16 August 2015

Barrier Air - The new name to the Barrier and Kaitaia


Updated JULY 2019

On the 22nd of September 2014 Graham Reynolds formed Great Barrier Airlines Ltd to take over Great Barrier Airlines Flight Operations Ltd which had operated on the Great Barrier Island route since 1983. The company continued to operate as Great Barrier Airlines and operate its regular services from both Auckland and North Shore to Great Barrier Island.

In late 2014 Air New Zealand announced it withdraw its Auckland to Kaitaia service. After entering into an agreement with Far North Holdings which operates Kaitaia airport Great Barrier Airlines announced in February 2015 that it would offer services to Kaitaia from 28 April 2015 with three daily flights each way on weekdays using a 12-seater Cessna 208B Grand Caravan with two flights a day on Saturdays and Sundays. Great Barrier Airlines' General Manager Murray Pope said the new service would bring many benefits for Far North residents. “Our schedules mean that business people will be able to undertake a full day’s business in Auckland before flying home in the evening. They will also be able to transfer to and from Wellington services.” 

Great Barrier Airlines first service from Kaitaia to Auckland took off from Kaitaia at 2.15pm on Wednesday 29 April 2015 with flight GBA616, being flown by Embraer EMB-820C ZK-RDT. The first inbound flight to Kaitaia, GBA619, was again flown in Embraer EMB-820C ZK-RDT. One of the passengers wrote on her Facebook page, Today was the first day that the new Great Barrier Airlines service between Kaitaia and Auckland operated and I really enjoyed being on the last flight in tonight. The WAKARERE was a 9 seater with 2 pilots and 4 passengers. Lovely takeoff, flight and landing. Bit bumpy coming in to KAITAIA but way quieter than the Air NZ flights used to be. Tenei taku whakatauki mo tena - Climb high, climb far. Your goal the sky, your aim the star. As well as using the Embraer 820C on the Kaitaia service Great Barrier Airlines also used Mainland Air's Piper PA31 Chieftain ZK-VIP and for a short time air2there's Cessna 208B Grand Caravan ZK-MYH. 

Cessna 208B Grand Caravan ZK-MYH which serviced the Kaitaia route for a short time. Photo taken at Auckland on 5 May 2015

On the 13th of July 2015 BN Islander ZK-FVD, Partenavia ZK-PLA and Embraer 820C ZK-RDT were registered to the new Great Barrier Airlines Ltd. A couple of days later on the 15th of July 2015 Great Barrier Airlines was renamed as Barrier Air. A tangible sign of the new company was the addition of Cessna Grand Caravan ZK-SDB to the fleet. The Caravan entered into service for the first time on the 11th of August 2015 flying from Auckland to Kaitaia and return. It flew to Great Barrier Island for the first time the following day.

Barrier Air's flagship, Cessna Grand Caravan ZK-SDB at Auckland on 29 September 2015
Also carrying Barrier Air titles is Britten Norman Island. Photo taken at Auckland on 26 October 2015

The Kaitaia schedule was changed from the 17th of August 2015 with two flights being offered each way between Auckland and Kaitaia on weekdays and one flight each way on Saturdays and Sundays.

From November 2015 Barrier Air changed their Kaitaia timetable to better suit business traffic. The afternoon flights from this time were rescheduled to depart Kaitaia at 4.00pm instead of 2.00pm.

Embraer 820C ZK-RDT at Auckland on 19 December 2015
Piper PA31-Chieftain ZK-VIP at Auckland on 30 November 2015

In December 2015 Barrier Air introduced a Whangarei to Auckland service on Friday evenings with a return Auckland to Whangarei service on Sunday evenings. During the summer holidays return Auckland-Whangarei services were being offered on both Friday and Sunday evenings. Barrier Air also introduced a scheduled shuttle between Great Barrier Claris and Okiwi on Fridays and Sundays to connect Okiwi to Auckland and North Shore services. Piper Chieftain ZK-FOP was added to the fleet in December 2015 and it began flying for the company on the 27th of December 2015 when it operated the Kaitaia services.

Barrier Air's Partenavia P68 ZK-PLA at Auckland on 30 December 2015.

For a pictorial post on Barrier Air's Cessna Grand Caravan operations see :

February 2016 saw further expansion. On the 4th of February 2016 Barrier Air commenced city hopper between Auckland International Airport and North Shore Airport allowing passengers to and from the North Shore a quick flight over Auckland's traffic congestion. This services operated twice a day on weekdays. The first flight, GB310, was operated by Embraer 820 ZK-RDT. 

Then, on the 13th of February 2016, Barrier Air introduced flights between Hamilton and Auckland replacing the Air New Zealand service which had ended the day before. The first flight from Auckland, GB55, was operated by Cessna Grand Caravan ZK-SDB under the command of Travis McKee. 

Announcing the arrival of Barrier Air flight 55 from Auckland 
Leading the way across the tarmac, Nick Pearson, Barrier Air's Logistics Manager (left) talks to the company's Chief Executive Mike Foster.
The Hamilton schedule saw flights offered each week as follows;

The mid-morning flights were timed to connect to Kiwi Regional flights to Nelson and Dunedin at Hamilton.

