25 August 2019

Direct Auckland-Invercargill Service Takes Off

A flight's usual snack of tea and biscuits was replaced with Speights and Southland cheese as the first direct flight from Auckland to Invercargill took off on Sunday. The inaugural flight would take 171 passengers including mayors, politicians, Iwi and business executives to the southernmost city in the Commonwealth, in New Zealand's longest domestic service. Air New Zealand chief executive Christopher Luxon said said the service has seen so much support from the community that it would not be run as a trial phase. Invercargill Mayor Tim Shadbolt, his son Declan, 7, Air New Zealand chief executive Christopher Luxon, Minister for regional development Shane Jones, and Southland District Mayor Gary Tong wait to board the inaugural direct flight from Auckland to Invercargill.  "We seen enough to say we have the right level of support and as a consequence, we would manage it like any other service." The service has seen up to 20,000 tickets sold, with two-thirds of that coming from Southland, Luxon said. Southlander Lindsay Rowley made the trip to Auckland via Christchurch on Sunday, so he could turn around and be aboard the first direct flight home. Rowley owns a bus company and wanted to check out the direct flight experience his clients would have. Air New Zealand regional affairs manager Reuben Levermore said it had been a goal for Southland to have this flight for years. The Southland community had shown a lot of support from Invercargill Airport getting the airport ready for the service and Great South driving tourism down Southland, he said. Great South chairman and former Air New Zealand regional affairs manager Ian Collier said the first flight marked a significant moment personally, to experience the flight coming to fruition through two different companies. One of the immediate benefits of the service would come from the connectivity Southland businesses would have to Auckland, Collier said. It was important to note how beneficial it would be to be able to leave Invercargill in the morning, spend a whole day doing business and be back home in one day, he said. As someone who lived in Auckland and travelled back and forth to Invercargill weekly, the service would be beneficial on a personal note, he said.  The next step would be to encourage Southland businesses to make the most of the export opportunities the service would provide, so the planes were not just carrying people, he said. Invercargill Mayor Tim Shadbolt said the new service would be a terrific morale booster for Invercargill and the wider Southland region. The direct flights would compliment the other work that was happening in the city such as the opening of Kmart and the new ILT hotel, Shadbolt said. The flight would open more opportunities for business and tourism with destinations such Stewart Island being more viable and the benefits to export, he said. "I'd imagine a lot more crayfish and Bluff oysters will be exported up north, that's for sure." Southland District Council Mayor Gary Tong said it was brilliant to see the service up and running for tourism and export. "I'm already hearing that the two-hour flight is better than the fours so the opportunities for Aucklanders to get to Southland is just fantastic." Invercargill Airport general manager Nigel Finnerty said changes made to the airport had been completed for the flight, with the last commissioning test completed on Friday. Among those on the flight was regional economic development minister Shane Jones, who announced a Growth Provincial Fund boost to the Invercargill CBD. "It's a happy day for Invercargill and the wider Southland district." The first flight from Invercargill to Auckland will depart at 6am on Monday. The service will be delivered five days a week, departing Invercargill to Auckland on Mondays, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and a Saturday flight departing at 9.15am. Flights arrive in Invercargill on Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and Sundays at 9.35pm.

The first flight from Auckland to Invercargill, NZ699, was operated by Airbus 320 ZK-OAB

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