31 October 2015

Wondered where Originair's home is???

Thanks to Warwick for sending through this pic of their Jetstream 31 ZK-JSH, tractor and hangar at Nelson taken this week. I'm looking forward to flying Originair and Kiwi Regional next month on my way home Wellington 

30 October 2015

Last flight for North Shore Air

At the time of writing Air North Shore's Piper Navajo ZK-JGA  is operating the company's last flight between North Shore and Tauranga and return...

Commuter airline North Shore Air is grounding its scheduled Tauranga flight to North Shore just a month after the twice-daily service began. Scheduled flights between Tauranga, Dairy Flat and Kerikeri were introduced on September 28, but CEO Peter Newman has confirmed the route has been halted as of today. “Our situation at the moment is that we're only available for charter,” says Peter. “Our scheduled flights never got the numbers required to break even, so basically it's all gone a bit pear shaped. “But there's no easy way. It was either pull out while we could manage an exit, or wait until we hit the wall.” North Shore Air were hoping to see a minimum of three-to-four passengers on each eight-seater flight, but often took off with just single passengers on board. “It was a heavy hit, and we just don't have deep enough pockets to hang in there for much longer.” The company have spoken to a number of possible backers over the course of today, but without significant investment, North Shore Air will be confined to charter flights only in future. “We have also pulled the website,” says Peter. “We were advertising for the schedule, but we will probably put it up again and just have charter flights available. We have always had that, but it was secondary to trying to establish a bread and butter base first. If we do carry on the charter is the safest option. Basically you only operate it at a profit.” Peter admits there was also resistance to the $195 one way fare. “People expect the airfares of be $80-$95 at most. At $195, it was just way out of line. “I'd say 50 per cent didn't want to operate on that fare schedule. A few years ago the fares were more realistic, but just lately there's been an expectation for fares to be really low.” Blogsite 3rd Level New Zealand commented that North Shore Air's signage has been removed from the Dairy Flat airfield. The North Shore Aeroclub, which operates the Dairy flat airfield, had no comment to make this morning. Comments on the blog suggest the airline simply ran out of money, with passenger numbers from Tauranga understood to have been around three or four per flight, on an aircraft with room for eight. North Shore Air offered flights from Tauranga to Dairy flat and from Dairy Flat to Kerikeri. With a bus connection from Dairy Flat, the airline boasted it could place Tauranga commuters in Auckland's central business district quicker than Air New Zealand passengers landing at the city's main airport in Mangere.

Some heavies from Monday...

China Southern's Boeing 777-300 B-2029 on approach to Auckland on 26 October 2015

LAN Chile's Boeing 787-9 CC-BGB on approach to Auckland on 26 October 2015

A couple of views of Air New Zealand's Boeing 787-9 at Auckland on 26 October 2015

29 October 2015

Barrier Air update

Barrier Air are about to change their Kaitaia timetable. From next week the timetable becomes a lot better suited for business traffic to and from Kaitaia. The times will vary as by the end of the month the Caravan will be used on the overnight service to Kaitaia leaving it free to do the Great Barrier services during the day.

1              AKL-KAT       0600   0700
1              KAT-AKL       0710   0810
  2345      KAT-AKL       0620   0730
12345      AKL-KAT       0845   0945
12345      KAT-AKL       1600   1700
12345      AKL-KAT       1800   1915
        5      KAT-AKL       1900   2000

67            AKL-KAT       0930   1030
67            KAT-AKL       1100   1200              
7              AKL-KAT       1645   1745
7              KAT-AKL       1815   1915

According to the grapevine and contrary to the news, the Kaitaia service is going well. The Caravan is more cost effective and this will improve the economics of the Kaitaia run as it builds up.

Barrier Air have also acquired Piper Chieftain ZK-FOP. It is awaiting an overhaul before being available for use over the summer. At the moment Piper Chieftain ZK-VIP is mainly used on the Auckland-Kaitaia service. 

News I heard today - North Shore Air are no longer offering scheduled flights.
This is unfortunate but the climate we operate in means it was always going to be tough.

Barrier Air's fleet comprises...

Cessna 208          SDB
Piper Chieftain    RDT, FOP, VIP
BN Islander         FVD
Partenavia P68     PLA

North Shore Air bowing out?

