Bay leaders to fight Air NZ plan

By Simon Hendery

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Napier Mayor Bill Dalton met Air New Zealand's regional services manager Ian Collier on Tuesday. Photo / APN
Napier Mayor Bill Dalton met Air New Zealand's regional services manager Ian Collier on Tuesday. Photo / APN

The mayors of Napier and Hastings will meet Air New Zealand management next week to argue against a proposal to cut local jobs and introduce schedule changes.

Air NZ says it is consulting the 36 Napier-based staff of its Air Nelson subsidiary over a proposal to relocate them out of the region as part of a rescheduling of its regional services.

From February next year the airline plans to fly larger aircraft to Hawke's Bay.

The move would mean more seats available in and out of the region - and is being promoted as a means of keeping ticket prices down - but has raised concerns that schedule changes will disrupt business travellers.

The proposals centre on Air NZ swapping some Q300 aircraft currently servicing the region with larger ATR72 planes.

Rather than having three Q300s and their Napier-based crews staying overnight in the region, as happens at present, the airline is considering having two ATRs and one Q300 on the ground at Hawke's Bay Airport overnight.

The ATRs are run by another Air NZ subsidiary, Mt Cook Airlines, and their crew would stay in hotels while overnighting in Napier, rather than being based in Hawke's Bay.

It has been speculated that the changes would take $2 million of annual wages out of the local economy.

Napier Mayor Bill Dalton met Air New Zealand's regional services manager Ian Collier on Tuesday and with Hastings Mayor Lawrence Yule will meet Mr Collier again next week.

One of Hawke's Bay's top businessmen and frequent fliers, Xero chief executive Rod Drury, said the proposed changes would be an "absolute catastrophe" for the region, in terms of the impact of losing local jobs and the potential disruption for local business travellers.

Mr Drury said the requirement for flight crew to have 10 hours off overnight meant if night-time flights arrived late into Hawke's Bay with out-of-town crew, they would be forced to leave late the following morning, creating headaches for local business people planning meetings in the main centres.

"It means it is going to be harder for people to have surety for that first flight in the morning, which is a real game changer," Mr Drury said.

"For me, it really begins to question the viability of basing yourself in Hawke's Bay."

He was also worried Air NZ would cancel evening flights into the region, again impacting on business travellers wanting to do a full day's work in Auckland, Wellington or Christchurch.

Mr Dalton said Air NZ's proposal was "not set in concrete and we certainly want to make sure we don't lose any service and any frequency".

Mr Yule said he was most concerned about the potential loss of Hawke's Bay jobs and he wanted Air NZ to "think differently".

"I'm waiting for [next week's meeting] but there's no reason I can see at the moment why Hawke's Bay can't be a base for ATRs as it is at the moment for Q300s - and that's the conversation I'm wanting to have," he said.

Air NZ did not respond to a request for comment yesterday but said last week no decision on relocating the crew base had been made yet.

The proposed changes would not result in a decrease in the total number of aircraft servicing Napier, the airline said.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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