08 December 2014

More on Sunair's Whitianga Services

Whitianga Airfield is poised to become a major economic driver in the greater Mercury Bay area with the announcement of a twice daily flight service direct to Auckland and once daily to Great Barrier Island and Tauranga, increasing on demand. From 1 December, passengers will be able to fly on Sunair 7:00am daily to Ardmore Airport south of Auckland and return at 3:30pm. The 20 minute journey brings the commute from central Auckland to Whitianga to just one hour. Flights are priced at $120 one way for adults and $90 for children 16 and under. Baggage allowance on the aircraft is 15kg per person and $2 per kg extra. Children under four count as part of the baggage allowance, unless they weigh more than 20kg, when a child seat must be purchased at $90. Animals must travel in a cage and if dogs exceed 20kg, then the equivalent of a child’s fare must also be paid. Passengers at Ardmore can park for free at Sunair’s secure parking facility, while those arriving from Whitianga who do not have vehicles can choose to either rent a car from the airport or take a $5 regular shuttle to the nearby Papakura train hub, says Sunair pilot Ryan Bergman. The company is in talks with local shuttle service Go Kiwi to provide transport to those passengers flying into Whitianga to the central business district and the outlying beaches, including Hot Water Beach and Matarangi. The launch of the daily flight service comes just a month before the opening right next door to Sunair’s Whitianga Airfield offices of a brand new café called The Departure Lounge. The café will be open for coffees, alcoholic drinks, takeout and dine­in food options and will feature a deck overlooking the airfield for passengers and café patrons to relax on. At the other end of the journey in Ardmore, passengers can also enjoy a café facility with a large sun deck overlooking part of the airport. Ryan says Ardmore Airport has excellent facilities and, most importantly, an "island atmosphere." Sunair has 16 aircraft with six based at Ardmore and is the largest New Zealand­owned airline outside of Air New Zealand. Ryan was in Whitianga last week meeting with key businesses to promote the service and to secure potential package deals within the leisure market, which he says the company is targeting foremost. "We have been planning the expansion for the past couple of months. Whitianga is going to be awesome for us. It is not only going to link people from Auckland with the east coast of the Coromandel, but will also link people from Tauranga and allow for an overnight stay at the Mount and then there’s Great Barrier Island where there are families with students attending Mercury Bay Area School. "Previously Sunair customers had to have a minimum of two people in order for us to fly, but not anymore. We will fly all year round and we will never say no to a booking. "The growth potential is massive. With our fleet we can move up to 500 people between Auckland and Whitianga on Boxing Day and the same number from Auckland to Great Barrier Island, but we’ll fly through winter too. This is an all­weather service, provided that it is possible to get into Whitianga." Thames Coromandel District Council mayor Glenn Leach was buoyed by the news of the new service when contacted by The Informer this week. "This is absolutely fantastic news for the Coromandel. We’re really looking forward to welcoming more people who may come and visit us through using this service and I want to thank Sunair for their commitment to our area," he said.

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