Government will talk to Air New Zealand about Marlborough return

Sounds Air loading passengers at Kaikoura.

Sounds Air loading passengers at Kaikoura.

Air New Zealand flights between Blenheim and Christchurch could be back on the cards after the Government announced it was planning talks with the airline. 

The office for Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce said on Wednesday the minister would discuss post-earthquake routes with Air New Zealand. 

"The minister intends to talk to both Sounds Air and Air New Zealand about routes between Christchurch, Kaikoura and Marlborough."

Sounds Air is currently the only airline flying Blenheim to Christchurch and Blenheim to Kaikoura routes, with Air New Zealand ending its Blenheim to Christchurch route in July due to lack of passenger demand.  

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An ​Air NZ spokeswoman said on Wednesday the company had no plans to reinstate the route. However, this was before Joyce revealed his plans to have a sit-down with the airline.

Air NZ did not respond to requests for comment on Thursday. 

​Sounds Air managing director Andrew Crawford said the company was meeting demand in and out of Marlborough, running 30 extra flights since the earthquake last week. 

He did not know how much longer the extra flights would run for.

"We're looking at adding another Blenheim to Christchurch one during the day," he said.

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The Sounds Air route from Blenheim to Kaikoura would not be permanent, but Crawford could see it there for quite a while because of the closure of State Highway 1 following the 7.8 magnitude earthquake on November 14. 

"We've got the capacity to keep running as long as required," Crawford said. 

Crawford said exactly how many passengers had been flown out of Marlborough was confidential, but it was "well in the hundreds". 

Destination Marlborough general manager Tracy Johnston said she was in talks with transport providers about getting people in and out of the Marlborough region. 

She declined to say if any arrangements had been put in place. 

Air NZ's rival Jetstar added four regional destinations in the past year; Napier, Nelson, New Plymouth and Palmerston North. 

A Jetstar representative could not be reached for comment. 

 - The Marlborough Express


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