New Zealand regional carrier Air Chathams has commenced once weekly scheduled passenger flights between Auckland and the Australian territory of Norfolk Island.
The inaugural flight took off from Auckland at about 0915 local time on Friday and landed a little over two hours later. The return flight departed Norfolk Island in the afternoon.
Air Chathams owner and chief executive Craig Emeny was the Captain of the flight, while his son Duane Emeny, the airline’s general manager, was the first officer.
“Re-connecting Norfolk Island with Auckland fits appropriately with our core values to ensure isolated communities are provided safe, reliable air services to promote growth and connectivity,” Duane Emeny said in a statement.
Further, Duane Emeny said the Norfolk Island route was the “first time our family airline has marketed and operated a scheduled international service under the Air Chathams banner”.
Air Chathams is flying Convair 580 turboprops on route. The airline’s website stated it had two Convair 580s configured with 50 seats, one “combi” variant and one full freighter aircraft.
The new flight restores a nonstop link between New Zealand and Norfolk Island that was lost in 2018, when Norfolk Island Airlines ended a short-lived operation on the route.
Air Chathams said the performance of its charter flights to Norfolk Island over the past two years has given it the confidence to launch regularly scheduled passenger services.
Further, it was working with Norfolk Island Tourism and Norfolk Island Regional Council to promote the new route. The island was located about 900nm off Australia’s east coast in the Pacific Ocean.
“We are really excited to re-establish the direct link between Auckland and Norfolk Island and we are really encouraged by the early interest we’ve had from passengers, with forward bookings indicating it’s going to be another successful route for our family airline,” Duane Emeny said.
Previously, Air New Zealand had nonstop flights between Auckland and Norfolk Island. However, the service was cancelled in May 2017 due to what the airline said was declining passenger demand that made the flight commercially unsustainable.
It maintains a twice weekly service from Norfolk Island to both Brisbane and Sydney with Airbus A320 equipment. Australia’s Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development pays Air New Zealand a subsidy to fly to Norfolk Island.
In June 2017, Norfolk Island Airlines started a once weekly Brisbane-Norfolk Island-Auckland service with a Boeing 737-300 leased from Nauru Airlines.
However, the Auckland leg was dropped in January 2018, with the route cancelled altogether in March of the same year.
Auckland Airport general manager Scott Tasker welcomed the return on nonstop flights between Auckland and Norfolk Island.
“With a flight time of just over two hours, the direct flight will enable travellers to experience a pristine tourism destination and provide freight opportunities for locals, with the new year-round service offering over 5,000 seats on the route per year,” Tasker said.
“Since Air Chathams began regular mainland New Zealand services in 2015, it has seen rapid growth, now flying to eight destinations and carrying over 100,000 people per year.
“We look forward to seeing Air Chathams continue to grow and provide the much-valued service of linking New Zealand communities, and now Norfolk Island, together.”
Norfolk Island was formerly a self-governing Australian territory, with locally elected representatives managing its local affairs.
However, in 2015 Canberra brought in sweeping changes that resulted in reduced autonomy, with the Legislative Assembly shut down and replaced by a regional council. Also, New South Wales provides some state level services.