The terminal was crowded and the sky ominous when the first Q300 landed at Whangarei Airport.
The 50-seater passenger aircraft has just begun flights to the airport, in a move that will put 48 extra seats in the air and reduce the risk of passengers being bumped off flights if it rains.
Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) flight restrictions that came into effect on June 1 see passengers kicked off flights to Whangarei in wet weather so that planes can land on the runway.
Eagle Air regional airways general manger Sarah Williamson said the company - an arm of Air NZ - had six flights in and six out of Whangarei daily, and from yesterday the four middle Beech 1600 flights would be replaced by two 50-seat Bombardier Q300 aircraft. Ms Williamson said the Q300s were not affected by the CAA wet weather restrictions and, while there would be two fewer flights a day, there would be an extra 48 seats a day available each way.
Ms Williamson said the CAA restrictions brought forward the decision to bring the Q300s to Whangarei. "We are seeing growth in Whangarei and we want to support that growth, and the CAA restrictions meant making the changes a bit sooner than planned.
But we wouldn't have done it if there wasn't growth in the region."
For Alexandra Batten of Tauranga, the flight yesterday morning was her first into Whangarei. She flew in on business and will be back.
"It was a really good flight, really comfortable," she said.
If she had been delayed or bumped off the flight due to rain it would have caused her great inconvenience.
Whangarei local Brooke Gibson flew in after a weekend in Sydney.
While she said she did not normally fly the Whangarei-Auckland route, she was aware of the issues arising of passengers being bumped off flights due to weather. "It was a really good flight, and I am thankful that it was on time and reliable as I am picking up my baby from daycare," she said.
Gavin Roberts, director of Whangarei Bus Services, says his company has also started a new service, WBS Airport Shuttle, since the introduction of the new plane. It provides a bus service from town to the airport and back.
Of the new air travel service, he said: "It's going to be better in terms of reliability with this winter weather."