A small increase in domestic airfares by Air New Zealand should not have a significant impact on travellers to and from Northland airports, the region's tourism and business leaders said.
The national carrier this week announced a 5 per cent rise in domestic fares from yesterday in response to operational cost pressures, including labour, fuel, and goods and services.
The airline cited fuel costs, in particular, that have gone up 54 per cent in a year. Passengers paid between $59 and $257 seat-only fares from Auckland to Whangārei and between $75 and $205 from Auckland to Kerikeri, rising by 5 per cent yesterday.
Another domestic carrier, Sun Air, offers return flights between Great Barrier Island and Whangārei seven days a week and charter flights for the Northland District Health Board between Whangārei and Kaitaia Monday to Friday. Sun Air does not have plans to increase its airfares.
The DHB also uses Air NZ services and NDHB acting chief executive Jeanette Wedding said like all DHBs, Northland DHB would have to absorb the Air NZ price increase into its operating budget.
Northland Inc general manager regional promotions and tourism, Paul Davis, said the price hike by Air NZ was not likely to have any significant impact on international visitors coming to the region.
The vast majority of domestic visitors to Northland travelled by road so it would have little impact for Northland, he said.
Davis said a 5 per cent increase in current fares would mean an additional $3.75 to $7.50 — the cost of a coffee or two.
Northland Chamber of Commerce chief executive Tony Collins said the fare hike would probably not make a huge difference to business travellers.
"Even with a price increase, domestic airfares are still cheaper than they were two to three years ago. There's also increased capacity which helps."
But Northland-based MPs did not agree.
Minister for Regional Development Shane Jones said Air NZ's price increase was a further "affront" to the provinces and the airline needed to "go back to basics".
Whangārei MP Dr Shane Reti said fares between Whangārei and Auckland were often double those of the main trunk routes so a 5 per cent increase would disproportionately affect Whangārei travellers.