31 January 2014

Operating cost of a Beech is five times higher than an A320 jet

A perception of the unreliability of flights in and out of Timaru is an issue Air New Zealand wants to tackle. The airline's regional affairs manager, Ian Collier, was in town on Wednesday to talk to Timaru District Mayor Damon Odey and Aoraki Development Business and Tourism chief executive Wendy Smith. Similar themes emerged in both meetings, he said. "The purpose of the visit was to introduce myself and get a flavour of the issues each region has. Reliability was a big issue and also concerns that people will choose to drive (to Christchurch) and fly, and also the price of fares." Weather was the main challenge in both Timaru and Wellington for the service. Of 1024 services operating between Wellington and Timaru in both directions in the six months to December 31, 41 were cancelled as a result of weather conditions. During the same period 11 services were cancelled because of engineering issues. Six of these services were departures from Timaru. Four services into or out of Timaru had to be cancelled because of pilot illness. Mr Collier said an engineering issue impacted on the company's Eagle Beech fleet in August 2012 and caused significant disruption. "The maintenance issues impacted on services and created the perception that services are still not reliable. Perception is people's reality but I want to present the facts and give the data, which speaks for itself." Cost was also an issue raised, he said. The cost per seat of the Beech aircraft that operate between Timaru and Wellington was five times higher than an A320 jet used on major domestic routes. "There is the perception smaller flights should be cheaper to operate. It is the car versus taking 60 people on a bus, the cost per seat is less. One of the ways to bring the fares down is to fly a larger aircraft but the demand would need to meet that." Air New Zealand has said it does not cancel flights because of light passenger loads.

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