Cook Strait airline operators Sounds Air have put in a bid to service Masterton Airport, to start in November.
SoundsAir would commit a 12-seat Cessna Caravan for morning and evening flights from Masterton to Wellington airport for a flat rate of $95 per flight, allowing passengers to transfer onwards.
General manager Andrew Crawford flew in with his chief pilot, Willie Sage, to Hood Aerodrome to meet Masterton Mayor Garry Daniell and chief executive Wes ten Hove yesterday morning.
Sounds Air has been in operation since 1986, starting with a Wellington-to-Picton route and now covering Nelson and Blenheim.
Mr Crawford said when they heard Air New Zealand were pulling out, they immediately thought of the possibility.
"We just got this plane, we've got spare capacity, let's see what happens," he said.
"Our business has always relied on crossing water", adding they flew nearly 55,000 passengers last year.
"But you've got a barrier [of mountains].
"It's two hours' drive to Wellington airport, and $30 a day to park.
"That's four hours out of your day.
"Right here, you can fly for $95, connect to Air New Zealand or Jetstar, or stay in Wellington."
Sounds Air would offer a 7am flight to Wellington, returning at 7.30pm to Masterton.
"I live in Blenheim, it's a town of similar size, it's a town like Masterton. It has commuters who travel nation-wide or who work in Wellington."
He said there had been a lot of talk of recession, of people not travelling, but their experience was the opposite.
"We provide a good service on time, and we pride ourselves on getting into Wellington as smoothly as possible."
Mr Sage, who has logged 12,000 hours of flight time, is familiar with Hood Aerodrome.
He said the route to Wellington depended on weather and the direction of wind.
"Comfort is a big thing with us, it's a high priority."
Mr Daniell said he had been in talks with Sounds Air after the "bombshell" that Air New Zealand had dropped.
He considered the $95 fare "cost-effective" and flying to Wellington provided alternatives for passengers wanting to travel further.
"We got the runway and terminal up to passenger status, with significant community investment.
"I'm delighted the potential to fly from Masterton still remains."
Mr Daniell said he still hoped some other operator would come forward for the Masterton-Auckland route, which ends in February.
"We have had some expressions of interest from other airlines," he said.
"But Sounds Air has come out with a definite proposal."