12 December 2019

Air Auckland's New Whitianga Base

Air Auckland will base an aircraft and pilot full-time in Whitianga from just before Christmas to the end of March next year. The aircraft will primarily be available for sightseeing flights and to ferry passengers between Whitianga, Pauanui and Slipper Island. “We’ll see how it goes,” says Mike Foster, the Air Auckland chief pilot. “If the demand is there, the aircraft will stay in on the Coromandel longer. The Whitianga-based Cessna 172 won’t impact the airline’s daily scheduled service between Ardmore (south of Auckland) and Whitianga. The service is operated with either a Cessna 172 or Cessna 206 aircraft, depending on demand. The service arrives in Whitianga at 10:45am and departs back to Ardmore at 12:15pm. The 172 can carry three passengers and the 206 five. “We’ve started flying to Whitianga on a daily basis more than a year ago and it’s going really well,” says Mike. “Passengers embark or disembark at Ardmore at the DC3 hangar in Corsair Lane. There’s ample free parking and we have a shuttle service available that can collect or drop passengers off free of charge at the Papakura and Takanini train stations.” The Ardmore-Whitianga flight is timed to fit in with Sunair’s schedule to Great Barrier Island and Tauranga (currently flown on Fridays and Saturdays). Mike is excited about a recent arrangement entered into between Air Auckland and the owners of Slipper Island. “There are several guest chalets and a lodge on Slipper Island,” he says. “Guests often travel to the island from Pauanui by boat, but over summer the boat can be put to better use taking guests out on fishing charters, which is where we come into the picture. Flying from the Pauanui airstrip, the island is literally only a hop away. If the island isn’t fully booked out, it’s a great destination for day trips. The beach is beautiful. If people check with us beforehand, we’ll be able to tell them if we can fly them across for a few hours on that day.” Mike estimates that most sightseeing trips from Whitianga will take approximately 30 minutes. “We can cover quite a lot of ground in half an hour,” he says. “Cathedral Cove, Hot Water Beach, Otama Beach, Opito Bay, there’s a lot to be seen.” A minimum of two passengers are required for sightseeing flights. Other Air Auckland products include charter flights and package deals on the Coromandel. The airline already has an arrangement with Pepper Tree Restaurant in place, flying passengers from Ardmore to Coromandel Town for lunch, and has recently launched deals with The Lost Spring in Whitianga and Mercury Bay Estate in Cooks Beach. A Whitianga fishing charter package is also under consideration. “Insofar as charter operations go, we’re happy to fly anyone anywhere on the North Island at a time that suits them best,” says Mike. “We’ll obviously need a few days’ notice to confirm a quote and make sure we have an aircraft available.” Air Auckland also operates to Great Barrier Island from Ardmore. “The Coromandel, and Whitianga especially, is an important part of our business and we hope to grow our services on the Peninsula significantly in the years to come,” says Mike.

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