New operator hopes to cut airfare prices

By Zaryd Wilson

Add a comment
NEW CARRIER: The Air Chathams Metroliner that will fly between Auckland and Whanganui from August. PHOTO/ SUPPLIED
NEW CARRIER: The Air Chathams Metroliner that will fly between Auckland and Whanganui from August. PHOTO/ SUPPLIED

Things fell into place perfectly for Craig Emeny's family-owned airline to take over the Whanganui-Auckland route.

Air Chathams will take over the service from Air New Zealand who announced on Monday it would not be flying to Whanganui from the end of July.

Despite being approached only a few days ago, Air Chathams chief executive Mr Emeny was able to say "yes" to filling the gap straightaway.

"We can do that - it's a family-owned company, so I don't have to go to a board," he said.

"I'd just purchased another Metroliner aircraft that had become available - though I didn't exactly know what I was going to do with it."

The airline operates an Auckland-to-Whakatane service, which it also took over when Air New Zealand pulled out of the Bay of Plenty town.

"We've already proved we can do it efficiently. We know what's happening in the New Zealand market and how the airlines are moving out of the smaller regions and establishing more seats in the larger regions," Mr Emeny said.

Air Chathams had been able to reduce fares from Whakatane to Auckland by up to 20 per cent and had slowly increased passenger numbers, Mr Emeny said. He believed the same could be achieved in Whanganui.

The company will operate a Metroliner out of the city - the plane is the same size and speed as the Beechcrafts previously used by Air New Zealand but is cheaper to run.

"We have to give good value to compete with people getting in their cars and driving to Palmerston North," Mr Emeny said. "For some people, having the direct flight will be enough; for other people - especially families - we will have to be competitive."

There will be the same number of flights from Whanganui, with times within 15 minutes of Air New Zealand's scheduled times. Customers will be able to book flights via Air Chathams' website within the next few days.

Mr Emeny said the company would look at promotional signage on the Metroliner serving Whanganui because boosting tourism would be win-win for the region and his company. It also had plans to bring its fully restored Douglas DC3 "Dakota" to Whanganui for events such as Vintage Weekend.

The company's relationship with Air New Zealand was good, and Mr Emeny expected the national carrier to be helpful during the changeover in terms of bookings and airport equipment. He also hoped to have a bookings presence on the Air New Zealand website.

"I think they are pleased someone is going to step in, so that the community is not negatively affected."

Whanganui businessman Nygllhuw Morris, a frequent flier who takes the Auckland flight a couple of times a month, was looking forward to trying the new Air Chathams service.

He said Air New Zealand would lose out on international flights from Whanganui customers who would traditionally book international and connecting flights on one ticket.

"Now that it's not on one booking all the way, I can look at other options."

Whanganui Chamber of Commerce was meeting yesterday afternoon to discuss the situation.

President Raewyn Overton-Stuart said Air New Zealand's decision had come as a shock, and its service had a lot of loyal customers in the city.

"They now face the choice of flying from Palmerston North using loyalty benefits they have earned or purchased or using the new service without those benefits."

But Mrs Overton-Stuart welcomed the announcement of Air Chathams replacement service - "Annette Main and Whanganui MP Chester Borrows have done a great job behind the scenes to facilitate this."

- Wanganui Chronicle

Get the news delivered straight to your inbox

Receive the day’s news, sport and entertainment in our daily email newsletter

SIGN UP NOW

Have your say

1200 characters left

By and large our readers' comments are respectful and courteous. We're sure you'll fit in well.
View commenting guidelines.

© Copyright 2017, NZME. Publishing Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production bpcf04 at 22 Jan 2017 00:37:00 Processing Time: 465ms