Pamela Wade catches a twin-engine turboprop for a hop to the North Island's west coast.

The plane:

Saab 340, somewhat elderly but still game: twin-engine turboprop.

Class: One class.

Price: $89 for Thrifty, $159 for Saver, $344 for Full Economy - decide how flexible you need to be, and take your pick. You can also buy a prepaid multi-pass for five or 10 trips.


Flight time: 50 minutes. There are three return flights on weekdays, two on weekends. If it's clear, you can see the mountains.

On time: We left 20 minutes late because of delays clearing the gate before boarding, and in refuelling, neither Air Chathams' fault. No one was bothered; we were only going to Whanganui, after all.

My seat: 10C, the second-to-back row in this 32-seater with a 1:2 configuration. Perfectly comfortable for a short flight but if you need plenty of legroom, go for row 1 or seat 11B.

Fellow passengers: Mostly asleep (it was an 8.30am departure) and, apart from a media contingent on a free junket for the airline's first flight on this new route, mostly locals heading home. The plane was about two-thirds full.

Entertainment: Um. Watch the propellers turn? Read the safety card? If you're lucky, someone might have left a magazine in the seat pocket. Otherwise, bring your own or chat with the flight attendant.

Service: Friendly and professional. Violet was particular about stowage: "I'll just have to grab your skateboard from you." Flying back, E (real name) was delightful, and generous with the Tim Tams.

Food and drink: Water, then tea and coffee with, as a first-flight special, the above-mentioned Tim Tams. Everyone else will get gingernuts.

Toilets: Bog standard and on the snug side - large people are advised to hang on.

Luggage: The usual 23kg check-in, 7kg carry-on. Extra luggage is charged by weight.

Airport experience: Very retro at both ends - names ticked off on a clipboard, no security check, walk across the tarmac to the steps. Whanganui Airport is dinky and scarcely 10 minutes from the town centre.

Would I fly this again? Definitely. It's quick and easy, and it turns out Whanganui is well worth a visit, with more to see and do than you could easily fit into a weekend. That multi-pass might be the way to go ...