01 January 2022

Crystal Ball Gazing for 2022

 Happy New Year

Welcome to 2022

3rd Level New Zealand wishes you and your whānau a fantastic year with great flying and great plane spotting opportunities.

So as I sit in my non-airline industry armchair I once again turn my mind to the crystal ball and gaze into what might happen to our regional airlines in the year ahead...

Air Auckland has recently started a new air taxi service between Whitianga and Great Barrier Island in addition to their Ardmore-Whitianga and Ardmore-Great Barrier Island services operating a Cessna 206 and two Cessna 172s. The lack of overseas tourists is not helping their business... 

So my prediction for 2022, no changes.

The Convairs have gone, there has still been no announcement about the future of the Kapiti Coast airport, the expansion work has begun on the Chatham Islands airport and 2021 was a disrupted year. 

Air Chathams has been really thwarted by Covid after the past two years.

I still think a Boeing 737 will arrive for Air Chathams at some point. I'd thought a second ATR but I think this would have happened but now if it was going to happen. I would think the airline would want to consolidate after a disrupted 2021 but if we move out of the pandemic there may be moves to establish new routes as they have talked about before. Possibilities might be Auckland-Masterton, Kapiti Coast-Christchurch, Whanganui-Christchurch.

So like I said last year, I think a consolidating year and maybe maneuvering responding to what arises.

So my prediction for 2022, no real change but watch out for an Air Chathams wild card.

Air Kaikoura has restarted some December and January flights between Kaikoura and Wellington. The operator is unlikely to persevere with this, a major issue being the inability to offer IFR flights.

So my prediction for 2022, occasional operating of the Wellington flights operated on peak weekends.

Air Napier still operates a courier service between Napier and Gisborne. One of their Senecas is for sale.There have been various schemes but no real moves to build a regional airline out of Napier. 

So my prediction for 2022, no changes.

Last year I was really impressed with Air New Zealand returning to more or less full domestic schedules soon after coming out of lockdown and even though Auckland was still closed down. The whole Covid experience has, I think, indicated to the airline the importance of a strong domestic operation. To that end I don't think there will be any significant changes in 2022 but looking beyond I wonder...

The airline has now finished its ATR delivery programme and I wonder if we will see any more turbo prop purchase until new alternate powered-technology becomes available. The other thing the airline will need to think about is the gap between an ATR and an Airbus. Hamilton, for example, when Covid allows it has three flights to the capital within 90 minutes. With tarmac restrictions at Wellington does there need to be a smaller regional jet? Or again, does the airline wait for new fuel technology airliners?  

So my prediction for 2022, no changes.

Barrier Air has continued to grow and with the demise of Fly My Sky it is extremely busy on the Great Barrier Island route. Despite the nay-sayers who thought the fares would rise the airline continues to offer good fares. Great Barrier Island is a seasonal route so the airline has to have a large enough fleet for summer and Friday night outbound and Sunday afternoon returns but the big question is what happens to the fleet during the off-season? The airline has certainly built up its Kaitaia service and its new Whitianga service has started well. It's challenge will be to encourage Whitianga locals and holiday makers to see the service as a viable alternative to the drive which at times can be torturous.

The airline has announced the purchase of a fifth Caravan and indicated new services between Tauranga and both Great Barrier Island and Whitianga. Personally, I wonder about these but then the airline seems to make a success of all it does. An alternate I would suggest is North Shore-Tauranga and North Shore-Hamilton... There must be a market for business people who live in the North Shore who want to do a days business in these centres and would love to avoid the nightmare of the drive through Auckland both ways. Air North Shore tried but without the spadework before the service started. Another possible route that has piqued my interest is Auckland-Hawera which Barrier Air was flying in support of the Taranaki Covid outbreak. It would save an hours drive to New Plymouth and parking expenses there. Is there a market there?

So my prediction for 2022, look for expanding developments.

Golden Bay Air is introducing a BN Islander to its fleer this year after the success the Airvan has been in the fleet. The Seneca was an ideal backup for the Saratoga when an IFR capability was needed on the Wellington route. The Islander will allow this capability as an Airvan IFR replacement. The Islander will also be able to operate into Karamea. The Golden Bay Air operation is a niche operation with the focus on the Takaka Wellington service and supporting the Heaphy Track cyclists and trampers.

So my prediction for 2022, no changes.

Jetstar sticks to the main trunk routes domestically so there is little room for new routes. 

So my prediction for 2022, no changes.

Originair took delivery of a third Jetstream in 2021 and started services connecting Napier to Hamilton and Nelson. Their "main trunk" Hamilton-Palmerston North-Nelson route seems to be going well and they have changed times to better suit business traffic. Originair try to balance timings for business traffic and leisure traffic. 2022 could see a return to New Plymouth... perhaps a Nelson-New Plymouth-Hamilton-Napier route? Tauranga could be another possibility... Kiwi Regional seemed to do okay Nelson-Tauranga direct so that may be a possibility. I get the feeling Originair hasn't stopped developing and is looking for new opportunities. 

So my prediction for 2022, another Jetstream and another destination.  

New Zealand's night time freight flyer. The company interchanges aircraft with the Airwork's international air freight services. Nonetheless, while the growing demand for air freight capacity is good for the company but it won't necessitate more aircraft or routes.

So my prediction for 2022, no changes.

Sounds Air continues to offer a solid operation that is reflected in happy passengers. Despite the challenges of Covid Sounds Air seems to be have bounced back. While a lot of publicity has focussed on electric aircraft the company seems to be quietly consolidating and building up its routes. 

With the focus on electric aircraft I can't see them adding to their fleet or developing new routes. I feel they could develop a daily schedule out of Kapiti Coast to both Nelson and Blenheim. 

So my prediction for 2022, minor if any changes.

Stewart Island Flights is another niche operator, with its focus on the air service to Oban and supporting trampers by landing on Stewart Island's western beaches. It is under new management so there maybe something arise out of left field. I have always felt Queenstown-Stewart Island would be a good fit but not while there is no international tourists.

So my prediction for 2022, no changes.

Sunair were busy in the latter part of 2021 connecting Whangarei to Hamilton and Tauranga and flying over locked-down Auckland. The Gisborne service has gradually dwindled. The service to Great Barrier Island has grown to be quite important for Sunair and in late 2021 the airline restarted an Ardmore-Great Barrier Island service. Barrier Air's indication that it is looking at services to Tauranga will be a real challenge for Sunair.

So my prediction for 2022, no real changes. If Barrier Air compete on the Tauranga-Great Barrier route look for some scaling back of operations.

Waiheke Wings a.k.a Auckland Seaplanes bought two of Fly My Sky's BN Islanders. They do not seem to have had much if anything done to them. If they do start using the Islands they would have to be operating to Great Barrier Island, more likely out of Ardmore rather than Auckland. I wonder whether they would be suitable for Waiheke Island.

So my prediction for 2022, watch out for a new service but don't be surprised if the Islanders were put up for sale again.  


  1. Very good summary thanks Steve. I predict that Air NZ will open up new domestic routes this year. New routes out of ZQN to NSN and HLZ will come as demand for domestic continues to grow more regional centers will have flights to non hub airports.

  2. There will be another lockdown again this year and several operators will no longer be operating.

    1. I hope not. We have moved on from Lockdowns thankfully.

  3. Government will buy into Air Chathams via Air New Zealand. A320 ZK-OJM will operate under their AOC. Freight will be taken over by Parcel Air, and this will free up the SAAB's for new routes domestically. No more ATR's will be added to the fleet.

  4. Glenorchy Air do operate Queenstown-Stewart Island, usually on their 206.