Runway extension needed for new Masterton service

05:04, Oct 30 2013

A replacement air service for the soon to be axed Air New Zealand link between Masterton and Auckland could be up and running early in the new year.

However, considerable investment from the council and community is likely to be required.

Wairarapa MP John Hayes says the two suppliers that are being looked at both operate bigger plans than those used by Air NZ subsidiary Eagle Air for the Masterton to Auckland service.

In order to fly in and out of Masterton the runway would need to be extended nearly 200 metres to 1400m and also made an additional three metres wide to 30m.

Lengthening the runway gives far more options for planes, Mr Hayes says.

Air New Zealand plans to end its Masterton to Auckland service in February next year. The "loss- making" service, which has been running since 2009, was being pulled because of a lack of demand and increased operating costs, which meant it was no longer economically viable, says the national carrier. The service is understood to have a passenger occupancy rate of about 72 per cent.

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New potential suppliers being worked with operate planes double the capacity of the 19-seat Eagle Air Beechcraft planes.

Mr Hayes says pricing is also likely to be higher at around $300 one way.

"The problem with a regional service is that the planes you use are not as efficient as mainline jets, meaning that the customers are always going to have to pay a bit of a premium," he says.

"It is a reality that any regional service in the country costs more to use than a Wellington- Auckland or Wellington- Christchurch service because the big jets are far more fuel-efficient and you can get a lot more people on them and you have still only got two pilots," he says.

The priority is to have a service that is reliable, is for a long period of time and is commercially viable, he says.

The next step is to sort out what business model would be most suitable and also pull together people who are likely to be shareholders.

"One possibility might be to set up a locally-owned company that would contract a suppling party to provide a service that so we at least had something that was live for the long term."

Meanwhile, Mr Hayes has sent a mayday call to businesspeople in the electorate who regularly use the Air New Zealand service to Auckland in the hope of getting a commitment to a new provider.

"When going into negotiations with alternative airlines, most importantly we need a firm understanding of who will use this service, when, and how often at a price of about $300 (per) one-way trip to or from Auckland."

If you intend to regularly use the air service from Masterton airport past February next year send an email to john.hayes@parliament.govt.nz supplying your name and the days and times you prefer to fly in to or out of Masterton airport.

Wairarapa News