03 December 2018

Air Auckland - The Hauraki Gulf's New Air Taxi


On the 25th of May 2017 Flight Hauraki Ltd became Air Auckland Ltd, though the company continued to trade as Flight Hauraki until May 2018. The new, overseas owners bought Flight Hauraki in  November 2015 and moved the focus of the company towards Chinese tourists to New Zealand.

On the 3rd of December 2018 Air Auckland commenced a daily scheduled passenger service between Ardmore and both Whitianga and Great Barrier Island using their Cessna 172s and Sunair's Piper Aztecs. As at the 3rd of December 2018 Air Auckland had two aircraft registered to it, Cessna 172N ZK-MDV and Piper Navajo ZK-JGA and it also operated Cessna R172K ZK-CXP.

Air Auckland's Cessna 172 ZK-MDV taken at Ardmore on 21 January 2019

A combined Air Auckland and Sunair timetable effective 3 December 2018. The flights highlighted in blue are operated by Air Auckland.

Air Auckland also used Cessna 172 ZK-CXP. Photo taken at Ardmore on 21 January 2019 

Air Auckland’s CEO told The Mercury Bay Informer, Air Auckland will fly four-seater Cessna 172 and six-seater Piper Aztec aeroplanes “dependent on our number of passengers. We provide free transport between our Ardmore base and the Takanini and Papakura train stations. We’ll effectively be codesharing with Sunair as our Whitianga and Great Barrier Island departure times will align with Sunair’s arrival times.” Flying scheduled services will be in addition to our charter business, which remains very strong,” says Mike. “We have an arrangement with Pepper Tree Restaurant in Coromandel Town that’s meeting the demand of Auckland residents looking for a lunch experience on the other side of the Hauraki Gulf and we have not long ago received consent to fly into Slipper Island. We also believe Pauanui has promise as a charter destination from Auckland.”

Air Auckland's Piper Navajo at Tauranga on 4 April 2019 while being leased to Sunair... It carried small titles on the left hand side...

In late 2019 Piper Navajo ZK-JGA was removed from the fleet while Cessna 206 Stationair ZK-DZH and Cessna 172 ZK-EJU were added to the fleet. 

Added to the fleet in late 2019 was Cessna 206 ZK-DZH...

...and Cessna 172 ZK-EJU at Ardmore, both taken at Ardmore on 15 December 2019.

From just before Christmas 2019 to the end of March 2020, Air Auckland based an aircraft and pilot full-time in Whitianga. The aircraft was primarily available for sightseeing flights and to ferry passengers between Whitianga, Pauanui and Slipper Island. Mike Foster, Air Auckland's chief pilot, told the Mercury Bay Informer that he is excited about a recent arrangement entered into between Air Auckland and the owners of Slipper Island. “There are several guest chalets and a lodge on Slipper Island,” he says. “Guests often travel to the island from Pauanui by boat, but over summer the boat can be put to better use taking guests out on fishing charters, which is where we come into the picture. Flying from the Pauanui airstrip, the island is literally only a hop away. If the island isn’t fully booked out, it’s a great destination for day trips. The beach is beautiful. If people check with us beforehand, we’ll be able to tell them if we can fly them across for a few hours on that day.” Mike estimates that most sightseeing trips from Whitianga will take approximately 30 minutes. “We can cover quite a lot of ground in half an hour,” he says. “Cathedral Cove, Hot Water Beach, Otama Beach, Opito Bay, there’s a lot to be seen.” A minimum of two passengers are required for sightseeing flights. Other Air Auckland products include charter flights and package deals on the Coromandel. The airline already has an arrangement with Pepper Tree Restaurant in place, flying passengers from Ardmore to Coromandel Town for lunch, and has recently launched deals with The Lost Spring in Whitianga and Mercury Bay Estate in Cooks Beach. A Whitianga fishing charter package is also under consideration. On basing an aircraft at Whitianga Mike says, We’ll see how it goes. If the demand is there, the aircraft will stay in on the Coromandel longer. 

Mercury Bay Informer, 11 December 2019

The Whitianga-based Cessna 172 won’t impact the airline’s daily scheduled service between Ardmore and Whitianga. Air Auckland's air taxi service, which was offered from Ardmore to both Great Barrier Island and Whitianga operated on Thursday through to Sunday each week during the 2019 winter, but returned to a daily service when traffic was offering by the beginning of December 2019. Mike Foster told the Mercury Bay Informer, We’ve started flying to Whitianga on a daily basis more than a year ago and it’s going really well. Passengers embark or disembark at Ardmore at the DC3 hangar in Corsair Lane. There’s ample free parking and we have a shuttle service available that can collect or drop passengers off free of charge at the Papakura and Takanini train stations. The air taxi service is operated with either a Cessna 172 or Cessna 206 aircraft, depending on demand. 

Air Auckland summer schedule as at 16 November 2019

Advertising the air taxi services in the Mercury Bay Informer, 11 and 18 December 2019

Like all operators Air Auckland was severely impacted by the Covid 19 pandemic. Nonetheless the airline continued to operate and, in particular, develop its package deal flights out of Ardmore and scenic flights out of Ardmore, Whitianga and Pauanui.

Air Auckland packages, 2022

On the 15th of December 2021 Air Auckland's Cessna 172 ZK-EJU commenced the operator's new Whitianga-Great Barrier Island service.  When the service was announced Air Auckland's post on Facebook said, "We are proud of being part of the local community and would like to thank you all for your support. It has been a very challenging year for everyone, but we are confident that with your support, we could continue to improve."

The Whitianga-Great Barrier Island service continued through to the 19th of April 2022 when it was suspended for winter. It will be re-offered again from the 19th of October 2022.

Air Auckland continues to operate the Cessna 206 and two Cessna 172s and, as at October 2020, the air taxi service between Ardmore and Great Barrier Island or Whitianga operates on demand on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. 

Air Auckland's Cessna 206 arriving back to Ardmore on a scenic on 6 March 2022

By October 2022 Air Auckland had removed all details of their regular air taxi services from Ardmore to Great Barrier Island and Whitianga from their website and the Cessna 206 ZK-DZH was listed for sale.

In late May 2023 Air Auckland announced it would cease operations and this happened on the 31st of May 2023. 

Aircraft operated 

Cessna R172K Hawk XP
ZK-CXP - c/n R1722923

Cessna 172N Skyhawk
ZK-EJU - c/n 17269288
ZK-MDV - c/n 17273249

Cessna T206H Turbo Stationair TC
ZK-DZH - c/n T20609009
Piper PA-31-310 Navajo C
ZK-JGA - c/n 31-7612102

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