Air traffic control authority Airways and Air New Zealand are at odds over whether or not Hawke's Bay Airport's control tower was linked to a flight delay this morning.

Air NZ says it was - and that "air traffic control contingency procedures" delayed a flight by 10 minutes.

"This morning's [6.40am] NZ5883 service from Napier to Wellington was delayed by 10 minutes while pilots carried out additional pre-departure processes as the aerodrome was under air traffic control contingency procedures," the airline said.

Air NZ were contacted for comment after Airways had earlier said there were no delays linked to the airport's control tower.


Airways had commented publicly after Hawke's Bay Olympian Shea McAleese tweeted early today that an Air NZ flight at the region's airport was delayed due to a control tower staff shortage.

"Must love a sleep in here in the Bay," joked the Black Sticks hockey player.

Airways had clarified there was no sleep in, in fact there was no one in the tower until 1.30pm today.

No delays were caused by the "pre-arranged" reduction of service, Airways said.

Last week, the control tower copped criticism from Napier MP Stuart Nash, who hit out on Twitter after his flight from Hawke's Bay Airport was delayed.

He claimed the late departure - the second in as many weeks - was because an air traffic controller was late for work.

Nash described the controller as a "clown".

Airways apologised to Nash, also on Twitter, and said the delay was due to an "unexpected staff shortage".


"Unfortunately this came after a controller had a car breakdown en route to work last week," a spokesperson posted on the social media site.

"While unrelated, we regret these two issues have inconvenienced passengers."

In an unrelated incident, Eastern Police had confirmed officers were sent to a reported "disturbance" at the Napier air traffic control tower at 4pm on August 5.

No arrests were made or charges laid as a result of the incident.

Nash said today's issue was an operational issue for Airways to deal with. As the local member for Napier, he had written to Phil Twyford, the Minister for Transport, "outlining my concerns and the concerns of other constituents".

Airways provide air traffic control services from 21 locations nationally – "our Christchurch radar centre, Auckland oceanic centre, 17 air traffic control towers and two flight information service towers".

"The level of service we provide from each of our 21 service locations is determined by legislation and is agreed with airlines and airports to balance safety, their operational and scheduling requirements and the costs of delivering the service.

"As a smaller regional aerodrome, handling around 24,000 flight movements annually, Napier air traffic control tower has a staff of five controllers who work solo watch shifts.

"From time to time, there are pre-arranged reductions in service hours to accommodate staffing needs."

Airways was assessing digital tower technology, which might allow it to extend the hours of air services in more regional locations, the spokesperson said.

"Currently our hours of service are set around airlines' scheduled services and we are not able to extend those if operational needs change or if we get short notice requests from customers."