Someone has posted a comment that North Shore Air has or is about to end their services from North Shore to Tauranga and Kerikeri. I noted on Monday there was no signage for them at North Shore airport and today that their website and Facebook page have been closed down. The airline began operating scheduled services on the 28th of September 2015 (see http://3rdlevelnz.blogspot.co.nz/2015/09/wet-start-for-north-shore-air.html and http://3rdlevelnz.blogspot.co.nz/2015/09/north-shore-air-aucklands-north-shore.html).

Jetstar's WLG-DUD kicks off

Jetstar's inaugural service between Dunedin and Wellington took flight yesterday, in a good week for new domestic links from Dunedin Airport. The airline's 180-seat Airbus A320 landed early afternoon to a welcoming arc of spray from two of the airport's fire trucks. It is the second airline to add flights to and from the city. Kiwi Regional Airlines began its services on Tuesday. Jetstar head of New Zealand Grant Kerr said the service was a response to requests for choice from businesses and communities, including students and their families keen to fly between the two cities. He described bookings on the service as ''very strong''. He said 150 were on the flight from Dunedin, which left shortly after 1pm. On the sustainability of the service, Mr Kerr said when the airline entered a market, it tended to stimulate growth in those markets. ''I believe we will get support.'' Dunedin Airport chief executive Richard Roberts said yesterday was the first time in more than 15 years a second airline was flying between the two cities. ''Since Jetstar began Auckland-Dunedin services we've seen positive traffic growth on the route,'' Mr Roberts said. He was sure that would also happen between Wellington and Dunedin. Dunedin's Andrew and Louise James and their three children were getting ready to board the flight to Wellington for a holiday. Ms James said their flight choice had been made on price. ''Cost is always a factor.'' Jetstar's new service adds more than 55,000 new seats annually on the route. Return flights will run three times a week, on Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays.

28 October 2015

Hello Hamilton

Arriving into Hamilton this afternoon was Kiwi Regional Airlines' Saab 340 ZK-KRA on its first operation of its Dunedin-Nelson-Hamilton route. Like its first day of operations the flights today were delayed by weather at Dunedin and Nelson. Kiwi Regional will operate this Dunedin-Nelson-Hamilton service four times a week and Dunedin to Queenstown twice a week.

Busy Barrier Air

Labour Day, Monday 26 October 2015 was a busy afternoon for Barrier Air at Auckland...
I was wrapped to get BN Islander ZK-FVD
Partenavia ZK-PLA is still carrying Great Barrier script...
while Embraer 820C still carries Great Barrier titles on the engine cowls
Barrier Air are still using Mainland Air's Piper Pa31 Chieftain. I was delighted to finally get it with Mainland Air titles

27 October 2015

Kiwi Regional Announces Cuts

Kiwi Regional Airlines has slashed its its Dunedin to Queenstown service on its first day of commercial operation due to a lack of passenger demand. Hamilton-based Kiwi will also fly between Hamilton, Nelson and Dunedin. The airline's first flight arrived in Queenstown from Dunedin on Tuesday morning in the company's twin turbo-prop, twin pilot SAAB 340A, which seats 34. There were 25 passengers on board. Kiwi Regional Airlines had offered them a $89 return fare if they travelled for the day, or one-way flights from $79 up. Chief executive Ewan Wilson said he was disappointed with passenger demand on the route. "I take responsibility for putting a bit too much capacity on." He said the airline had planned twice-daily flights on the Queenstown-Dunedin route on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays but the market had not responded as expected. Instead, it cut the service back to an early Monday morning return flight and another on Friday afternoon. "That does mean we are available for charters on Tuesday and Thursdays. Our core schedule is Dunedin to Nelson and Nelson to Hamilton, Monday, Wednesday and Friday, Saturday and Sunday," he said. Kiwi would see how the market grew and resume those services if it was justified, he said. "It's about right-sizing the offering and hoping the market grows." The flight was scheduled to depart at 7.15am but did not leave until 8.10am because of low cloud. It was welcomed with a full water curtain salute at Queenstown Airport. Wilson said the airline's Kiwi's focus was on flying between regions and was not trying to take on Air New Zealand or Jetstar. New Zealanders liked the idea of strong competition, he said. "Now it's up to New Zealand to support the new innovator." Those at the airport to mark the arrival of the aircraft included MP for Clutha Southland Todd Barclay as well as Queenstown Chamber of Commerce and Destination Queenstown members and airport staff. Barclay said the "faster and most convenient" 40 minute flight was a breeze compared to the 3.5 hour drive between the two towns. He said the Government hoped the new regional flights would boost the level of tourism and business in the regions. "The added competition is great for consumers and great news for local economies," he said. The company was awarded its air operating certificate on Thursday, allowing it to fly commercially just days before the first flight. The airline became the first in over a decade to be issued such an approval by the Civil Aviation Authority. About 60 staff have been hired and it was hoped that number would double once the company expanded. Wilson said last week he was "very unhappy" it had been allocated Gate 1 at Queenstown Airport. "We have some real issues with Queenstown Airport's logistics." They were acting "bullish" and "don't seem hungry for new clients", he said. However, Airport Corporation operations general manager Mike Clay said Gate 1 was assigned to the airline as it was "specifically designed for Turboprop aircraft".  Clay said it was disappointing to hear Wilson's comments. The airline would be keeping an eye on demand for flights and looking for further opportunities. Airline operations general manager Bill Wilson said: "if the community says we don't have a need for some of the routes, we will take that on board."

