Direct flights to Nelson to continue
Palmerston North to Nelson flights are here to stay, with airport company chief executive Darin Cusack unfazed by suggestions that some people in Nelson would rather have a connection to Queenstown.
Air New Zealand reinstated the Nelson to Palmerston North direct flights last July, and Mr Cusack said they had proven so popular the service had been confirmed as permanent.
The flights were an average of 75 to 85 per cent full both ways.
Nelson Tasman Tourism is lobbying to get a service to and from Queenstown to tap into the international visitor market, but Air New Zealand said its fleet was fully committed.
The Nelson Mail has raised the prospect of a tradeoff, dropping the Palmerston North link to make the Queenstown prospect work.
But Mr Cusack said that while he understood Nelson's interest in tapping into the international visitor market, the link to Palmerston North was valuable to both communities for other reasons.
It was particularly useful for leisure and business travellers in both directions. "Based on the success of the Nelson service, Palmerston North Airport is looking to grow capacity on this route, and is talking to Air New Zealand about other possible regions within the network," Mr Cusack said.
"The whole Nelson thing was our initiative, to get it back."
The airport company had worked hard to convince Air New Zealand that the service would work, and passenger numbers had confirmed the potential.
The plan now was to develop other connections, building capacity on existing services, improving connections, and establishing new direct routes.