14 November 2014

What the Air NZ Changes mean for Blenheim

Larger aircraft flying in and out of Marlborough Airport will result in cheaper flights for passengers. From March 2016, Air New Zealand will run a 50-seat Bombardier Q300 on its Blenheim to Wellington route instead of a 19-seat Beechcraft 1900D. Blenheim to Christchurch flights will change to the 50-seater aircraft a month later. Air New Zealand chief executive Christopher Luxon said passengers in and out of Blenheim would benefit from an average 15 per cent drop in fares because of the extra seats. "When there are more people on a bigger aircraft they share the costs, so we are able to lower the cost of the seat." However, flights in and out of Blenheim would be less frequent. Seven flights between Blenheim and Wellington each day would drop to four, Luxon said. The key times for businesspeople would remain, he said. The Blenheim to Christchurch route would make the change in April 2016 and daily flights would be cut from three to two. "We can't just make the change and keep the frequency," Luxon said. Air New Zealand already runs the 50-seater aircraft between Blenheim and Auckland, but would look at using the 68-seater on that route from August 2016, Luxon said. The frequency of the flights would remain the same. Eagle Airways would stop operating by 2016. Its Blenheim-based staff including aircraft engineers, administration staff and 22 pilots had an uncertain future. Luxon reassured the Express they were giving staff redeployment options. Eagle Airways employs 230 staff throughout the country. Marlborough Airport manager Dean Heiford said it was great Air New Zealand had identified the importance of the Blenheim to Christchurch and Blenheim to Wellington routes. "It's a huge increase and advantage to us, though it has come at a cost to smaller regional centres. So it's a bit bittersweet. "The only thing people need to realise is that they are trading capacity and price for frequency." Destination Marlborough general manager Tracy Johnston said more seats and cheaper flights was brilliant news. "It gives us better access in and out of the region to connect with the main centres where people are flying internationally. "We see it as a way of encouraging more people to come to Marlborough." Destination Marlborough and Air New Zealand teamed up earlier this year in an effort to boost the number of passengers into the region through joined campaign strategies. "I think we are very fortunate to be demonstrating such good demand in and out of Marlborough and that Air New Zealand has responded," Johnston said. "It bodes well with us and we will continue to retain and build that demand."

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