16 September 2015

Here comes Kiwi Regional

The landing strip at Nelson Airport will barely have time to cool down as Kiwi Regional Airlines gears up for its first take-off at the end of October. Hot off the heels of Originair's first flights from Nelson and with Jetstar's impending arrival to the region in December, Kiwi Regional Airlines (KRA) is hoping it can provide to a different market. The new airline will fly direct routes from Nelson to Hamilton and Dunedin four days a week. It will also fly a direct route from Nelson to Queenstown over the winter season. These routes are not currently flown directly by any airline in Nelson. Chief executive Ewan Wilson said ticket sales had been "encouraging" since being advertised online three weeks ago. He said this confirmed there was a niche market for travel between those regions. "With new airlines like Jetstar coming along it's great, but they are using existing routes already flown by Air New Zealand. We are pioneering new gateways [out of Nelson] so that's got to be exciting," he said. The new airline has purchased a Saab 340 34-seat aircraft which will begin test flights from Nelson Airport in October. The first KRA flight will take-off from Nelson on October 28. Wilson, who is based in Hamilton, said Nelson had huge growth potential. "In the past it's been about Wellington Airport being a central location [to fly from] geographically, but Nelson is becoming an incredibly important hub," he said. Wilson is not new to the aviation industry- he launched the short-lived airline Kiwi International Airlines about 20 years ago. It lasted about two years before collapsing in 1996. Wilson was later convicted on four charges of fraud, which he said were clean-slated after seven years. This time around would be "hugely different", said Wilson. "I'm being careful to avoid direct competition [this time], I've learnt so much [since launching Kiwi International Airlines]." KRA will not only be passenger focussed. Wilson said freighting would be a big part of business. "Freight is a huge part of it, we can grow even more by bringing fresh produce between [regional] markets, there's a real opportunity there," he said. Scope for additional regional routes was also on the cards for the airline, including a possible Nelson to Napier and Nelson to Tauranga route. "But the possibility of those routes will be driven by how these first ones go," said Wilson.

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