23 February 2010

Demand for Westport Flights Drop

Source: www.westportnews.co.nz
19 Feb 2009 - Air NZ denies blame for less demand
Demand for air flights from Westport to Wellington fell by 2 – 3 per cent last year, says Air New Zealand. However, the airline denies it may be partly to blame for more Buller people driving to Nelson or Christchurch for cheaper, more reliable flights and a wider choice of flight times. Passengers can fly from to Wellington from Nelson or Christchurch return for less than a third of the price of flying from Westport. They can also choose from up to 15 flights a day, compared to just two weekdays and one Saturdays and Sundays from Westport. Responding to questions from The News, Air NZ spokesman Mark Street said the airline had cut its Westport-Wellington prices by up to 34 per cent when it reduced regional fares last October. It had reduced its cheapest fair by $5 to $79 (6 per cent), its flexible fares by $93 to $179 (34 per cent) and its top fare by $36 to $329 (10 per cent), Mr Street said. The 19-seat Beech 1900D aircraft which flew the sector cost more to operate on a cost per seat basis than larger aircraft. Pricing needed to reflect this. Asked why Air NZ did not offer last-minute discounted seats to help fill the often half-empty Westport-Wellington flights, he said it did on its Grab-a-seat website. Air NZ had cancelled 40 flights between Westport and Wellington over 2008-09, Mr Street said. Thirty-nine cancellations were because of poor weather and one for an engineering problem. However, 94 per cent of the scheduled flights had gone ahead. This compared to 97 per cent from Christchurch and 99 per cent from Nelson, for Air NZ’s regional airlines (Eagle Air, Air Nelson, Mt Cook). Christchurch had higher cancellation rates due
to weather, mainly fog. Nationally, 97.5 per cent of regional flights went ahead. Patronage grew strongly after Air NZ increased its Westport –Wellington flights from seven to 12 a week in February 2007, Mr Street said. Since mid-2008, patronage had declined mainly due to the economic recession. Since last Christmas, demand had also been down on the same time last year. Forward bookings were roughly in line with last year. At this stage, no changes were planned to the Westport-Wellington flight schedule. However, Air NZ continually reviewed all routes. Flight viability relied on local patronage, Mr Street said.

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