I can't say I'm surprised, but what a PR disaster... announcing it on the first day of services! Even back as far March I felt Queenstown-Dunedin was a lean route... http://3rdlevelnz.blogspot.co.nz/2015/03/some-thoughts-on-new-air-services-part-2.html 

So where would I fly? Links through Nelson direct to Dunedin and Hamilton might work but I doubt there will be big numbers. Nelson to Tauranga, Napier and New Plymouth might also work... but to fill a Saab? Again, its all about the fares. 

I still think a Masterton-Auckland would work if you get the fares right. Locals have to be lured away from Air NZ or Jetstar at Palmerston and Wellington. 

When the Beech 1900s go there is one Q300 Hamilton-Palmerston North at 6.15am! and return at 7.50pm! Dreadful times in my opinion. So an early Palmerston North-Hamilton would work with the Saab then going to Nelson and Dunedin and back enabling an early evening Hamilton-Palmerston North.  

Another route with possibilities is Hokitika-Wellington when the Beech 1900s go. No early morning service out of the Coast... A lot of people drive to Chch to catch Jetstar or Air NZ to Wellington. Hence Air West Coast always did well with not too much impact on the early flight out of Hokitika.

All in all however there is not a lot of room to move...  I think Ewan is right in not trying to take on Air NZ  but ultimately he is going to need to on some routes because there are just not the routes in NZ for a Saab that Air NZ are not already flying. 

KRL 001

Kiwi Regional Airlines, inaugural flight, KRL 001 operated from Dunedin to Queenstown this morning. Weather conditions at Queenstown delayed the departure of the flight which finally got airborne from Dunedin an hour late at 8.14am.

Kiwi Regional's Saab 340 ZK-KRA taxis from Dunedin this morning... Photo : Dunedin Airport Facebook Page

 The problem at Queenstown was low cloud as attested to by the airport's webcam. This same low cloud caused Air NZ to cancel the early morning ATR flight from Christchurch....

For passengers on board the first flight however, there was a more pleasant view...

It seems the weather at Queenstown continued to play havoc as the flight did not land until 9.37am. Nonetheless Kiwi Regional can be justifiably pleased their airline is finally airborne!

Welcome to Queenstown... ZK-KRA arrives at Queenstown. Photos : Kiwi Regional Airlines Facebook page

The return flight, KRL002, is currently enroute back to Dunedin.

Kiwi Regional takes flight

In late 2014 New Zealand’s announced its intention to withdraw from three regional ports in April 2015 and retire its Beech 1900 fleet in 2016. In the light of this move Ewan Wilson, famed for his airline Kiwi Air, announced in December 2015 his intention of re-entering the airline business establishing a new airline, Kiwi Regional Airlines. Joining Ewan in investing in the new airline were 2 Cheap Cars Ltd and Nicole Domett.

