Plans for new domestic airline announced
The founder of defunct budget airline Kiwi Air has announced plans to launch a new domestic carrier.
Ewan Wilson said the new airline would be launched in early 2016 and would look to "fill the gaps" left in the domestic market by Air New Zealand.
Last month Air New Zealand announced it would cancel a string of routes from April next year, including Taupo to Wellington, Whangarei to Wellington, and Palmerston North to Nelson.
The national carrier will also axe services to Kaitaia, Whakatane and Westport from April.
The Hamilton-to-Auckland route will be scrapped from February 2016.
Wilson, a pilot and Hamilton City councillor, said the new airline did not yet have a name and the route network was still to be determined.
However, the airline would not go head-to-head with Air New Zealand.
Wilson said there was a "significant niche opportunity" for an airline to provide a service in and out of regional New Zealand.
"Clearly Air New Zealand has chosen to pull out of certain sectors. We believe Air New Zealand couldn't make the routes work because there was a lot of overheads in their corporate model that was dumped on the Eagle Air operation and they had the wrong planes operating it," he said.
Wilson launched Kiwi International Airlines in 1994, offering a no-frills "nuts and cola" trans-Tasman service.
The budget airline captured the imagination of the travelling public but collapsed in 1996 leaving thousands of travellers grounded with worthless tickets.
The airline's failure led to Wilson being convicted of fraud.
In his assessment as to why Kiwi Airlines ultimately failed, Wilson directs much blame on Air New Zealand's predatory pricing which undercut Kiwi's fares significantly.
Wilson said the new airline would avoid direct competition with the national carrier and expected Air New Zealand to honour public statements that it would assist another operator to step into the routes it had cut.
That included sharing historical load factors and yield.
"Our feeling is Air New Zealand having now stated publicly they're pulling out of the routes, saying they're not profitable or sustainable, and encouraging other operators to develop those niches, I think Air New Zealand has paved the way for a new entrant."
Wilson said the Taupo to Wellington route was being "seriously looked at" but ruled out picking up the Hamilton to Auckland route.
Aircraft type and home base of operations had yet to be decided but Wilson said it was unlikely the carrier would be based in Hamilton.
Currently all shares of the company are held by Wilson's wife Monique Wilson, but that would change over the next 15 months.
- Waikato Times