01 January 2024

Crystal Ball Gazing for 2024


Happy New Year

3rd Level New Zealand wishes all its readers an awesome 2024 

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. 

Overall I think it will be a consolidation year and maybe seeing some rationalistion of operators...

In 2023 Air Chathams withdrew their Metroliners from scheduled passenger services in 2023 and have made Norfolk Island seasonal. With the withdrawal of the Metroliners the Whakatāne service no longer has an overnight. At the time of writing the ex-Rex Saabs have yet to enter service. The B-model Saab 340 ZK-CIZ is for sale. It looks like they have been tightening the belt.

So next year, look to see at least one or two of the ex Rex-Saabs entering service. Whakatāne, with its not friendly schedule for local business people, will be a destination to watch. The rumours continue about the introduction of a Boeing 737 for the Chathams' run. A definitely watch this space for 2024.

The same as last year. Air Napier still operates a courier service between Napier and Gisborne and regular medical flights to between Napier and Wairoa. For much of the latter part of 2023 these were all operated by the Navajo. Towards the end of the year one of their Senecas has returned to flying. My prediction for 2024, no changes.

With Winston as part of the Government I don't believe there will be any retrenchment from regional routes. Their Bombardier Q300 fleet is getting old and "cancelled due engineering" is becoming more common. One wonders if they may make the decision to go all ATR 72 on turbo prop routes. One wonders if the arrival of Embraer Regional Jets on the Tasman may make Air New Zealand think of regional jets themselves for regional and domestic services. As ATR services are increasingly full there is an increase in frequency with airports not so easily able to cater for this frequency.

So my prediction for 2024, no changes to the network but maybe some fleet decisions.

As I said last year, Barrier Air's challenge is to equalise the demand for Great Barrier Island services over the summer compared to the leaner winter months and at the same time maintain its fleet and staff. As I wrote last year, a way to do that would be looking for new business 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 Auckland motorway congestion when they need to do a day trip to New Zealand's fourth and fifth largest cities. In the past I have also suggested Hawera as a possible new destination but Hawera has the same issue as Whitianga, a grass runway. 

So my prediction for 2024, the same as last year, steady as she goes but going on Barrier Air's past form look for something new and look for some fleet expansion.

Golden Bay Air will delighted the Heaphy Track has reopened. This will keep them busy. If they were wanting to expand, they could offer weekend flights from Wellington to Kaikoura but they have shown little inclination to expand and remain a niche operator servicing Golden Bay alone.

My prediction for 2024, no changes.

Island Aviation experienced a long lean off-season on their North Shore-Great Barrier Island flights. Despite their best attempts they have not managed to develop a comprehensive service to the Barrier from North Shore and, like Sunair, fly when traffic is offering.

My prediction for 2024 is no real change from what's happening at present, flying when traffic is offering.

Again, exactly the same as I said the last two years, Jetstar sticks to the main trunk routes domestically so there is little room for new routes. Jetstar seem to be getting much less news about cancellations as compared to Air New Zealand and people maybe looking at Jetstar again. 

My prediction for 2024, no major changes but maybe a ramping up on frequency.

Merlin Labs, the mystery operator continues to operate a four times weekly freight service. I suspect this is more tied into their research than a serious entry into the domestic freight market. 

My prediction for 2024, no changes.

Originair hasn't seemed to have bounced back from Covid on their pre-Covid routes. New Plymouth and Napier were dropped and Hamilton is only thrice weekly. The Jetstreams are not new and expensive to maintain and operate. Originair now focussing on Cook Strait flights between Nelson and Wellington which places them head to head with Air New Zealand. 

One wonders what future they have? My prediction for 2024, watch this space. 

Texel Air has entered the New Zealand and Australian air freight markets and already they having an impact on PArcelair/Airwork, with Airwork losing their Toll contract in Australia next year. Parcelair and Airwork have been continuing operating their older Boeing 737-300 and -400 fleet but their customers want more reliability. 

My prediction for 2024 retrenchment as Texel Air take more of their work.


Sounds Air seems to be busier in 2023 and their regular passengers very much like Sounds Air. Their Pilatus PC12s, while being popular aircraft for passengers, are not cheap to run which means higher fares which in turn means potential passengers looking for alternatives. That has made growing the likes of Taupō and Westport difficult. The Cessna Caravans however are much more economical to operate but these not suited for flights beyond Cook Strait. A real problem for the likes of Sounds Air is that there are no alternative economic aircraft available on the market at present.

So my guess for 2024, things will remain the same but, again, watch this space. 

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 but not operated by Islanders. In saying that the BN Islander is ideal for the Stewart Island service to Oban's Ryans Creek airfield as well as the beach landings on the Stewart Island's western beaches but the time must surely be coming when they will need to look at Caravans.

In the meantime, my prediction for 2024, no changes.

2023 saw Sunair return to Gisborne, Wairoa and Napier and they are operating flights between these centres twice a day. However, flights from the East Coast and Hawkes Bay to Tauranga and Napier have largely collapsed. The Tauranga-(Whitianga)-Great Barrier Island-Whangarei and Great Barrier-Ardmore services fly when traffic is offering. The Aztecs while a great workhorse are old and don't have much appeal.

I still believe there is a market for inter-regional travel but this would take a massive reinvestment on a newer fleet and building the market, neither of which Sunair is likely to do.

So my prediction for 2024, as last year, no real changes. Sunair is a survivor and adjusts to demand and competition but again, watch this space.

