Extra car parking on way for airport

By Sonya Bateson

Tauranga Airport is increasing its parking facilities as more people take advantage of cheap domestic flights.

Airport manager Ray Dumble said they were making plans to extend the carpark for more short-term parking as Air New Zealand dropped the price of domestic travel.

"We're looking at another 70-odd car parks, that's the evidence it's growing all the time. There's some great Air New Zealand deals, people are tending to park their car and fly from here rather than drive to Auckland for their international travel. There's been a marked improvement there."

Recent figures released by the Tauranga City Council show the number of flights leaving and entering Tauranga Airport varied by a few thousand each year for the past three years.

In 2012, there were 74,098 flight movements at the airport, compared with 75,834 in 2011 and 87,621 in 2010.

Mr Dumble said the figures were misleading as while flight numbers only varied slightly, passenger numbers were on the increase.

"A thousand movements is nothing, it's really minor. The variations are to do with weather as much as anything else. We've had aircraft changes, two smaller aircraft were replaced by bigger aircraft which can carry more passengers. Our capacity is continually on the increase and passenger numbers are growing fine."

"It's all going very well, the recession has been reasonably good to us."

Airport committee chairman councillor Bill Faulkner said he anticipated extra growth as Tauranga became more of a business centre rather than a "sleepy retirement town".

He said this was supported by Air New Zealand's permanent stationing of three 50-seat Bombardier Q300 aircraft at the airport while they gradually phased out the 19-seat Beech aircraft.

"It's part of the growth of Tauranga. We're looking at the future, we'd be hoping with some of the flights from Wellington and Christchurch Air New Zealand might put in larger aircraft. For passengers on those early morning flights I could see an opening for 70 seat ATRs even now, although we can't tell Air New Zealand what aircraft to run."

Cr Faulkner said bigger companies like TrustPower and the Port of Tauranga attracted a lot of visitors in the business sector, who were also returning to Tauranga in weekends for tourism opportunities and taking advantage of the shorter travel time when flying instead of driving.

He said the expanding car park was another indication of the anticipated growth.

TrustPower community relations manager Graeme Purches said staff used Tauranga Airport on a daily basis.

"Every day there will be people from TrustPower at the airport. We have 28 networks around the country, there's a lot of people from here who have to travel as part of their jobs, people have to go and meet with the Electricity Authority in Wellington regularly. We're a big national company that happens to be based in Tauranga." Mr Purches said it was reaching the point where planes were getting full again and he could see a shift to larger planes.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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