12 June 2013

Slow start to New Plymouth service

A new air service operating between New Plymouth and Hamilton is finding business slow to take off. Bookings have been limited since Tauranga-based domestic carrier Sunair Aviation began serving New Plymouth earlier this year. Business co-owner Beverley Power told Midweek that she hoped a promotional push, beginning next month, would help.  "This service will only survive with the support of the local people," she said. "We will be gauging loadings over the next six months and revisit things around that time." Before the service began, Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch were the only direct flight destinations from Taranaki through Air New Zealand. Mrs Power says the service is aimed at business people or government department staff more than leisure travellers. Mrs Power said Sunair Aviation had worked out of New Plymouth before. "We are giving New Plymouth another opportunity at more direct services by air." One of the main reasons it began operating here again was because the Taranaki District Health Board (TDHB) had inquired about it. "TDHB is supportive of the new service and sees these flights as benefiting travel times between these provincial locations," said TDHB chief operating officer Rosemary Clements. "This commercial service may be helpful for patients who need treatment in different hospitals around the region as well." Venture Taranaki chief executive Stuart Trundle said the increase in transport capacity to and from Taranaki was welcome, especially if it helps connect the region with new destinations. "The additional regional air links help to remove a barrier to those wanting to visit Taranaki, and opens doors for Taranaki businesses looking to take their expertise to other regions of New Zealand. "It's important that route and pricing strategies can enable Sunair to gain sufficient market share to become a sustainable and valuable service to the region." Mrs Powers says the company is open to suggestions when it comes to possible expansions to the service. "We would happily look at Hawera for example, as a possible option for Fonterra - give us a call, we are here to listen to your requests and try to accommodate where we can." Flights run morning and afternoon from Monday to Friday. It is not viable to run in the weekends, but it could be run on a case by case basis. If the service is well supported by Taranaki people it could expand with flights to other regions. Sunair flights cost from $390 one-way or $560 return. Return trips to Hamilton with Air New Zealand via Auckland can cost upwards of $500. For more details about Sunair Aviation visit sunair.co.nz or bookings can be made through various travel agents in New Plymouth.

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