Air New Zealand is withdrawing from two loss making regional services – Whanganui-Auckland and Blenheim-Christchurch.
The airline says the two routes haven proven unable to sustain the larger 50-seat Dash 8 Q300 following the retirement of its 19-seat Beech 1900D aircraft.
General manager of networks, Richard Thomson, says Air New Zealand looked closely at the Whanganui to Auckland service when the regional network was reviewed in 2014 that led to the B1900D retirement decision.
“While the service was marginal, at that time we believed it was worth taking a chance on Whanganui and working with the local community in an effort to stimulate demand.”
However since 2014, the airline has witnessed a transition of passengers to nearby Palmerston North at the expense of Whanganui, especially since Jetstar began Auckland-Palmerston services.
“We’ve seen customers effectively voting with their feet,” comments Thompson.
“The greater number of destinations, higher frequency of service and wider range of connecting options on offer at the neighbouring airport have unfortunately served to undermine demand for Whanganui services.”
But Air Chathams has announced it will begin Auckland to Whanganui services as soon as Air New Zealand vacates the route on July 31.
Air Chathams has a fleet of 19-seat Fairchild Metroliner IIIs, and has committed to operating the same weekday service as Air New Zealand. The airline says it is adjusting the weekend service to better suit the leisure market.
Air Chathams CEO, Craig Emeny, said he is encouraged by the resolve shown by Whanganui’s elected representatives to get in behind Air Chathams following Air New Zealand’s decision to discontinue their Whanganui services.
“We understand the commercial reasons that have prompted Air New Zealand to make this decision, but I want to assure the Whanganui community that Air Chathams will continue to work with the national carrier, and will ensure that Whanganui receives a safe, reliable air service enabling the region to continue to grow into the future,” Emeny said.
Air New Zealand’s withdrawal from the Blenheim to Christchurch route will also take effect on July 31. But the airline says it is adding 35,000 seats between Blenheim and Auckland and Blenheim and Wellington in financial year 2017.