Lack of competition among airlines saw passenger numbers plummet at Wellington Airport last month and there were no signs of it picking up, listed infrastructure investor Infratil said yesterday.
Infratil, which owns 66 per cent of the airport, said international passenger traffic in December was down 12.4 per cent on the year before. Airline capacity dropped 8.8 per cent as Pacific Blue stopped flying to Sydney and Qantas and Air New Zealand cut seat numbers.
Although domestic traffic fared better, it, too, was down 5.3 per cent on the year before.
The company said passenger numbers had been affected by three days of bad weather that had interrupted services.
"However, reduced competitiveness remains a significant issue, resulting in reductions in capacity and higher fares," it said.
"At this stage, there are no indications that customers will benefit from a stimulatory airline market in the near future."
The Sydney route was down 23 per cent in December compared with the year before while the Brisbane and Gold Coast routes, which had previously offset the falling number of Sydney passengers, grew only 20 per cent on the previous December.
These routes had previously grown 80 per cent during the winter season.
Meanwhile, passenger numbers at Infratil's fully-owned Glasgow Prestwick Airport totalled 167,110 in December, an increase of only 1 per cent on the previous year.
Freight was down 23 per cent.
On a more positive note, low-cost airline Wizz Air said it would start flying from Prestwick to Warsaw and Gdansk in Poland on March 28.
Another low-cost operator, Transavia, will also begin flights to Amsterdam from Prestwick on March 26.
December was Infratil's first month of 90 per cent ownership of Luebeck Airport in Germany.
Wizz Air has said it will start flying to Gdansk from Luebeck in March and Ryanair will fly a daily service to Dublin from April.
But the additional capacity will be partly reduced by the cancellation and adjustment of some other services.
By Owen Hembry Email Owen