Mike Pero is aiming to get his airline flying between New Zealand and the Cook Islands later this year.
The Christchurch businessman delayed a start for the airline, Pasifika Air, after quarantine-free travel was put on hold but the plan is back on track now that the travel bubble with the Cook Islands is due to start on May 17.
Pero is having a breather in Rarotonga after filming for The Apprentice finished about six weeks ago.
Over the past week, he has been kept busy with the airline venture and other businesses.
He said they are going through the nine to 12-month process of obtaining an Air Operators Certificate.
"It's longer than we expected, but that's life and we're still chipping away at it so it will be later this year before we fly to the Cooks.''
He said setting up an airline takes a lot of time, with several thousand pages of manuals for operations, engineering, training and safety.
The original plan was for Pasifika Air to fly two Boeing 737 800s between Christchurch and Rarotonga and Wellington and Rarotonga.
Pero said he is determined to get the airline running, and help get the "wheels turning again'' on the islands.
"It all started when Covid set in and the Cooks Islands was pretty much shut down. Like a lot of people, I expected the bubble would come sooner. For its own reasons it's taken a lot longer, and I was determined to get some sort of revenue stream back to the islands. It has been reliant on tourism for many years now, and we're looking at other alternatives and they do need people on the island.''
Pero said the bubble is the only way for the islands to get out of its hole, as Covid-19's devastation is worse than a cyclone.
"The people on the island are grateful for having any form of transport to the island because for the past 15 months there's been no people coming in under the restrictions and air freight has been virtually non-existent and unreliable.''
The founder of Mike Pero Real Estate has dual Cook Islands and New Zealand residency, with family land on the islands.
Pero said it is a good time to be setting up an airline with many aircraft laid up in storage in deserts.
He said the process is long, however, and there are fewer aircraft available for long distances travelled over water, that they need to lease.
Before Covid-19, there were three airlines flying the route - Air New Zealand, Jetstar and Virgin Australia, which has since dropped out.
Pero said he believes there is room for another airline, even when the world returns to normal from this "horrible'' virus.
He said this will be assisted when both countries get the vaccine, and there is pent-up demand for island travel.
"Many thousands of people at this time of the year would be off to Europe, the Americas and Asia but they're out of bounds now. A lot of people that haven't been to the Cooks don't realise that it's a beautiful spot.
"I for one have travelled to the other parts, like the Caribbean, and think when you come here we've got this on our doorstep. We're only talking a little over four hours to get here from New Zealand... I encourage all Kiwis to consider an island holiday.''
Pero said the cost of the operation is continuing to increase and he is happy with the progress made on fundraising for the venture.