Officials remain positive despite Air New Zealand's decision to suspend flights from Rotorua to Sydney during winter months.

However, they say a new international schedule will make it easier for travellers flying to and from Sydney, and they will also lower the international departure tax.

Air New Zealand announced yesterday it would suspend flights from Rotorua to Sydney during the off-peak winter season between May and August, aiming to focus on growing passenger numbers during the peak September to April travel season.

And, from September 2014, the airline will move its twice-weekly international service to Monday and Thursday, rather than the current Tuesday and Sunday flights.


Rotorua International Airport will also reduce its international departure tax from $25 to $15 from late October. Chief executive Alastair Rhodes said the changes were designed to better cater to business and leisure travellers, deliver greater returns and offer a competitive departure tax.

"We have also renegotiated our agreement with Air New Zealand with benefits and commitments on both sides to make the service successful."

Mr Rhodes said discontinuing international flights during winter would significantly reduce Rotorua's financial contribution to the transtasman service.

"For a range of different reasons this is a sensible and responsible decision right now.

"Having said that, we are continuing to explore opportunities with Air New Zealand around the potential to fly to Brisbane over the winter months when the domestic demand from Rotorua and Bay of Plenty travellers is significantly higher than to Sydney," he said.

Rotorua Mayor Kevin Winters said while he was initially disappointed he could see a number of positives.

"The winter flights were very difficult to sell and people were becoming very frustrated when flights were being cancelled due to low passenger numbers.

"But, this is a good outcome overall and we're delighted they took our advice to go Monday and Thursday flights."


Mr Winters pointed to the recently added extra capacity on daily flights from Rotorua to Auckland, the possibility of future flights to Brisbane during winter and less cost to ratepayers as positive steps.