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Current as of 05/12/16 09:19AM NZST
Matthew Martin is a senior reporter at the Rotorua Daily Post

Cheaper flights as seats double

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A Bombardier Q300 50-seat aircraft which will be servicing the route between Rotorua and Auckland.
A Bombardier Q300 50-seat aircraft which will be servicing the route between Rotorua and Auckland.

Air New Zealand has doubled its capacity for flights to and from Rotorua and Auckland, and is promising cheaper fares for travellers.

In February last year Air New Zealand started moving from using all 19-seat Beechcraft aircraft between Rotorua and Auckland to a mix of Beechcraft and the larger 50-seat Bombardier Q300 aircraft.

From today, the route will move to all scheduled 50-seat services - offering 2000 seats a week, which is double the capacity on the route when the airline operated Beechcraft only flights.

According to an Air New Zealand communications spokesperson the last scheduled Beechcraft 19-seater service on the route flew out yesterday afternoon.

"By operating larger aircraft on the route we have been able to reduce average fares by 15 per cent over the past year," the spokesperson said.

The news is good for Rotorua's economy, according to local business and tourism officials.

Rotorua Airport chief executive Nicole Brewer said with landing fees based on passenger numbers any increase in capacity would help the airport's bottom line.

"It's a fantastic development, Air New Zealand has put a lot more capacity into Rotorua and this is an example of that.

"We are very supportive of their efforts and if they can attract more passengers then it's very good for the airport," Ms Brewer said.

Destination Rotorua general manager Oscar Nathan said the move to the larger capacity Q300 aircraft was perfect for the route as Rotorua was becoming a more popular destination for Aucklanders and international tourists coming from Auckland.

"Air New Zealand had indicated for a while now this would be happening. It's great for us in terms of passenger numbers and pricing," he said.

"It does allow for good size groups to travel here alongside domestic passengers."

Rotorua Chamber of Commerce chief executive Darrin Walsh said it was a good move for both tourism and businesses.

"In the past the only thing that really let them down was pricing, even if we drove to Auckland it would be a lot cheaper.

"But it allows more tourists to come here and flying to Auckland for training of staff is a good thing too.

"With the 50-seater it does provide the cheaper seats and if you get in early you can get those cheaper flights," Mr Walsh said.

Rotorua mayor Steve Chadwick said the news was great for Rotorua while the district was in the middle of an unprecedented tourism season.

"And we are still waiting for increased volumes of Chinese tourists to boost this even more. They like to travel in groups and the increased capacity will be very good for them."

Mrs Chadwick said it would also provide more ammunition for Rotorua to push its business case for direct flights to and from Queenstown.

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