Airline outlines new runs

By John Maslin -
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COMING SOON: Air Chathams takes over the Whanganui service in August.
COMING SOON: Air Chathams takes over the Whanganui service in August.

Air Chathams will be in Whanganui today to outline its plans for its services through the city.

The independent airline is stepping in to fill the void Air New Zealand leaves with its decision to quit its Whanganui-Auckland service.

Air Chathams takes over the service from August 1, flying one of its 19-seater Metroliners on a seven-day a week schedule. It's offering three one-way fare types from the Thrifty ($89), the Saver ($159) and the $344 full economy.

Regular flyers have been invited to hear Duane Emeny, Air Chathams general manager, outline the airline's plans at a function in the old fire station building in Guyton St at 2.30pm.

Whanganui MP Chester Borrows said the function was his idea but he then got mayor Annette Main involved.

"There were people in the community saying we should continue the fight with Air New Zealand to get their service back. But we'd never win that battle," Mr Borrows said.

"The best way forward was to get Air Chathams here and it was they who wanted to meet with locals to explain their plans. So the function's all about Air Chathams and what they're bringing to Whanganui."

He said privately-owned airline had an excellent operation record.

"More importantly they've never pulled out of a regional route once they've made a commitment to it. They've been operating for at least 30 years, making them the oldest airline in the country apart from Air New Zealand," Mr Borrows said.

He said Air Chathams had taken over the regional service from Whakatane to Auckland when the national carrier withdrew from that service.

"In the year since Air Chathams took over they've lifted passenger numbers by 5000 which says a lot," he said.

As well as the 19-seat Metroliner that will fly to and from Whanganui, the airline has three 50-seater Convair 580 planes which he said could be put on to the Whanganui route when needed. While two of them are a combination of passenger and freight carriers, one of the planes is purely a freight carrier.

Air New Zealand announced a week ago that it was pulling the pin on its flights to the River City effective from July 31, claiming low passengers numbers as the reason. That decision came a few months after it introduced 50-seater Bombardier Q3000 planes to the route.

The airline said Whanganui's market had been affected by competition offered by Palmerston North. It said the greater number of destinations, higher frequency of service and wider range of connecting options on offer at the neighbouring airport had undermined Whanganui's services.

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