Air Chathams, the only airline flying out of Whanganui, is "over the moon" with the Government's removal of the social distancing requirements on flights across the country.

The airline has been flying direct from Whanganui to Auckland since 2016, but the Covid-19 lockdown threatened the route, made worse by government rules which meant the airline could only fill half of its seats, severely hampering profitability.

Air Chathams chief operating officer Duane Emeny said the restrictions made it difficult to provide consumers with affordable flights, thereby making it difficult to stay afloat.

"It affects things in terms of what you put in the system to start with. Obviously if you've got less seats to sell, you can't sell them at a lower price, so there goes all the cheap fares.


"It certainly took a fair amount of industry pressure, but that being said it's really great the Government is able to look at these things and then make a decision. We're really happy with it."

Through the Covid-19 lockdown, the airline was supported by the essential transport connectivity scheme where the Government effectively underwrote routes which otherwise wouldn't be profitable.

"Without that, it would be a whole lot harder for us. It's great they're recognising the benefit of what we do as Air Chathams serving the regions and providing those regional connections."

As well as direct Whanganui to Auckland flights, Emeny said they are seeing a substantial rise in Kiwis heading to visit the Chatham Islands, with international travel out of the picture.

"There's a whole lot of people in New Zealand with nowhere to go, and they're looking for something unique and new. The Chathams are all of those things.

"I was talking to a tour operator on the island this week and he said there is a day tour booked on the island every day in October and more throughout the whole season. At a time where tourism is suffering on the mainland, it's going through a mini boom out on the Chathams."

Prior to the arrival of Covid-19, the airline was operating 115 flights per week, but is now only running around 64. Despite the significant reduction nationally, Whanganui hasn't been affected as badly with 26 flights per week, down from 36 pre-Covid.

"I think the key thing will be a level of confidence returning, but also a soft opening of some of those borders and establishing safe travel zones into Australia and some Pacific islands," Emeny said.


"It's not a great picture, but demand is returning."