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Current as of 30/09/16 07:39PM NZST
Retail, Innovation and Manufacturing reporter for the NZ Herald

Air New Zealand launches Queenstown night flights

The airline has been working on extending its Queenstown services for several years. Photo / Mark Mitchell
The airline has been working on extending its Queenstown services for several years. Photo / Mark Mitchell

Air New Zealand will start night flights into Queenstown in July.

The airline has been working for several years on plans to extend its services to and from the resort town.

Queenstown Airport is spending up to $18 million widening its runway to 45 metres, and installing navigation lights.

Air NZ says the night flights will offer more options and flexibility for travellers as well as better connectivity to Auckland's international hub.

The new schedule "will be a game-changer for international travellers in particular, with same-day connections as well as reduced connection times both to and from a range of destinations across Australia, Asia and North America", said chief sales and commercial officer Cam Wallace said.

The airline plans to operate services between Queenstown and Auckland from 7am to 9.30pm daily using A320 aircraft.

The plans are still subject to regulatory approval, but tickets for the new service will go on sale next week.

The additional flights will increase the airline's capacity by 15 per cent in 2017, adding 100,000 seats to its Queenstown-Auckland services.

In May 2014, Air NZ and a number of other industry stakeholders and airlines put a safety case to the Civil Aviation Authority which was approved provided that upgrades such as the widening and lighting of the runway were made at Queenstown Airport.

Individual airlines also had to meet criteria relating to fleet and operating procedures.

The airport is 75.01 per cent owned by the Queenstown Lakes District Council.

The extended hours have been hailed as a game-changer for the airport. They're also expected to help further develop the ski industry.

However, some pilots have raised concerns about the safety of flying into Queenstown at night due to its runway and mountainous approach.

Air NZ has already said it will need to put in place a special crew selection and training package for the night flights.

- NZ Herald

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