01 January 2023

Crystal Ball Gazing for 2023


3rd Level New Zealand wishes you and those you love an amazing year. 

May there be blue skies for your plane spotting 

and smooth air for your flying

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's suddenly ceased their regular air taxi services in 2022. My prediction is there will be no change to them remaining a charter operator only and so this will be the last time they appear in the crystal ball.

While Air Chathams are operating a full schedule again the airline is still continuing to move towards pre-Covid traffic levels. A key part of their traffic in and out of Auckland are connections to and from international flights which have a flow on effect to their regional services to Whakatane, Whanganui and Paraparaumu. I don't expect any frequency increase on these routes. Air Chathams' charter work has certainly increased and this has helped them weather the Covid storm. The Tauck Tours have also restarted. So it's very much getting back to normal. So looking 2023...

With the imminent completion of the extended runway on the Chatham Islands my prediction for 2023 is to look out for a Boeing 737. 

As to off ball predictions one wonders if Auckland-Masterton is still on the cards or Christchurch-Paraparaumu. Other than that I don't expect more regional routes being dropped by Air New Zealand in the next 12 months so a reconsolidation year for Air Chathams but look out for a couple of wildcards. 

The same as last year. Air Napier still operates a courier service between Napier and Gisborne. One of their Senecas is for sale. There have been various schemes no create business but no real moves to build a regular inter-regional air service out of Napier. 

So my prediction for 2023, no changes.

Restarting Air New Zealand and getting it to full strength has been a challenge as people are clearly ready to fly. As part of its response Air New Zealand has introduced the first of its domestic Airbus 321s to its fleet. Services seem to be largely full with the exception of the leaner regional routes. 

Despite the full flights I think next year will be continue to be reconsolidation year. I can't see any regional routes disappearing in the coming year, especially being 2023 an election year, but watch for some regional ports disappearing after 2023.

So my prediction for 2023, no changes.

Barrier Air continued to grow in 2022 with the arrival of a fifth Caravan and commencing a new Tauranga-Great Barrier service. The airline has struggled like other smaller airlines with a lack of summer weather, fuel prices and losing pilots to larger carriers. A challenge is to equalise more the demand for services over the summer compared to the leaner winter months. A way to do that would be looking for new routes. An opportunity for this is connecting North Shore to the likes of Tauranga and perhaps Hamilton for business traffic enabling business people who live in the North Shore to overfly motorway congestion when they need to do a day trip to New Zealand's fourth and fifth largest cities.  

So my prediction for 2023, steady as she goes but going on Barrier Air's past form look for something new.

Golden Bay Air has introduced a BN Islander to its fleet. I can't see any real changes as they are generally kept quite busy with their niche operations, especially when the Heaphy Track is open! 

If they were wanting to expand and with the opening of the 120 room Sudima Hotel in Kaikoura they might want to think about weekend flights from Wellington to Kaikoura.

Nonetheless, my prediction for 2023, no changes.

Island Aviation, incorporating Waiheke Wings, started operating a regular service between North Shore and Great Barrier Island in November 2022 using two Britten Norman Islanders. The Islanders will also supplement 
Waiheke Wings' Cessna 172 for transfer flights from Waiheke Island to Great Barrier, North Shore and Ardmore. These routes are rather seasonal and it remains to be seen what market there will be for the airline's long term viability.

My prediction is no real change from what's happening at present, flying when traffic is offering.

Again, exactly the same as I said last year, Jetstar sticks to the main trunk routes domestically so there is little room for new routes. I have noticed that they have significantly flights than previously. I wonder if that in itself is an omen of something.

Nonetheless, my prediction for 2023, no changes.

Originair seems to have struggle to recover since Covid. Flight frequencies remain reduced across the network and this surely can't help build a regular clientelle. I have always been a big fan of the Hamilton-Palmerston North route which Eagle Air took over in 1980 and made it a really solid route. Originair's  current thrice weekly service is encouraging people to drive.

My hope, rather than my prediction, that frequencies return to pre-Covid levels. 

The same as last year... Parcelair is 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 2023, no changes.

Sounds Air has been very quiet and will also be feeling similar challenges to Barrier Air, namely pilots going to larger airlines and the impact of Jet A1 prices. With the focus on electric aircraft I can't see them adding to their fleet or developing new routes in the near future. I feel they could develop a daily schedule out of Kapiti Coast to both Nelson and Blenheim. 

