Wellington Airport's majority owner Infratil Ltd says new aircraft, rather than a longer runway, will allow direct services between the city and Asia.

Infratil said in a shareholder update that the Wellington City Council had reiterated its desire to have the city directly connected to Asia with air services.

The reiteration was accompanied by calls for the airport to extend its runway to allow larger jets to take-off fully loaded.

"The primary impediment to such services is, however, not the runway length but the size of the Wellington market," Infratil said.

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"The boon for the Wellington market is expected to be the Boeing 787, which is still on track to commence services later in 2011. This aircraft will be able to operate off Wellington's runway and with a capacity of about 200 passengers it suits the scale of Wellington-Asia daily traffic," it said.

In 1980 it took approximately 280 litres of fuel per passenger to fly between Wellington and Melbourne. It now takes about 130 and new aircraft would halve that within a decade.

The airport is paying $40 million to its shareholders in August as a special dividend.

Infratil acquired its 66 per cent interest in Wellington Airport when the Crown sold its shareholding in 1998. The Wellington City Council owns the other 34 per cent.

- NZPA