Air NZ tweak flights to Nelson

KELSEY WILKIE KELSEY.WILKIE@FAIRFAXMEDIA.CO.NZ
Last updated 12:00 02/07/2014

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The direct flight schedule between Palmerston North and Nelson will see changes next year but there could be cheaper fares for punters.

Air New Zealand will scrap the morning flights from February next year and will move to operate one return weekday service using a larger plane.

A spokesperson for Air New Zealand said return service on Sundays would continue.

The company operates two return weekday services between Palmerston North and Nelson using 19-seater Beech 1900D aircraft.

The larger aircraft will see capacity increase from 38 to 50 seats per day each way.

The Q300 aircraft is also more cost efficient than the Beech aircraft and will enable increased availability of lower priced fares on the route, which Air NZ expects will help stimulate demand, a spokesperson for the company says.

Air NZ restarted direct flights between Nelson and Palmerston North last year. The service had last operated in 2008.

Palmerston North Airport chief executive officer David Lanham said an increase in plane size should see fares drop and more customers through the terminal.

"Fingers crossed it means Air New Zealand can sharpen their pencil on some of the fares."

Lanham said the only downside to dropping a flight was that there wouldn't be the "same day" opportunity for travellers.

Most customers would choose to stay overnight anyway, he said.

He hoped the change to larger capacity flights could mean Air NZ might consider picking up more connecting regional flights to Palmerston North.

He said the city airport was working on a plan with Tauranga Airport to be able to say to Air NZ: "Hey, we've proven to you that Palmy and Nelson works. Let's look at another option."

Lanham has had his sights set on a direct flight between Tauranga and Palmerston North since he took over as chief executive earlier this year.

He told the Manawatu Standard earlier this year that building stronger links to main centres and other regions would take priority over chasing uneconomic international flights.

The last scheduled international flight to the city was in March 2008.

Lanham said he had been on the road in the past few weeks talking with key players from Tauranga, Hamilton and Rotorua about ways to work together to entice Air NZ to look at other domestic travel options.

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- Manawatu Standard

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