15 March 2010

Eagle Air says no addtional flights for Wanaka

Source : http://www.odt.co.nz/your-town/wanaka/97563/increase-flights-unlikely

An increase in flight capacity to Wanaka Airport by domestic carrier Eagle Air is unlikely, despite pleas for change from Lake Wanaka Tourism (LWT) and Wanaka's Chamber of Commerce.

Eagle Air chief executive Carrie Hurihanganui met members from LWT and the commerce chamber on Thursday evening in Wanaka at a forum set up by Queenstown Airport Corporation CEO Steve Sanderson.

Ms Hurihanganui told the 50 people at the meeting that Eagle Air's daily noon flight schedule into Wanaka Airport was "unprofitable".

The Wanaka flight to and from Christchurch was "marginal at best" and although it was not Eagle Air's "lowest-performing route" it was in the bottom half of the domestic carrier's 21 destinations, she said.

There had been a "reasonably static" demand for the existing flight service, with passenger numbers staying at about 70% of capacity during the past six years.

Increasing capacity or changing flight schedules to Wanaka presented significant challenges to Eagle Air's overall domestic flight network, although these challenges were "in no way insurmountable", Ms Hurihanganui said.

The proximity of a major airport and domestic network hub, at Queenstown, was a fact that Eagle Air could not compete with given the flexibility, extra scheduling, and number of carriers flying from there, she said.

LWT general manager James Helmore said increasing air capacity in and out of Wanaka was a key objective for Lake Wanaka Tourism.

Chamber of Commerce president Leigh Stock said the noon timing of Eagle Air's existing flight service was unsuitable for local business travellers and, as such, was "virtually ignored" in favour of travelling to fly out of Queenstown.

Many business owners at the meeting asked if Eagle Air would consider a change in flight scheduling to allow for morning and afternoon flights in and out of Wanaka Airport.

Queenstown Lakes deputy mayor John Wilson said the number of people doing business out of Wanaka and wanting flights from the airport should not be underestimated.

Eagle Air wanted to see growth in the region, Ms Hurihanganui said.

The company would re-evaluate it's existing flight operations to see if more could be done to accommodate several valid points raised by those at the meeting, she said.

However, any changes targeting Wanaka's flight services would have implications for Eagle Air's flight network and would mean another airport and line route would lose out.

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