19 February 2019

Air Napier's East Coast Passenger Service

On the 1st of January I predicted Air Napier would be an airline to watch out for in 2019... https://3rdlevelnz.blogspot.com/2019/01/crystal-ball-gazing-for-2019.html. And here is some news about Air Napier's expansion and expansion plans that I missed seeing earlier.

26 January 2019

The new owner of Air Napier has big plans to cut the three-hour commute between Gisborne and Napier down to a 30 minute fly time, with a regular scheduled passenger service. Following the purchase of Air Napier by SO Capital in November, company founder and new Air Napier chief executive Shah Aslam said a soft launch of the Napier-Gisborne route would start next week, with more Gisborne connections under consideration. “Initial research has shown that the public are crying out for regular, scheduled flights connecting Napier direct to Hamilton, Tauranga, Gisborne, Palmerston North, and more. “At Air Napier, we intend to start offering direct flights to the public, at an affordable rate, to better connect these cities in the near future. We want to save people time, whilst also offering an exceptional experience for our customers.” Flight scheduling still had to be confirmed but there was a demand for the airline’s three-seater Senecas and seven-seater Navajo aircraft to perform “multiple” daily flights. Mr Aslam said the airline would remain based at Hawke’s Bay Airport, where it had its own dedicated terminal, and it would also run a satellite office at Gisborne. “We have had a positive response. From the business point of view, we’ve hired a couple more pilots as well because there is more demand. We’ve developed relationships with the Eastland Group up in Gisborne and with the Mayor, so it’s looking good.” Mr Aslam said the company intended to build on the success of former owner Gary Peacock and unlike previous players who had “come and gone” in the regional carrier stakes, Air Napier would follow a “slow and steady” long-term approach. He also praised the leadership of Gisborne Mayor Meng Foon. “That’s what appealed to us about going to Gisborne first, the local leadership has just shown so much more interest — and that goes a long way.” Mr Foon welcomed the news that Air Napier would be coming to Gisborne. “It will provide a service which will help professionals and our community to do business in our region and also our people to get to the other regions which are not serviced by Air New Zealand. “We wish them all the best.” Eastland Group, which operates Gisborne Airport, said the news reinforced the need for a new terminal. “Given Tairawhiti’s relative isolation from the rest of New Zealand, solid air connections are essential for continuing to grow the region’s economy and tourism offering,” Eastland Group chief executive Matt Todd said. “This announcement reinforces the importance of having a future-proofed new airport terminal, one that not only showcases the stories of our region but is large enough to accommodate ever-increasing passenger numbers. We’re very supportive of initiatives like this, and wish Air Napier every success.” Mr Aslam said they had been amazed to see how Gisborne was “bubbling” on their visits here. “At times, certain places seem to be bursting at the seams. “People are coming in and there’s a lot of business happening. We think there are a lot of good stories still to come out of that.” He was confident of good demand for new air service connections. “While the beauty of the New Zealand landscape is undeniable, the hills and rugged landscape that go along with that make commuting by car a lengthy exercise, to say the least,” said Mr Aslam. “People are tired of wasting hours of their time sitting in cars, or sitting in airport lounges waiting for connecting flights from Auckland or Wellington.”

26 January 2019 (Editorial)

A new air travel option for the district is great news, even as a harbinger of greater connectivity and convenience rather than competition and lower air fares. Under new ownership, Air Napier is expanding from private charters, scenic flights and ground handling operations to become a regional domestic carrier, and is starting out with a service between Napier and Gisborne — which it is soft-launching next week, with flights on Wednesday and Friday. Air Napier chief executive Shah Aslam says they plan to soon offer direct flights on regular schedules connecting Napier to Hamilton, Tauranga and Palmerston North as well. More connections for Gisborne will also be considered — and positive developments on that front would be the real win for this district, with the above-mentioned cities all being destinations of interest here too. A Rotorua service should also see demand, and be a boon for tourism in this district. Mr Aslam says flight scheduling is yet to be confirmed but they are looking at multiple daily flights between Napier and Gisborne on their seven-seater Navajo or one of their three-seater Senecas (all twin-engine planes). Air Napier’s website is advertising an 8am Gisborne to Napier flight (arrives 8.35am), and a Napier to Gisborne flight at 3.45pm the same day (arrives 4.20pm). A one-way ticket costs $299, or $349 for a seat in the cockpit (“Sit up front with the pilot for an incredible bird’s-eye view!”) Established in 1987, Air Napier was purchased in November last year by SO Capital — which itself was founded in 2012, with the aim of investing in small-medium and start-up New Zealand businesses. SO Capital has invested in hospitality (Mama restaurants in Wellington and Auckland), online job matching service mPloy, a company called Business Obsession and now Air Napier. Its website says: “We don’t invest in businesses, but in industries. We explore industries which will give us a competitive leap forward into the future.” And: “We aim to identify and partner with strong management teams and to work alongside them to identify and implement key operational and strategic changes to drive long-term growth and increased profitability.”

