Competition for regional flights has heated up at Tauranga Airport with a new airline set to fly the southern skies next month while figures from Air New Zealand show the city is one of its fastest growing ports.
Kiwi Regional Airlines chief executive Ewan Wilson said the carrier would start operations on February 16 and target Nelson and Dunedin.
Reservations opened a month ago and the initial response was positive, he said.
"We are really encouraged by the response. There has been a real flourish of bookings."
A 34-seater plane with two pilots and an air hostess would operate out of the city.
A key part of growing tourism is easy access to our region. Airports and the airlines they service are critical to making it easy and affordable for visitors to fly to our region.
On October 27 last year it started flying out of Hamilton to the same destinations, he said.
"I am absolutely thrilled to be adding Tauranga to our network, it's part of the golden triangle when it comes to economic hubs. It's really exciting."
Sunair Aviation was likely to provide ground handling and other services, Mr Wilson said, and it would hire a check-in counter at the airport.
Air New Zealand group communications consultant Kelly Kilgour said the outlook for the region was very positive and it was set to increase seat numbers and upgrade aircraft.
"We are continuing to see strong demand for services to and from Tauranga. We are working closely with regional stakeholders and continually reviewing options to ensure we are offering the right services for the community."
In 2015 it operated 375,000 seats in and out of Tauranga - a jump of 5 per cent compared to 2014.
"We expect this growth to continue with a 7 per cent increase in seat capacity forecast by the end of 2016."
Air New Zealand operates three Tauranga routes including Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch with each of them increasing in capacity in 2016.
It was replacing its 19-seat Beech 1900D operated services to Auckland with a 50-seat Q300 aircraft while the Wellington route capacity would jump by 24per cent and Christchurch by 38 per cent, she said.
Sunair Aviation chief executive Dan Power said it had been growing steadily year on year.
Due to demand it was going to start flying to the North Shore and back on February 1, for five days a week.
"We are very excited to be able to offer this service as an alternative Auckland destination for our Bay of Plenty residents."
A Jetstar spokesperson said it had no plans to add further cities to its network after Tauranga lost a bid for its flights in 2015.
Tourism Bay of Plenty head of marketing Kristin Dunn said value and choice were important for visitors, so increased competition "is a real positive".
"A key part of growing tourism is easy access to our region. Airports and the airlines they service are critical to making it easy and affordable for visitors to fly to our region."
Tauranga Airport would also receive a $4.5 million upgrade later this year to make space for the increasing number of passengers flying in and out.
Manager Ray Dumble said the introduction of the new airline and developments at the airport was great news.