The future of the capital's Airport Flyer bus has been secured after NZ Bus pulled the plug.
Wellington Airport has announced it will launch a new and improved bus service for airport travellers next year, run by Tranzit.
But the service will not resume in the Hutt Valley, with the new Flyer only running between the city and the airport.
The privately run service isn't part of the region's public transport network, Metlink, or subsidised by ratepayers or taxpayers.
Under NZ Bus the service stopped accepting Snapper, is no longer tracked by real time information on the Metlink network, and has been the subject of fares hikes.
It also shortened its route to exclude the Hutt Valley.
Now Greater Wellington Regional Council chairman Daran Ponter once described it as a "sub-optimal airport bus service".
"Less people are using the service and what that means is more people are using taxis and other forms of transport and congesting local roads," he said as a councillor last year.
But the replacement service is set to deliver more frequent and reliable scheduling, a seven-day service, and access to Snapper and Metlink's real-time information screens.
It will also transition to electric buses in future.
Wellington Airport facilities, transport, and technology general manager Leanne Gibson said Covid-19 has made it extremely challenging for operators to run the service.
Passenger numbers dropped to just 1 per cent of pre-Covid levels during lockdown, she said.
Since early July the service has only been operating between Wellington Railway Station and the airport on weekdays and during peak times while air travel volumes and passenger numbers recover.
"Domestic passenger numbers are climbing, reaching around 60 pe cent of normal in recent months and future growth looks positive, Gibson said.
"The Airport bus has been run successfully as a commercial service in the past and it will be again.
"We acknowledge the importance of a reliable bus service and we are working hard to get a replacement up and running as soon as possible."
Hutt South MP Ginny Andersen said local MPs and the Hutt City Council have worked together to keep the service running in the past and it was sad to see NZ Bus choose not to continue.
But she acknowledged the current circumstances due to Covid-19 have made it commercially challenging.
Andersen said it was a tough and uncertain time for people wanting to go to the airport from the Hutt Valley and she would continue to work with local government for the best possible transport options.
A Wellington Airport spokesperson said the tender process was open about route options, but responses noted running longer routes could be complex due to extra infrastructure requirements and variable traffic.
"Tranzit indicated they may be willing to extend the route to northern destinations in future, but right now we and they are focused on getting a great CBD connection up and running."
National list MP based in Hutt South Chris Bishop said the announcement brought good and bad news.
He welcomed the improvements which he advocated for as the local MP last term.
But he said residents would be disappointed there was no immediate resumption of the service to and from the Hutt Valley.
"It's encouraging that the airport and Tranzit have an open mind about future extensions of the service and I will be talking to them in coming weeks about how we can make this happen."
After NZ Bus confirmed it did not intend to operate the Airport Flyer beyond its licence expiry at the end of November, a tender process was initiated for a new operator.
This was interrupted by Covid-19, meaning the new service could not be put in place for a seamless transition between NZ Bus and new operator Tranzit.
Gibson acknowledged the more than 10 years of service NZ Bus has provided to Wellingtonians on the airport route.
"In the meantime, there are other options available for airport travellers, including the public bus and shuttles, taxis and app-based pick-up which all have comparable costs.
"There are also a wide range of parking options, free pick-up and drop-off zones and two car share operators available to and from the airport."