17 July 2020

3C for MRO?

A $10 million boost towards the upgrade of Masterton’s airport could be just ticket to get a new regular air service off the ground. Domestic carrier Air Chathams said it would be interested in establishing a regular link out of Masterton once the Covid crunch eases. Wairarapa people had been yearning for a metropolitian air service ever since Air New Zealand pulled the pin on its Masterton-Auckland link six years ago. Air Chathams general manager Duane Emeny said the Masterton-Auckland service was being considered and the upgrade of Hood Aerodrome was a significant step. “Yes, we would be interested. Our values as an airline are to connect regional New Zealand.” Air Chathams has a track record of servicing provincial centres running viable connections in other parts of New Zealand. It operates services from Whakatāne, Kāpiti Coast and Whanganui to Auckland, as well as its long-running Christchurch-Chatham Islands service. “We certainly know the markets. It’s a pretty tough time at the moment, you wouldn’t want to be considering anything new, but in a couple of months that could look quite a lot different.” Emeny said starting up a new service was not without risk and as part of any bid, the airline would be seeking a “significant support package” to underwrite potential losses in the initial period. “From our recent experience with the mainland North Island routes, that’s where a huge amount of costs comes in.” Air Chathams was one of the contenders to provide a Wairarapa air service six years ago, but lost out to a competing bid that never came to fruition. One of the impediments to Air Chathams getting off the ground at Hood in 2014, was that the air strip needed to be upgraded. On Wednesday the Government announced that $10 million would be made available to fund upgrades including: extending and widening the runway, extending the taxiway and apron, upgrading utilities on site and funding CAA certification. Finance Minister Grant Robertson said it would transform Hood into “a modern, functional airport, with capacity for growth beyond its current activity”. Masterton Mayor Lyn Patterson said the re-establishment of a regular air service was one of the business community’s top issues. “The need is there, without a doubt. We got the bums on seats with Air New Zealand and I can only see that the need’s increased over the last five or six years.” “Everybody misses that air service and also when you look at domestic tourism... I think there will be an even more essential need for it.” She said “there’s a whole lot of work to be done” around contract negotiations if an air service was to start up again, but Air Chathams’ interest was welcomed. She said with or without an airlink, the improvements to the airport were a major boost for the region. “The first priority is to get the infrastructure done not just for the air service, but for the other services at Hood.” Hood Aerodrome hosts the biennial air show Wings Over Wairarapa, it’s home to many of Peter Jackson’s The Vintage Aviator WWI fighter collection and the Life Flight air ambulance uses the airfield regularly.

No comments:

Post a Comment