06 July 2020

How many airports don't want extended air services?

Since when did airports get so much say???

Queenstown Lakes Mayor Jim Boult has backed the Queenstown Airport Corporation (QAC) over its decision not to approve Sounds Air’s proposed scheduled service between Wanaka Airport and Christchurch. Sounds Air managing director Andrew Crawford expressed bewilderment last week that it had not been given approval to operate its nine-seater Pilatus PC12 despite approaches over the past two and a-half years. Mr Boult said he believed QAC was "holding true to the commitment" made by it and the Queenstown Lakes District Council that no development or return of scheduled flights at Wanaka Airport would be considered until after impact assessments had been completed and appropriate planning undertaken. "That assurance is what is being honoured here in response to the community voices that requested a halt on any and all activity at Wanaka." Sounds Air is surveying Upper Clutha residents about their views on its proposed service. Mr Boult said it was important to consider the results "and see how that informs the conversation going forward". The QAC’s statement of intent, determining the actions it should take at Wanaka and Queenstown Airports, is due to be considered by the council again in October. "If there is genuine community interest and a compelling and sustainable commercial proposition, I welcome the proposed Sounds Air service being part of that discussion," Mr Boult said. The council and QAC could then look at all the information to define what happened next. Sounds Air wants to make 15 return flights to Christchurch a week.


  1. I reckon they would prefer Air NZ to fly in a larger aircraft such as a 50 seat Dash 8 over a 9 seat PC12 so the airport can get higher landing fees in.

  2. Wanaka has no scheduled services currently. Airports face significant charges (potentially, although not at the moment) including Airways Corporation charges, plus on ground management costs, potential impact on insurances, etc., which increase with scheduled services. Usually these cannot be recovered in full from users which is why most airports in NZ below about the top 6 run at a loss. Local authorities may be willing to meet those costs to have a local service, an airport company won't unless it can see growth coming. If every proposed Soundsair flight flew full, that would be just 270 sectors per week, which is far short of what would be needed for costs recovery. Any airport company would want a better outcome than that. Airport companies exercise substantial influence, even for major airports - an example being when Wellington Airport blocked an Air NZ - Qantas proposal to co-ordinate timetables to Australia to increase daily choice. The failure of that was another step in the continuing loss of Wellington head office businesses to Auckland; and there are many more examples of airport companies exercising this sort of power.