By the beginning of April 2016 the Hamilton schedule was reduced to operate on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays with flights leaving Auckland at 10.30am to arrive at Hamilton at 11.00am and leaving Hamilton at 12.00noon to arrive at Auckland at 12.30pm. The Okiwi-Claris and  Auckland-North Shore flights were also withdrawn.

Barrier Air added Piper PA31 Chieftain ZK-FOP to its fleet in December 2015. It is seen here arriving at Hamilton on 7 March 2016

On 2 May 2016 Barrier Air commenced weekday Auckland-Whangarei flights with Piper Chieftain ZK-VIP operating the first service. Flights left Auckland at 7.00am to arrive at Whangarei at 7.30am and Whangarei at 5.30pm to arrive at Auckland at 6.00pm. Between these flights the aircraft operated the doctors' flight between Whangarei and Kaitaia. Passengers could book flights between Auckland and Kaitaia subject to seats being available.

In August 2016 Barrier Air withdrew all three Piper Chieftains from its fleet. At the same time the Doctors flights between Whangarei and Kaitaia ended as well as the Auckland to Whangarei scheduled service. Flights between North Shore and Great Barrier Island were also reduced and these flights were usually operated by the BN Islander or Partenavia. 

Over the 2017/2018 summer there were a number of fleet changes. In October 2017 the Partenavia ZK-PLA was also withdrawn from the fleet, while in January 2018 a second Cessna Grand Caravan, ZK-SDC was added to the fleet. 
On the 20th of April 2018 Britten Norman Islander ZK-FVD was withdrawn from service after operating flight GB206 from Great Barrier Island to North Shore. 

Cessna Grand Caravan ZK-SDC at Auckland on 25 June 2018

The North Shore service had been losing patronage and so Barrier Air took time to reassess the service before introducing the Caravan to the route. As part of this the company received the necessary certification to offer an IFR service on the route and have the Caravan certified for North Shore Airport. On the 10th of September 2018 Barrier Air resumed its flights between Great Barrier Island and North Shore. The Caravans are load-restricted to 12 passengers inbound and 10 out until two aircraft are fitted with a STOL kit which would enable 12 passengers in and out. 

The first flights were operated in Cessna 208B Grand Caravan ZK-SDC which departed Great Barrier Island's Claris airport as flight GB204 at 11.16am and arrived at North Shore at 11:40am. The return flight, GB205, departed North Shore and 12.17pm and arrived at Great Barrier Island (Claris) at 12:41pm. The North Shore flights operate on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays.

On the 16th of October 2018 Barrier Air added a third Cessna Grand Caravan to its fleet. ZK-SDD was also the first of Barrier Air's Caravan to appear in the company's new colour scheme with ZK-SDC being repainted a couple of weeks later.

Cessna Caravans ZK-SDD and ZK-SDC wearing Barrier Air's new colour scheme at Auckland on 31 October 2018

Barrier Air’s passenger numbers have been increasing and from the 15th of October 2018 two additional Auckland-Great Barrier weekday return flights were added to the schedule with an additional flight on Saturdays and Sundays. 

A feature of Barrier Air's development is the technology employed on the company's aircraft. All three Caravans feature the same G1000 GPS glass cockpit suite and Garmin integrated autopilot systems. The technology also includes synthetic vision systems. In practice, using GPS and other databases, the pilot can “look through” clouds and see terrain. If the terrain is coming too close the terrain turns red! Getting the technology right has been a major investment exercise for Barrier Air. Flying into Auckland can mean a lot of holding for larger aircraft. The new technology and patient working and developing of relationships with Airways and the airport company has enabled Barrier Air to develop IT systems to coordinate arrival slots in Auckland. The G1000 suite allows quick response to ATC requirements as the Barrier Air Caravans approach Auckland at busy times. All this investment has significantly reduced holding times at Auckland and vastly improved the quality of the service delivered to the customer. 

The glass cockpit as seen in ZK-SDB in November 2015

On the 4th of March 2019 Barrier Air added an additional six return flights a week to its service between Auckland and Kaitaia thereby giving Kaitaia a daily service. The new flights, which operate Wednesday through to Monday, depart Auckland for Kaitaia at 11.00am and the return flights depart Kaitaia at 12.40pm. On the 30th of July 2019 a Tuesday flight was added giving 13 flights a week between Auckland and Kaitaia. Grant Bacon, Barrier Air's Chief Operating Officer, told 3rd Level NZ that "The loads to and from Kaitaia have been excellent and well received by the market."

Since its inception as Barrier Air the airline has transformed itself to a very professional airline with state of the art equipment, technology and systems. The investment has paid off with increased passenger numbers and the airline gaining a reputation with Great Barrier Island and Kaitaia locals as a solid operator. This will surely be the foundation for further growth and development of Barrier Air's services in the future.


  1. Its a shame they have cut back on a lot of flights as they were covering a lot of ports. Who took over the Doctors flights was it Sunair?