Sandra is a senior crimes and justice reporter for the Bay of Plenty Times.

Bay's newest airline partner to expand flight offering

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Kiwi Regional Airlines flying into Tauranga earlier this month.
Kiwi Regional Airlines flying into Tauranga earlier this month.

Competition for regional flights is heating up with Tauranga's newest airline partner, Kiwi Air, adding more services just two weeks after its first flights to and from the city.

Kiwi Regional Airlines chief executive Ewan Wilson, who revealed his expansions plans to the Bay of Plenty Times yesterday, said the airline would be adding extra services to its network from May, including flying on to Christchurch twice weekly.

Kiwi Regional Airlines' first flights from Tauranga Airport to Nelson and on to Dunedin started on February 16.

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Mr Wilson said the services had proved popular, and ticket sales on the airline's existing twice-weekly flights to Nelson and on to Dunedin had been excellent.

Tauranga had been performing "very well" against all the other routes, and was a key part of the airline's newest expansion plans, he said.

Mr Wilson said as well as the Christchurch flights, the company would add an extra Tauranga to Nelson to Dunedin flight each week.

The airline, which operates the 34-seater Saab 340, will fly from Tauranga to Christchurch twice-weekly, on Thursday and Saturday, from May 14, and Tauranga to Nelson and Dunedin three times a week from May 19.

The new Christchurch flights would include a stopover in Nelson.

"We're really excited. From Kiwi's perspective we wanted our airline to be clocking up 1800 hours of flying a year, so these new services bring us up to our optimum level.

"However, we're very mindful of the increasing demand for regional services. We expect to be making an announcement about a second aircraft over the next week or so," Mr Wilson said.

Tauranga to Nelson fares started from $99 one way and Tauranga to Christchurch or Dunedin from $169, he said.

Last month Air New Zealand, which operates three Tauranga routes, including to Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch, confirmed it was set to increase its capacity this year.

It was replacing its 19-seater Beech 1900D operated services to Auckland with a 50-seat Q300 aircraft while the Wellington route capacity would jump 24 per cent, and Christchurch by 38 per cent, an Air NZ spokesperson said.

Mr Wilson said Kiwi Air could never compete with Air New Zealand flying the Tauranga to Auckland and Wellington routes but could be highly competitive on inter-regional routes.

Last month a Jetstar spokesperson said the airline had no plans to add further cities to its network after Tauranga lost a bid for its flights in 2015.

Tauranga Airport manager Ray Dumble said Kiwi Air's expansion plans were great news.

"I think it's excellent and exciting news for the city and for travellers, who are being given more choice when it comes to getting from A to B, or in this case from A to C," he said.

Mr Dumble said the Tauranga Airport authority was working on a plan to get Kiwi Air signage and an information system installed to inform passengers about the airline's comings and goings.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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