02 May 2019

The Flightless Airlines # 1 - FlyDirect

Following on from the previous post, is a look at flyDirect which had big plans for Wanaka...

On the 29th of March 2010 flyDirect announced they would will be providing direct daily charter flights from Wellington and Christchurch to Wanaka giving New Zealanders an opportunity to fly direct into Wanaka from both the North and South Islands.

The Press, 29 March 2010

Fly Direct Ltd was an Auckland based charter company established in September 2009 by Jef Kay. He told the Otage Daily Times that the company had been working for the past year to firm up package deals with Wanaka's accommodation providers, tourism operators and businesses... About 25 full-time jobs would be created by the company, with offices and a terminal capable of catering for the expected 85-person capacity flights soon to be installed at Wanaka airport. Charter flight packages included compulsory accommodation, with more than 30 options available at luxury lodges, hotels, motels, and backpackers. "We're not a commercial airline service. People will have to buy a package when flying from Wellington and Christchurch." However, outbound passengers flying return from Wanaka would be catered for to allow local business people to conduct business in either city.

Initial advertising... looking rather optimistic

The company planned to use aircraft operated by SkyLink, part of the Airwork Group, Vincent Aviation and Air Chathams offering multiple direct daily flights year-round. Services were scheduled to operate from the 1st of July 2010 with  up to 17 return flights a week between Christchurch and Wanaka operated by Air Chathams' Convair 580s and up to 10 return flights a week between Wellington and Wanaka operated by Vincent Aviation's Dash 8.

The first version of flyDirect's timetable

About the 23rd of April 2010  the flyDirect website displayed a change of timetable with Wellington getting 7 flights a week instead of 10 and Christchurch getting 14 flights a week instead of 17. However, the big change however was that the timetable could be operated with one aircraft, namely Vincent Aviation's Dash 8 based out of Wellington.

Flight Departs Arrives Frequency

Christchurch – Wanaka
FD101 1000 1045 Daily
FD107 1600 1645 Daily

Wanaka – Christchurch
FD102 0845 0930 Daily
FD108 1445 1530 Daily

Wellington – Wanaka
FD201 0645 0810 Daily

Wanaka – Wellington
FD202 1715 1840 Daily

Within a few days the timetable had changed again with Wellington now being offered 14 flights a week and Christchurch seven.  

Version 3 of flyDirect's timetable

Ahead of the start of services Vincent Aviation's DHC Dash 8, ZK-VAC, arrived back in the country on the 28th of May 2010. Until midnight on Monday the 31st of May flyDirect were offering return flights and 2 nights’ accommodation ex Christchurch for $149 and ex Wellington for $199. If passengers bought a two adult 3-day ski passes they would also receive a free Jucy rental car for up to five days. 

While the deals looked good, a month out from the commencement of services, flyDirect, was placed into liquidation. According to marketing manager Sarah Moore the company had not sold enough tickets to make it a going concern. Some 500 people who signed up to packages offered were left out of pocket. Around 250 packages had been sold before the company decided it could not continue as a business. In a statement Jef Kay said the company was very disappointed to have to withdraw from the charter-based series, "both from the passenger's perspective as well as the Wanaka-based accommodation and activity providers". "However, the enduring summer, the lingering effects of the Global Financial Crisis, and the resulting downturn in local tourism have all contributed to the slow sales of ski packages.'' Fly Direct would be processing passenger refunds over the next few weeks, he said. 

$120,000 was owed to passengers who had made bookings and $110,000 to other creditors. However, as the funds recovered in the liquidation were insufficient to cover the cost of liquidation no distribution was made to any creditor.

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