Virgin Australia is the latest airline to undertake evening services to and from Queenstown.
The airline said it planned to operate a night-time departure from Queenstown to Brisbane on Fridays and Sundays during the winter ski season between June and September 2017.
At the same time, Virgin’s trans-Tasman alliance partner Air New Zealand has scheduled night-time Queenstown-Sydney flights for Saturdays and Sundays during the month of July.
Virgin Australia airlines group executive John Thomas said the new flights would enable travellers to enjoy a full day of skiing before travelling home.
“As the popularity of Queenstown grows, particularly during the ski season, we are excited to be offering even more flexible scheduling options for our guests with these new night-time Ski Shuttle services,” Thomas said in a statement on Tuesday.
The two carriers said their combined schedule would feature 38 flights a week between Australia and Queenstown during the 2017 ski season.
In May 2014, New Zealand’s Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) granted provisional approval for Queenstown Airport to extend its operating hours into night flight operations, subject to the airport meeting a number of conditions such as runway improvements and the installation of a comprehensive aeronautical lighting package.
Other requirements from the NZ CAA and Australia’s Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) included a customised crew selection and training package; employing the full capability of the existing Required Navigation Performance (RNP) technology; and changes to on-board flight procedures to reduce pilot workload on final approach.
Construction work began in November 2015 and was completed by April 2016.
It was hoped the addition of evening flights at Queenstown Airport would allow the airport to better cater for the rising popularity of the city as a tourist destination, which had placed the airport under some pressure at peak periods, particularly during the winter months.
The airport has also expanded its terminal facilities to deal with the increased demand.
Queenstown Airport has published a video of a simulated night-time landing:
The first evening flights at Queenstown began earlier in 2016, when Air New Zealand started night-time flying on the Auckland-Queenstown route and Jetstar scheduled some Melbourne-Queenstown services.
Air New Zealand chief revenue officer Cam Wallace said: “Air New Zealand introduced the first domestic evening services between Auckland and Queenstown in May this year, and is pleased to be part of an alliance initiative to now offer customers trans-Tasman night flights.”