (1200hrs total time vs 500 total).

    Chats will keep chugging away, with ATR and 737 on the horizon, they will be a desirable option for some pilots.

  5. Yeah I agree with everyone else. Unless there are more regional shake ups...

    Air Chats will be the most likely contender for any snap up with their large fleet. I think they must have a bit of fleet down time inbetween key business flight times. Maybe some fleet replacement announcements commimg soon to a 3rdlevelnz blogspot near you ;)

    Air NZ.
    Like everyone has mentioned, focusing on the routes they are operating. Fair to say with Luxon visiting the regions esp the ones that had terminal upgrades.. I think there is some certiny there but....Once the enetible renewal program starts on the Q300. I think we will see some routes dropped potentially

    Sounds air will be status quo. Like Kris said... There are some spare J31/32 not doing much ... will that be the next step or is the mentioned B1900 a better direction.

  6. If and when the Saab is introduced onto the Whakatane route. Will air chats still see the need for three or four metros? It's only Whakatane and the odd Kapiti/whangas sub for the Saab isn't it?
    What other routes would do well with the metro?

    1. Kaitaia, Hamilton, Taupo, maybe AA-RO depending what happens with TRG and ATR.

      Anything else further from Auckland really needs a toilet in this day and age.

      As for further South, metro could do WK-WN which I'm surprised hasn't been explored much yet since Eagle stopped flying that sector.