28 July 2010

Starfish and Increased Napier Flights


More flights may be coming into Hawke's Bay starting from October an Air New Zealand spokesman says, but that won't guarantee cheaper flights. Australasia group general manager Bruce Parton was in Napier yesterday and said the frequency of flights may increase later this year, but only if people filled the seats. Jet liners were not likely to fill our skies either he said as the cost of running them would mean fewer flights in and out of Hawke's Bay Airport. "It's a thriving region for us and one we're keen to support," he said. "Our issue is that if we opened it up to A320 jets then the cost of that would be added to ticket prices." Mr Parton was in town to promote a new loyalty card for frequent flyers in regional airports around the country. Named Starfish the card would come at a cost of $200 for a 15 per cent discount on fares or $800 for 30 per cent and last 12 months. "Our frequent regional flyers have told us they'd like the option of getting even more value for money in recognition of their travel needs," Mr Parton said. The company was investigating new scheduling and waiting to see how popular the card was before making estimates on more flights. "We'll process the information and add more flights where appropriate," he said. Announcements were due to be made in several weeks once more research was completed. On average about 13 flights run in and out of Hawke's Bay between Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch daily. A new runway extension would only just be suitable for jets to use Mr Parton said and he did not envision other providers entering the Bay's flight market. He admitted regional flights around the country had remained static for about four to five years while main trunk routes had cheapened - making the Bay appear more expensive. "We had a case where we had a conference in Palmerston North where they were saying Hawke's Bay was cheaper to fly to," he said. Runway Hawke's Bay Trust member Simon Nixon said Air New Zealand's monopoly on the region was pushing up fares and a loyalty card would not ease this. "How is the card going to benefit those coming down for one time travel? It's fine for those people who live here and travel a lot but I think they are a minority," Mr Nixon said. "Price won't come down unless competition is brought in - the idea does sound like it would do some good but it won't fix the larger issue." Mr Nixon said the current runway extension was right on the limits of operation for small jets. "It will bring in charters which is good but I think larger airlines will be loathe to schedule regular flights," he said. The current 50-passenger planes being used in Hawke's Bay were not adequate for large events.

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