Positive signs for new airline service

By John Maslin

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Two months in and Air Chathams says passenger numbers through Whanganui were climbing. Photo/Bevan Conley.
Two months in and Air Chathams says passenger numbers through Whanganui were climbing. Photo/Bevan Conley.

The Whanganui District Council is getting proactive on behalf of the city's newest air service and is seeking consent to put up a sign on SH3 between Whanganui and Palmerston North to promote the Air Chathams service.

Mayor Annette Main many people travelling from Auckland are not aware that they can fly directly to Whanganui with privately owned regional service.

"We're working with Air Chathams and business groups in our community and in Auckland to get the message out that there are direct flights."

Duane Emeny, Air Chathams airline general manager, told the Chronicle council had been "extremely supportive" of their operation.

"They're helping us with promotions because they can see the benefits to the Whanganui community," Mr Emeny said.

"We're a family business so we don't have the huge marketing budgets to call on like Air New Zealand and Jetstar do."

The company and council were now meeting monthly to float ideas and to keep tabs on the operation.

"But we're seeing very positive movements in terms of passenger growth. You've got to remember we've only been operating through Wanganui for two months now."

Mr Emeny said Air Chathams was retaining its cheap $59 one-way fares deals and with just under 70 per cent passenger loadings on most flights was another positive.

"Our weekend flights are generally chocka and week-day bookings are starting to pick up which is all good," Mr Emeny said.

But he said tapping into the corporate market still remained a concern.

"We're getting support from Whanganui businesses but out-of-town corporates don't seem to realise we've got a daily service in and out of the city. So we need to find better ways to connect to these people and get them flying here rather than Palmerston North."

He said another downside of losing passengers to the Manawatu was the impact on rental car business in Whanganui.

"We've been told there's a been a drop of about 90 percent on rental car bookings but a 30 per cent increase for rental vehicles out of Palmerston North., That's not good for those Whanganui rental firms," Mr Emeny said.

Ms Main said flying direct to Whanganui meant savings in time and rental car costs.

"We understand many people are hiring cars in Palmerston North to drive to Whanganui and return. But it's obviously much cheaper and faster to fly into Whanganui, hire a rental car here to drive around the district or actually get collected from our airport by a local," she said.

"We're encouraging everyone who has had a great experience flying with Air Chathams to help spread the word about their excellent service and ask why drive south to fly north when you can save time and money by flying direct Whanganui to Auckland."

- Wanganui Chronicle

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