14 November 2014

Palmerston North to Nelson - A direct service can work

Palmerston North Airport's boss is vowing to bring direct flights to Nelson back because patronage is high and the service is a litmus test for route development. Air New Zealand announced this week that flights between Nelson and Palmerston North would be among five regional routes to be axed in April. Palmerston North Airport chief executive David Lanham said it was "disappointing" but called it a "minor blip" in the airport's regional routes growth plan. He said there was no forewarning from Air New Zealand. "It's just disappointing, we were very happy with the growth on the route." He said the Nelson route was about 5 per cent of the airport's traffic and they planned to get it reinstated. "We won't be giving up on getting Nelson back because we know a lot of our customers really enjoyed that service and patronage was really high. We're still very confident that we can continue with our route development plans." He said he would wait for Air New Zealand to address its issues. "Then we can get stuck in to Air New Zealand again for route development." The Palmerston North to Nelson route was re-introduced last year after a five-year hiatus. Massey University student Josie Weston travels home to Nelson during her holiday breaks. She said it was a "real shame" that the service would be cancelled. "Being from Nelson but studying at Massey in Palmerston North, it has been amazing being able to get home so easily. "I know a lot of students will be really disappointed with them not running these flights as of next year." There would especially be disappointment about "the increased cost we will now have to pay to get home for holidays and to see family". She said it would take three to five hours to get home once the flights were axed "instead of the easy 45-minute direct flight". "I have used the ferry a couple of times but just found it too long of a day, even though it is cheaper." Lanham said the Nelson route was important to the airport because it showed that Air New Zealand felt confident there was opportunity for regional growth. "We felt that that would mean they would be open to other new routes as well." Lanham had his sights set on building stronger links to main centres and other regions. He has been campaigning for direct flights between Palmerston North and Tauranga. "That's still on the radar," he said. "It's not a dead duck. Lanham was pleased with the news that Air New Zealand would be increasing the size of the carrier. He said the changes to the aircraft were good news as it meant a reduction in fares. Air New Zealand will move from 19-seat aircraft to a 50-seat Q300 aircraft on the Palmerston North to Wellington route and the Palmerston North to Hamilton route.

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