First night flight lands at Queenstown airport
The first Queenstown night flights, which will offer passengers more choice, while boosting the Central Otago economy, are set to touch down later this month.
The introduction of evening flights are set maximise the airport's current operating hours and reduce peak-time pressure from substantial growth in passenger and traffic volumes.
An Air New Zealand test flight arrived on Saturday night in preparation for a scheduled service that will start on May 23.
The service will operate between Queenstown and Auckland from 7am to 9.30pm, daily.
Jetstar also plans a daily winter evening service - between Melbourne and Queenstown - from Friday June 24 until August 31, subject to regulatory approval.
Air New Zealand and Jetstar were part of a working group that helped prepare a Foundation Safety Case on Queenstown after-dark flights.
In November Queenstown Airport started an $18 million investment in a series of major airfield infrastructure improvements designed to pave the way for evening flights in winter 2016 and improve overall safety and efficiency of operations.
The airport's main runway was widened from 30 to 45 metres and new runway, taxiway, apron and approach lights were installed.
Saturday's flight was the first of several Air New Zealand planned tests during the coming weeks.
Its service will operate a partial evening schedule between Auckland and Queenstown with the last flight arriving in Queenstown at 6.15pm before departing for Auckland at 6.50pm.
The airline's full evening schedule will take effect from July 3 when the last departure from Queenstown will be 7.30pm and the last arrival at 9.35pm.
Air New Zealand chief flight operations and safety officer Captain David Morgan said the implementation of evening flights had involved significant collaboration across multiple stakeholders.
The airline had invested in the latest technology to enable it to operate evening flights in Queenstown under CAA requirements, he said.
The additional flights were sure to bring significant benefits to the Central Otago economy, he said.