Air New Zealand is planning a significant shakeup to its domestic network involving additional capacity on main trunk and regional routes, as well as schedule changes designed to improve connectivity to its international hubs.
The changes were outlined in notes to travel agents on April 6 and were expected to be progressively rolled out from the start of May.
The notes indicated Air NZ planned to have a “more consistent schedule” on key truck routes such as Auckland-Christchurch and Auckland-Wellington, with flights departing every half hour during peak business times from May 2.
And the Christchurch-Wellington route will have 22 daily return flights on weekdays from October 30 with the addition of eight new frequencies compared with the current schedule. Air NZ said Airbus A320s would be used in the morning and evening peaks, while the majority of flights on the route will be served with ATR 72 turboprops. The airline’s 50-seat Q300s would be flown at off-peak times.
“The changes will see frequency and capacity growth on trunk markets to offer business customers more choice while also improving connections to regional destinations,” Air NZ said.
As previously announced, Air NZ planned to start night flights between Queenstown and Auckland from July. There are also plans to have all Wellington-Queenstown flights operated by A320s from July, while the four flights a day between Christchurch and Queenstown would feature two ATR flights and two A320 flights.
On the non-trunk routes, there are double-digit capacity increases for the likes of Gisborne, Hamilton, Rotorua and Tauranga as Air NZ withdraws the 19-seat Beech 1900D from the fleet and deploys the larger 68-seat ATR 72-500/600s and 50-seat Q300s on affected routes.
“Air New Zealand is making amendments to its regional New Zealand network aimed at delivering improved connectivity, consistency and choice for customers,” the company said.
“The revised schedule offers frequency increases, as well as the choice of multiple daily connections between all New Zealand regions and onto our expanding international network.”
The airline has guided the market to a seven per cent capacity increase in the second half of 2015/16, with short-haul services to expand by five per cent, while long-haul services were tipped to grow nine per cent.
And looking further ahead, Air NZ said at its 2015/16 first half financial results it expected to grow capacity between eight and 10 per cent in 2017.
The Air NZ website showed the Star Alliance member currently had 15 A320s and 50 turboprops (comprising 20 ATRs, 23 Q300s and seven Beech 1900D) operating in its home market.
This compared with nine A320s and five Q300 turboprops at its domestic rival Jetstar, which recently began flights to regional destinations.
The proposed domestic changes come on top of previously announced international expansion to three new destination in 2016, with flights to Manila, Ho Chi Minh City and Osaka scheduled to take off later in the year.