The  new comer on the block... Two Boeing 737-800 freighters in service, one in NZ and one in Australia. A third being prepared for service in Hamilton. Watch for more activity particularly in Australia but maybe NZ as well


  1. My thoughts
    Originair 2.0
    X1 68 seater ATR 72-200 (ZK-JSZ) NOTE: Based at Tauranga for winter scenic rides over the Bay of Plenty
    X3 19 seater BAE Jetstream 32 (ZK-ECI, JSJ and JSK)
    X2 BAE Jetstream 31 (ZK-JSH and JSI)
    X1 11 seater Beech King Air 350 (ZK-ECJ)
    Wellington to Nelson Type: J31 Flight Time: 0:40
    Nelson to Palmerston North Type: J32 Flight Time: 0:45
    Hamilton to Palmerston North Type: J32 Flight Time 0:60 NOTE: J32 ZK-JSJ is based at Hamilton
    Hamilton to Nelson Type: J32 Flight Time: 1:15 NOTE: Nonstop Route
    Tauranga to Nelson Type: J31 Flight Time: 1:20 NOTE: Longest Route
    Wellington to Palmerston North Type: B. King Air 350 Flight Time: 0:40 NOTE: B. King Air 350 ZK-ECJ is based at Palmerston North
    NOTE: Alternatively Originair could acquire a pair of 29 seater J41s (ZK-JSM and JSN) and use them on the Nelson to Hamilton and Tauranga routes or they could acquire a fourth J32 and use it on a Tauranga to Hamilton route thus forming a Tauranga-Hamilton-Palmerston North route

    1. May want to lay off the Turps. Winter Scenic Flights over Tauranga using a ATR? J41s? TRG-HLZ routes?

      Absolutely no logical or practical thought has been used to dream up that one.

  2. Happy New Year Steve, another year gone with great posts, the research you do is appreciated, it is more than a rumour that Barrier Air are starting out of Hawera around April with flights to Auckland

    1. Not a Chance. Hawera to Auckland, in a Caravan? Operating flights over Winter, from a Grass Strip in one of the Wetter Regions in NZ? Goodness knows WTZs Grass Strip has plagued Barrier Air this year. At least they can still shuttle passengers when needed.

      If Barrier started flights to Hawera in April, I would eat my hat - and my socks.

    2. Barrier did Auckland Hawera during covid but that was medical supplies ifrc
      i doubt they would go commercial into there makes no sense to me

  3. Took a ride in a Technam P2012 over in MT last month. Brilliant aircraft, superbly comfortable and quiet. Far superior to a squishy Caravan (granted the Caravan is a LOT more versatile. Would love to see the P2012s make there way down under.

    1. Interesting... I saw one last time in the USA. Was sorry I couldn't fit IA flight

    2. There is a P2012 in Australia as VH-, but may be just a demonstrator. So it's definitely down under already!

    3. Whilst the 2012 looks nice it is Italian and a piston twin. There is no place for piston twins in modern commercial aviation. The caravan is a financial beast. Pretty much the only aeroplane that makes real money in GA. That is why the 208 values have gone up so much and the TKS G1000s for IFR ops are always extremely hard to find.

  4. Can anyone provide an update on the Chathams Island airport upgrade?

    I assume this has been finished and signed off?

    Has Air Chathams made any definitive announcement on securing 737 or similar capability to serve?

    Is there sufficient demand to utilise jet capacity should it be available?

    Assume a robust business case was compiled that convinced the Government that the upgrade spend was a good investment that would produce a good return?

    1. There was an interview on CH-Aviation in regarding their 737
      "Air Chathams Chief Operating Officer Duane Emeny said the airline had previously signed a letter of intent to lease a B737-300 from Kelowna Flightcraft"
      "which was put on hold until after the New Zealand general election"
      So Who knows what their progress is with it seeing that the Airport Upgrades at the Chatham's are completed should not be far off

    2. Runway and Tarmac has been Finished for quite a while now. Upgrades and extenstion to Terminal due to start shortly.

      No definitive answer on the Jet, had Covid not have happened, we may have seen it already. But Covid has certainly pushed many plans back. The airline are selling off one of their Saabs, so more likely to be looking to consolidate the fleet keep the spending in check for a while. It'll happen eventually, but cannot see it being this year at least.

      Absolutely sufficient demand for a Combi Jet out here. The airline moves a lot of freight both ways, and the current ATRs are not really the best cargo haulers. It's exciting to think about the things that could be sent as Cargo on the Jet, that wouldn't currently fit on the ATR. No more waiting for ages on the Boat.

      Passenger numbers always fluctuate with on island events, School Holidays, Christmas, Major On Island Works. Plus the usual High Season Tourists. It has been a quiet summer thus far Tourism wise - the Covid bounce is well and truly over.

      Airport will never make a Return on Investment. No Business case was needed. The Enterprise Trust run the Airport for the benefit of the Community. The Long and Strong Project was launched after many years of lobbying the Government, to future proof the Islands needs. The Airport, like the Waitangi Wharf is a absolute Lifeline, we could not get by without either of them. So there was never really going to be any Return on Investment.

  5. Expanding on the Air NZ going all ATR point, interesting to see them introducing the ATR to Kerikeri and Hokitika later this year. Will be a once per week service for both, with the ATR operating one of the morning sectors on a Monday, and Hokitika going from 2x Q300 to 1x ATR on a Sunday.

    1. Think you will find that the ATR flights are only temporary additions through the Winter Maintenence period. Both KKE & HKK ATR flights revert back to DH8C in September.