28 January 2019 

If you can afford to splash the cash, it's about to get a little easier to get up the East Coast, with the launch of a new direct flight between Napier and Gisborne. Hawke's Bay based airline Air Napier will be running a regular commercial flight between the two cities, kicking off with two flights on Wednesday. CEO Shah Aslam , who took over the company in November, said Air Napier had been receiving a lot of feedback from people wanting the route. "The public are crying out for regular, scheduled flights connecting Napier direct to Hamilton, Tauranga, Gisborne, Palmerston North, and more." "While the beauty of the New Zealand landscape is undeniable, the hills and rugged landscape that go along with that make commuting by car a lengthy exercise, to say the least. "People are tired of wasting hours of their time sitting in cars, or sitting in airport lounges waiting for connecting flights from Auckland or Wellington." Air Napier has yet to decide how many times a week the service will run. Aslam said it would take six weeks before it became clear how much demand there was. At least to start off with, the flights will be pricey - $299 for a seat, or $349 if you want to sit up front with the pilot. "We've gotten mixed reviews about the pricing, but the reality is everyone is expecting the $59, $69 which Air New Zealand does," Aslam said. "It's just not possible for us to drop it to that price." He said even at the $299 mark, the company was not taking home a massive profit. "This is a long term thing, we could do a $99 flight but in two months Air Napier would not exist." He hoped to drop the prices once the company's fleet was expanded. "There's definitely a potential to reduce the pricing on some of these routes." He hoped to run flights between other eastern cities. He said major airlines in New Zealand were not neglecting the region-to-region flights, but did not have appropriate aircraft to make them viable. "If you look at Air New Zealand's fleet now, the smallest plane they have is probably a 55 seater." "Filling a 55 seater plan three times a day on a daily basis, between a region to region is probably not the most economical way to go." Air Napier's planes seat between three to six people, and they are hoping to expand the fleet to include planes with a slightly higher capacity, up around the nine person mark. Former owner Gary Peacock had built a solid base, which allowed the company to expand into doing commercial flights, Aslam said. As well as the new commercial flights, Air Napier will continue to run charted flights, medical transfers, scenic flights, aerial photography and surveying. It also provides aircraft servicing for private jets flying into Hawke's Bay. The first flight will take off from Gisborne at 8am on Wednesday, and land in Napier at 8.35.

31 January 2019

New Zealand aviation’s second oldest domestic route was back in action yesterday. After announcing it would resume flights between Hawke’s Bay Airport and Gisborne for the first time since Air New Zealand pulled out, Air Napier yesterday began a new direct service. “It was a positive day,” Air Napier chief executive Shah Aslam said. “There was fog in Gisborne, which caused a two-hour delay, but outside of that it was smooth. “We have received a lot of positive responses and feedback, especially from the business community in Gisborne and Napier,” said Mr Aslam, who will be in Gisborne tomorrow for a meeting with the Chamber of Commerce and heads of the local business community. “We will be loading up flights for the next few weeks by Friday.” New Zealand’s first regular scheduled passenger service began in 1930 when Air Travel launched a tri-weekly service between Christchurch and Dunedin using a De Havilland DH50 borrowed from the government. Soon afterwards, Dominion Airlines Ltd began a daily service between Gisborne and Hastings.