So my prediction for 2023, 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. I have always felt Queenstown-Stewart Island would be a good fit.

So my prediction for 2022, no changes.

In a surprise move Sunair withdrew from Gisborne in 2022 ending a long history of flying to the East Coast leaving the airline to focus on services to Great Barrier Island. Since then, Barrier Air have started a Tauranga-Great Barrier Island summer service which will certainly have an impact. I also note Sunair hasn't put out a summer schedule.

So my prediction for 2023, no real changes. Sunair is a survivor and will adjust to demand and competition.


  1. A good overview of the year ahead. I hope no more NZ domestic routes get the chop. I agree with Air Chathams to Masterton but I think the hold up is with the runway work it's taking forever

  2. My Thoughts
    Air Auckland- Its flying days are over
    Air Chathams- New Fleet from 737s to C.206 with new destinations such as MRO and LDH as well as new routes like CHC to PPQ, WHK and WAG
    Air Napier- Regional Airline with new services to ROT, TRG, WHK, GBZ, TUO, PPQ, NPL, BHE and ZQN
    Air NZ- a better Q300 replacement would be the ATR 42 with possible new destinations and new routes- MCO, IPC, LAS, HTI, HIR, DRW, LIH and VLI, ROT to ZQN, TRG to PMR, AKL to HKK and TIU and CHC to TUO and GIS, DUD to OOL, TRG to RAR and MEL to NLK

    Barrier Air- New Fleet ranging from the C. Caravan to the AW109 with new routes such as AKL to MTA, Motiti Island, Hawera, Waihi ETC

    Golden Bay Air- New Fleet with a new WLG to MRO and MZP to KTF route

    Invivo Air could take on ROT to ZQN if Air NZ is not interested

    Island Aviation could take on a GBZ to TUO service

    Jetstar- Possible new routes such as AKL-AYQ, CBR and TSV as well as CHC to IVC and maybe move its NZ-Cook Islands service from AKL to TRG resulting a TRG to RAR route

    Parcelair- New Zealand's National Cargo Airline

    Originair- New Fleet with a new route- NSN to TRG

    Sounds Air- Zero Emission Planes are not a good idea so a fleet of Caravans, PC-12s and C.441s with new destinations such as WHK, PMR, WRE, KKE, HKK, GMN, OAM, MON, SZS, Gore ETC

    Stewart Island Flights- Same Fleet with 2 new routes SZS to ZQN and DUD

    Sunair- New Fleet with new and improved network with new routes such as HLZ to AKL

    Volcanic Air- Regional Airline with services from ROT to WHK and WRE

    Waiheke Wings- Regional Airline with services from ROT to GBZ

    1. Air Chats to Lord Howe Island? Rotorua to Whakatane flights on Volcanic? Claris to Taupo? What on earth....

      Might want to lay off the New Years Turps buddy

    2. Please tell me you are joking

    3. The optimism is there for sure. But not one thing you have listed will ever come true.

    4. Replying to not one thing will ever come true. The one on the list that might come true is Origin Air NSN to TRG it's a growing sizeable market.

    5. Whoever wrote this comment has zero understanding of airline operations in NZ, let alone the international suggestions. TRG/NSN might work on a couple of days a week for a Nelson operator with spare aircraft time; a service to Masterton might work 5 days a week if/when the local Council(s) ever get the runway extended. The rest will never happen in any foreseeable time; more probably one or two of these operators won’t make it into 2024 as scheduled airlines.

    6. I do agree that Auckland Masterton could work. As Jarden has said there doesn't seem to be anything happening with the runway extensions
      I can't see anything happening until runway is completed. I do think one of the keys is for the Wairarapa to work together to promote Wairarapa as a destination. There is a lot in the Wairarapa that could be promoted and isn't.
      One other route I think would have potential for somebody like Soundsair is Oamaru Christchurch. I would see this as pretty much a business route so the biggest issue would be aircraft utilisation outside of peak hours.

    7. I think 99% of your thoughts are overly ambitious and not realistic or practical.

      I wouldn't cancel out those zero emission aircrafts like you have done. They are a coming. And like all things, it just takes time. The push for zero emission aircraft is so big, that there is no way it won't happen.

  3. I think it will business as usual for domestic aviation for 2023 due to economic headwinds coming our way over the next couple of years

    Air New Zealand will take delivery of 3 additional A321neo's for domestic jet operations this year. I don't see any announcement of replacing the Q300's or domestic route changes.