Early graphics before the airline settled on the Saab 340

A start-up date in late 2015 or early 2016 was announced in February 2015. The company announced its intention to establish its corporate headquarters in Hamilton and to obtain initially two and later a third Saab 340 aircraft . The most interesting feature of the company’s plans was their desire to offer flights to Auckland’s North Shore using the Royal New Zealand Air Force’s base at Whenuapai, though this was subject to RNZAF approval and other consent processes. Kiwi Regional also proposed to service Hamilton, Tauranga, Palmerston North, Wellington, Blenheim, Nelson, Queenstown and Dunedin. In the reporting of these announcements Ewan Wilson outlined the company’s philosophy. "Our name says a lot – regional New Zealand has been left off the air route map unless you want to travel to the three largest centres. We intend to complement existing offerings; to fill the gaps and to make travel between regional centres as fast and affordable as possible. We will not be competing directly with the national carrier. As well as improved opportunities for travellers, we expect our operations will create employment and tourism opportunities, and we are in consultation with relevant organisations in the different regions we will service about these opportunities."

The proposed route structure, February 2015

Defence Minister Gerry Brownlee rapidly squashed Kiwi Regional’s plans to operate domestic flights from Whenuapai saying the Government had no plans to revisit the decision and Whenuapai would remain operating as a military airbase only.

A constant feature of Kiwi Regional's newspaper coverage is Ewan Wilson’s prior involvement with Kiwi Air. In his response he stressed, “This time he would not be opposing the national carrier. Instead, Kiwi Regional Airlines would complement services already in place. Last time we lost that battle. The Ewan Wilson of today is someone who has learned a lot in the last 20 years. Kiwi Regional would buy its own aircraft... The financial backing was in place to do that. The only thing left from the Kiwi Air days is the fact that we've continued to use the name."

In May 2015 Kiwi Regional also indicated that Te Anau, Wanaka and Alexandra were on its radar for either regular charter flights or even scheduled services. At this time the company had an option to buy a Saab and in July it was announced that Kiwi Regional had purchased a Saab 340 from Poland with the aim of the airline being operational before the end of the year. With the purchase of the Saab a more modest network and schedule was announced with the company offering a twice daily Dunedin-Queenstown return service and four times a week Dunedin-Nelson-Hamilton return service with flights scheduled to start on the 27th of October 2015.

Route Map and Schedule effective 21 October 2015

Saab-Scania SAAB SF340A ZK-KRA (c/n 340A-065) arrived in Hamilton on the 1st of September 2015 and the Airline Air Operator Certificate was granted the following month. 

A proud Ewan Wilson with Kiwi Regional's Saab 340 ZK-KRA after its arrival
into Hamilton from Poland on 1 September 2015

Scheduled services between Dunedin and Queenstown began on Tuesday 27 October 2015 but the same day Kiwi Regional announced that it would reduce the frequency of the service to Queenstown to twice weekly operating on a Monday morning and Friday afternoon. The Queenstown service never generated passenger numbers and the Queenstown flights ended on 30 November 2015.

Saab 340 ZK-KRA on the ground at Dunedin on 26 October 2015 ready for the first day

Meanwhile the four times a week Dunedin-Nelson-Hamilton service commenced operations on the 28th of November 2015. The Saab operated return services on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays with a northbound service on Saturdays and southbound on Sundays. 

The arrival of Kiwi Regional's first flight into Hamilton on 28 November 2015

For a photo essay on a Kiwi Regional flight between Nelson and Hamilton see:

Saab 340 ZK-KRA pulls on to the gate at Nelson on 18 November 2015

On the 16th of February 2016 Kiwi Regional commenced twice weekly flights to Tauranga. The airline operated direct Saab 340 flights between Nelson and Tauranga on Tuesdays and Saturdays. Onward connections through Nelson to Dunedin were available on Tuesdays and northbound flights from Dunedin to Tauranga via Nelson on Tuesdays and Saturdays. The new schedule continued to see four flights a week between Nelson and Hamilton on Sundays, Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Connections were available at Hamilton with Barrier Air services to and from Auckland, North Shore, Kaitaia and Great Barrier Island. Meanwhile the Dunedin to Nelson route extended to five flights a week, with northbound flights operating daily except Sundays and Thursdays and southbound flights operating daily except Thursdays and Saturdays. 

The only aircraft in the fleet Saab 340, ZK-KRA arrives at Tauranga on 15 March 2016

Timetable and route network effective 15 February 2016

In early March 2016 Kiwi Regional Airlines announced plans to raise up to $2 million through crowdfunding to buy a second aircraft. It was envisaged that the new aircraft would be a Saab 340QC which could be used for passenger and freight charters and as a backup for maintenance of its existing aircraft Saab 340A. Ewan Wilson said the fundraiser would be an equity crowdfunding campaign, meaning if the campaign reaches its target, pledgers would become shareholders. No crowdfunding platform had been chosen. "I find the idea of a community of New Zealand shareholders being a part of Kiwi Regional Airlines quite exciting." 

