10 December 2021

Great Barrier Air Wars

While most people think of air wars on the main trunk there has been a history of this on flights to Great Barrier Island. This summer two operators, Sunair and Air Auckland, are going head to head and perhaps two of the leanest air routes in New Zealand, Ardmore to Great Barrier Island and Whitianga to Great Barrier Island. Both airlines operate on an air taxi basis and fly when traffic is offering.

Sunair's summer schedule has finally gone live on the company's website. It was delayed due to the Covid lockdown affecting Auckland and Great Barrier Island. The airline is only operating one weekday flight on the Gisborne and Whangarei services to Hamilton or Tauranga. Great Barrier Island has become the airlines main destination with two flights six days a week from Tauranga and Ardmore and with a daily flight six days a week from Whitianga and Whangarei. The airline operates it services with their Piper Aztec and Cessna 172 aircraft. The company also operates the doctor service from Whangarei to Kaitaia.

Air Auckland has announced it will add flights between from Whitianga and Great Barrier Island. It already offers flights between Ardmore and Whitianga and Ardmore and Great Barrier Island. The operator uses a Cessna 206 and two Cessna 172s.

Meanwhile, while not involved in the Ardmore-Great Barrier and Whitianga-Great Barrier "air wars" the big player to Great Barrier Island is Barrier Air which operates multiple flights from Auckland International to Great Barrier Island. Regular flights are also operated from North Shore. The airline is also starting flights between Auckland International and Whitianga from next Thursday. The airline will operate 12 flights a week on the new route. The airline is operating a fleet of 4 Cessna 208 Grand Caravans. All Barrier Air's services can operate IFR if needed. 


  1. Good luck to them. There is barely enough room for one airline on the barrier run, let alone 3. I would hate to think how many million dollars has been lost by operators over the years serving that impoverished place.

  2. I wouldn't necessarily call Great Barrier an impoverished place... but while competition might be good for consumers it is not good for operators on this largely seasonal route. The number of defunct operators is proof of that. The major carrier, Barrier Air, has invested mega bucks in top aircraft and has excellent safety and professional standards. That doesn't come cheap and like all businesses they have to cover their costs.