Wine flights on track for November

The Pilatus PC12 which Sounds Air will fly between Blenheim and Napier.
ANDREW CRAWFORD

The Pilatus PC12 which Sounds Air will fly between Blenheim and Napier.

A Marlborough airline is making it easier for wine professionals and tourists to travel between the top two wine-producing regions in the country.

Koromiko company Sounds Air will start flying between Blenheim and Napier from November 5.

General manager Andrew Crawford said there was demand from people in the wine industry, who commuted between Marlborough and Hawke's Bay.

To travel between the regions was expensive and time consuming, as passengers had to go through Wellington, he said.

"It's providing a service that's been required for a long time."

Flying between Blenheim and Napier on Air New Zealand took close to two hours and cost passengers about $300.

The new Sounds Air service, which would operate four times a week, reduced the flight time to 55 minutes, with passengers paying $249 each way.

Although it was primarily aimed at the wine industry, Crawford said the company included weekend times to capitalise on tourism.

Wine Marlborough general manager Marcus Pickens said the service was good news for the industry.

"There will definitely be demand," he said.

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Hawke's Bay Winegrowers executive officer James Medina said the new route would help businesses with interests across both regions to co-ordinate better, as well as saving them time and money.

Previously, people might have been put off because of travel times, he said.

"Now, you could be back in time for dinner."

Villa Maria chief winemaker Nick Picone travelled between Hawke's Bay and Marlborough about once a month.

Having to take four flights there and back, because of a stop in Wellington, was frustrating and expensive, he said.

Any delays on Air New Zealand's Blenheim to Napier route meant missing a connecting flight, Picone said.

"I think a regular service that's consistent and reliable would be highly desirable," he said.

"I'd jump on it."

Sounds Air originally planned to start the service in August but were delayed because of a lack of aircraft.

A nine-seater Pilatus PC12 had been found to fly the route.

The company also started flying other new paths this year, including Wellington to Westport, Wellington to Taupo and Blenheim to Paraparaumu, after national carrier Air New Zealand made cuts to their regional network.

 - The Marlborough Express

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