Aspiring airline owner Mike Pero says he's begun the long and complicated approval process for a new airline to serve the Pacific Islands.
Pero, the face of Mike Pero Real Estate, says Pasifika Air could gain Civil Aviation Authority approval to operate as early as May using Virgin Australia aircraft that are now parked up and some of the airline's former crew who lost their jobs when the base in Christchurch was closed in April.
Pasifika Air would use the leased Boeing 737-800s to fly between Wellington and Rarotonga and Christchurch and Rarotonga, so Pasifika would avoid a head-to-head fight with Air New Zealand which flies out of Auckland to the Cook Islands.
The flights would be three times a week from each centre.
"The Government's announcement at the weekend of border reopenings in early 2021 is just what we at Pasifika Air wanted to hear," Pero said yesterday.
Pasifika Air, a Christchurch company registered in early December with Pero as the sole director, supersedes the earlier "Jet Raro" title, which he said was always a temporary working name.
The aircraft belong to lease companies, avoiding heavy capital expenditure. Pero said Pasifika would not be in a "race to the bottom" with fares and would concentrate on innovative service and product.
The name embraced the wider Pacific Islands "but Rarotonga was always going to be our first call".
Pero said he had started the process of getting an Air Operator's Certificate on December 1 and expects to have this completed by May, with flights starting soon after.
The CAA has said the airline would need to be certified as having an appropriate safety management system.
The time taken to process an application for an air operator certificate would depend on the complexity and size of the operation - number and size of aircraft, routes proposed to be flown, and other operational factors that would need to be assessed for safety.
Flight times will be just over 4h 30m from Christchurch and just over 4 hours from Wellington.
Pero said fares "would be price-competitive".
In July, when an air bridge to the Cook Islands looked imminent, Pero said one-way flights would cost between $299 and $499. Before the Auckland Covid resurgence in August scuppered plans, he said he would be using Airbus A320 planes.
Before Covid-19, Air New Zealand, Jetstar, and Virgin Australia operated flights to the Cook Islands. Air New Zealand is certain to restore some services when borders open, Jetstar advertised seats before the August outbreak but Virgin Australia is focusing on its domestic operation.
Air New Zealand's website lists flights starting on March 26 and six times a week during April and round trips start at around $850.
The Otago Daily Times reported early this month that Pero exited his ownership of the real estate business which still bears his name.
Companies Office records show Pero resigned as a director of Mike Pero Real Estate on October 20 and his company MPZ One ended its ownership of the business on November 4.
His company had a 12 per cent stake as of June 30, which had already reduced from 24 per cent the year before.
In 2018, Pero reduced his stake from 50 per cent to 24 per cent after reaching a settlement agreement with Mike Pero Mortgages following a long-running legal dispute.
The settlement was reached during the final stages of a High Court case that saw Mike Pero Mortgages attempting to claw back $2.2m (or $2.4m with interest) it says Mike Pero overpaid himself.
As part of the deal, Pero also agreed to take an active role in promoting the broader group until at least 2027.