18 May 2018

Wanaka a Real Possibility?

I must admit, I was fairly sceptical about Wanaka being on the Air NZ radar but the ODT has been doing some good research... This is obviously under serious consideration.

Have a read. The three questions I have from these articles are...
  • If Air NZ started WKA services ould this mark the end of Warbirds over Wanaka??? 
  • Is Wanaka extendable enough for long haul international flights???
  • Is it time for Air NZ to invest in regional jets - eg Embraer195s - given ATRs are often full and our airport infrastructure is struggling to provide adequate numbers of gates???

Air New Zealand is ready to put on daily direct jet flights between Auckland and Wanaka later this year, according to an informed source who asked not to be named. But, there is a big question mark over whether Wanaka Airport would be ready to handle them. The Otago Daily Times has been told Air New Zealand would like to begin operating jet flights in the 2018-19 summer but is constrained by Wanaka Airport's infrastructure. The airport is owned by the Queenstown Lakes District Council and leased to the Queenstown Airport Corporation. Queenstown Airport chief executive Colin Keel said yesterday it was ''encouraging'' airlines were expressing interest in Wanaka. Asked if the airport was ready for commercial flights to resume, Mr Keel referred the ODT to the corporation's new ''fact sheet'' brochure. It says the airport would need to be certified to be used for regular scheduled passenger services. As part of that, it would need check-in and baggage handling facilities, security systems and infrastructure for water, waste and fuel as well as services for other transport options. Wanaka Airport currently has a small waiting room, two public toilets and some car parking. Air New Zealand operates the Airbus A320, which carries 170 people. It needs 1.9km of runway. Wanaka Airport has a 1.2km runway. Air New Zealand chief executive Christopher Luxon, in a staff message on Monday, singled out Wanaka while discussing regional air services. He said the company was ''actively considering options for other ports, such as Wanaka.'' Lake Wanaka Tourism general manager James Helmore said the resumption of flights to Wanaka was ''inevitable''. He was aware of the airline's interest in the number of passengers flying into Queenstown Airport who had Wanaka as their ''primary destination''. ''They've tracked all those numbers and they are watching those numbers grow.''

But does Wanaka want it???

The Wanaka community has "limited ability" to stop its airport becoming a destination for passenger jets, even if it wants to. That is the view of Queenstown Lakes District councillor and Wanaka Community Board chairman Quentin Smith, commenting on an Otago Daily Times report Air New Zealand would fly jets into the airport this summer if its infrastructure was up to scratch. The council owns the airport but in March leased it for 100 years to the Queenstown Airport Corporation (QAC), which is now in charge of operations, planning and development. Mr Smith said councillors now had no more knowledge of what was planned at the airport than the general public. "I suppose one of the disadvantages with QAC managing the airport is that we don't have as much visibility of their corporate plans as we would have as a council-run airport." He noted, however, QAC had made "a strong commitment" to consult the community over the airport's strategic direction. He believed QAC was "ready and motivated" to invest and he would not be surprised if it happened reasonably soon. The infrastructure required for jets the size of Air New Zealand's Airbus A320, carrying 270 passengers, would include a major extension to the runway and the provision of such things as baggage-handling facilities, departure and arrival lounges, car parking and other transport links. Asked if Wanaka wanted jets, Mr Smith said "I think it's very much a double-edged sword. "It seems to fit with the strategic approach to a two-airport district that the QAC have promoted, but the social impact and noise impact on Wanaka as a community certainly has the potential to be unfavourable." There was also likely to be an effect on recreational aviation. Publicly, QAC has said only that expressions of interest from airlines like Air New Zealand was "encouraging" and any comment "around specific routes or business decisions to return to Wanaka" would need to come from Air New Zealand. Deputy Mayor Calum Macleod said yesterday he was sure QAC would be "well aware" of Air New Zealand's intentions. "We've all been saying that it's going to be a paradigm shift when the airport at Wanaka changes to accepting national and then international flights. "It certainly will be a game-changer." He believed the infrastructure to deal with jet aircraft would require millions of dollars of investment by QAC. Cr MacLeod said a straw poll of Wanaka people would show the majority were "reasonably happy to be able to jump on a plane and fly to Christchurch or Auckland direct". "In terms of welcoming more visitation and more tourists, well, that's a whole different debate."


  1. It'll happen. ATR RNP services only, to CHC and a reduction in ATR to ZQN, maybe offset with increase in jet on CHC-ZQN.

  2. Doing well to fit 270 people on an A320.