On the 29th of February 2016 Kiwi Regional announced a further expansion of services. Kiwi The airline announced that from the 14th of May 2016 an extra two flights a week would operate between Dunedin and Nelson giving a daily service between the two centres. The new flights were scheduled for Thursdays and Saturdays southbound and Sundays northbound with a stopover in Christchurch. Ewan Wilson was reported as saying the new flights should push the business into profitability and that in the last six months the airline had sold "well over 10,000 seats. The company's profitability was driven by its aircraft's use, or "how many hours we fly a year''. It had gradually added flights, as it approached the 1800 hours a year it needed. This final expansion is where we need to be to be profitable.'' The Dunedin to Nelson route, the longest route in the network, was not profitable as yet, "but we believe by adding Christchurch twice a week that it will become sustainable. We need that daily frequency to help grow the business. A lot of our feedback shows that organic growth will happen when you offer a daily service. If our current trends continue, our model shows we will break even after May 14.''

The proposed Kiwi Regional timetable and route map effective 14 May 2016

Eleven days before Kiwi Regional Airlines were due to start daily service and flights to Christchurch the airline announced that it would reduce its service to a "skeleton schedule network for the four months over winter" beginning from 1 June 2016. The Wednesday service will stop operating, and from June 13 the Monday service will stop. Ewan Wilson said, "We're a leisure airline. We don't compete for the corporate routes which are year round. We rely on family visiting family and going direct region to region, and that is clearly seasonal." He says the company are just reacting to what the market wants --  a reduction in winter and ramped-up service over summer. Mr Wilson says the decision is not a sign of any trouble for the carrier, just a seasonal adjustment to the schedule. "Kiwi is operating and will continue to operate, and will adjust the schedule due to seasonal peaks and troughs. In our schedule post October our intention is to operate 7 days a week. We have had a very good first summer and know we'll have an even better second summer." 

When the 2016 winter schedule was finalised the airline reduced its schedule to four flights a week between Nelson and Dunedin on Sundays, Tuesdays, Fridays and Saturdays, twice a week between Nelson and Hamilton on Sundays and Fridays and twice a week between Tauranga and Nelson on Tuesdays and Saturdays. 

The winter schedule, 2016. 

On the 17th of June it was announced that Air Chathams had purchased Kiwi Regional Airlines' Saab 340A aircraft and were to offer employment to the majority of Kiwi Regional Airlines' full time staff with services to end with the Dunedin-Nelson-Tauranga service on the 30th of July 2016. Kiwi Regional Airlines passengers booked on flights after that received full refunds or were offered alternative travel on flights before that date. Kiwi Regional Airlines' charters flights with school groups in August and September would still operate. Kiwi Regional Airlines CEO Ewan Wilson said Kiwi had "a choice to either expand by adding a second aircraft to our own fleet, guaranteeing reliability of service, and splitting the very high compliance costs; or be absorbed into a larger player."

Saab 340 ZK-KRA on approach to Hamilton on 26 June 2016
ZK-KRA backtracking to the terminal at Tauranga on 22 July 2016

Saab 340 ZK-KRA operated its last flight for Kiwi Regional on Tuesday the 26th of July 2016 flying KRL 8 from Dunedin to Nelson and Tauranga. It then ferried to Auckland. Meanwhile Air Chathams' Fairchild Metroliner ZK-CIC operated the southbound return service to Dunedin, the final flights from Dunedin and Nelson to Hamilton on the 29th and the final air Dunedin to Nelson and Tauranga service on the 30th of June 2016. 

Kiwi Regional Airlines was always going to have a difficult task to establish itself on inter-regional routes steering clear of direct competition with Air New Zealand. There were some he decried its failure. But, as Max Christoffersen wrote in the Waikato Times, If the passengers have not been left behind, if Wilson's staff have been placed in new employment with Air Chathams and the only ones to lose money were the airline shareholders, then this is a carefully controlled belly landing with no public casualties. This is actually a company that had a soft landing and should be admired in the way it has been managed into a takeover from a more established player. 

Kiwi Regional gave it a good go but nine months after take off it is now added to the list of New Zealand domestic airlines that didn't make it.