2 February 2019

Investors behind the re-launch of the Napier to Gisborne airline route have been blown away with inquiries about the new service — particularly with an unexpected call from Gisborne for a possible “school run” by air. Air Napier started scheduled flights between Gisborne and Napier last week. Chief operating officer Mike Brown said the aim of last Wednesday’s soft-launch was to establish what demand there was for the Napier-Gisborne route, as well as potential new link from Gisborne to other regions. “The amount of email we’ve had and phone calls, we had to put extra staff on over the last few days, has been phenomenal. I mean we got asked for a ‘bus route’ because there are so many kids going to private schools in Hawke’s Bay and they are only spending one day a week with their parents, the rest of the time they are at school or sitting in a car. So, there are all these new things that have come out of it.” Brown said the airline was also open to working with community groups. “So far the response has been extremely good — phenomenal to be honest. “It’s been very refreshing — from the Mayor to the unique set up with Eastland Group and the i-Site guys. Everybody is singing off the same song sheet and that makes it easier for people like us. “Gisborne is open for business. ECT have been very open and the Chamber of Commerce have been extremely welcoming. “We were always of the mindset of wanting some scheduled flights region to region and that’s what we are looking at.” People at the government’s Provincial Growth Fund were also “pretty excited” about the possibilities. “We’re open to all aspects and we’re open to investment too, just like any other business, and we’re willing to work with anyone who wants to work with us. I think there’s a big opportunity here, which is why we’ve shifted our lives and we’ve got a solid team behind us.” Air Napier now had 11 staff members based in Hawke’s Bay with room to expand staff levels further, including Gisborne. “Doors are really opening up here,” he said. “Everything, apart from the road (SH2) leading into Gisborne, seems to be ready to move. That’s been the biggest positive out of here.” The airline had five aircraft, four twin engines and one single engine, and was looking to recruit six new pilots. Air Napier chief executive Shah Aslam said the airline was “very dedicated” to Gisborne. “It’s not all about us, it’s about working together in partnership with ECT, the council and other local businesses. There’s no business too small or too big that we won’t work with.” Gisborne Chamber of Commerce chief executive Terry Sheldrake said members had been keen to hear more about the airline at a presentation to members on Thursday. “They understand that Air Napier will work with our community re a flexible timetable, and will be doing their due diligence around finding the best price that they can offer for this service, yesterday was day one so very early stages for this new service.” Members particularly liked knowing they now had an option to get to Hawke’s Bay in just a 35-minute flight.


  1. Air Napier has been providing this service for decades, even though these articles make it seem like it's a new venture. From the seat numbers he quoting for Air NZ I'm not sure he's done his research either.

  2. Air Napier's website used to say "Air Napier operates a scheduled freight service between Napier, Wairoa and Gisborne. There are limited seats available on these flights for passengers. Please contact us for further information including times and fares." Freight is the operative word. They have not operated a scheduled dedicated passenger service for years

  3. If you can get a freight contract, and fly passengers in addition to that, it works. But a dedicated passenger service between the two will NEVER work. When I was flying for Sunair, we used to operate a evening HLZ/TRG-GIS-NPE-HLZ, which had freight on the NPE-HLZ flight. The GIS-NPE flights were really just a ferry flight to get the Aztec down to Napier.

    This gentlemans plans of operating several passenger flights a day, seem very optimistic :/

    While the drive between GIS and NPE can be a slow, difficult drive (especially with all the logging trucks), at $299 for a flight, the road wins out.

    All the best Air Napier, but I have some doubts...

    1. +1 $299 for flights between Gis and Napier is certainly not going to entice the masses. Better sticking to freight and the occassional pax on top

    2. Especially in an old Seneca II which cant even do an RNAV approach

  4. As a puff piece, that was quite extensive.

    1. Its quite hard to sort out what the underlying reality is. SO Capital is apparently a trading name of Exponential Partners Limited (established mid-2017) which is registered with the Financial Markets Authority as a financial advisor (that is, an investment advisor) using that name and also using the name mPloy.

      Its website says it has a chairman Gregor Schmalz (who is on the staff of the University of Otago Business School), an "Executive Director Strategy" Jodi Thomas (who is primarily with Allianz in Brisbane Australia) and an "Executive Director Money" Anindya Sen who is a lecturer at the University of Otago. However the only shareholder and sole director of Exponential Partners Limited is Mian Shahnawaz Aslam, who appears to divide his time between Wellington (where he is involved in a phone app company mPloy and a restaurant Mama Brown) and Auckland (where he is involved in a coaching company Business Obsession).

      SO Capital (which on its website lists all of these as its businesses) has an "Aviation Fund" which it appears would-be investors can join to participate in Air Napier.

      If investments in the "Aviation Fund" are needed for this project to actually work, it may not yet "fly".