More seats on flights to Auckland

TRACY NEAL
Last updated 12:40 15/05/2014

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Air New Zealand is planning to increase the number of seats available on Nelson to Auckland flights over the next year.

The 9.1 per cent increased capacity would equal more than 30,000 additional seats a year in both directions, and will happen as a result of streamlining aircraft used by the three Link operators.

That includes re-positioning the larger 68-seat ATR72 aircraft which are gaining a greater presence in and out of Nelson, the new head of Air Nelson, Kelvin Duff, said.

The company also plans a four per cent increase in seat capacity from Nelson to Christchurch.

Duff is a former aircraft engineer who has been with Air New Zealand for 24 years. He and his family moved from Auckland this year when he was appointed head of Air Nelson.

It followed the appointment of Sarah Williamson as general manager of Air New Zealand Link operations. She manages the three regional airlines, Mt Cook Airline, Air Nelson and Eagle Air from her base in Christchurch. Duff will oversee Air Nelson's operations from the Nelson offices.

The combined turbo prop fleet operated by the three Link operators is made up of 23 Q300 aircraft operated by Air Nelson, Eagle Air's 18 Beech 1900D aircraft, and Mt Cook's 14 ATR72s. The three Air New Zealand Link operators have formed closer ties in recent years, with advantages found in being able to share aircraft as demand dictates, Williamson said.

Duff said his role will be to oversee Air Nelson operations and the team of around 350 staff spread over pilots and cabin crew, corporate and engineering staff.

Duff said he was aware of Air Nelson's place in the community and its origins as a strong local commuter airline.

"One of my roles is to try and capture the history and pride of where Air Nelson came from," he said.

Duff said Air Nelson, which operates under the Air New Zealand banner, had a strong presence in the regions but he said the commuter airline industry was reasonably competitive.

"From a New Zealand perspective there are numerous small operators.

"We have a strong presence in the regions but we do offer a lot of frequency," he said in response to complaints about airfares and whether a monopoly situation existed.

Duff said scheduled services provided by the two other commercial commuter operators (Sounds Air and Air2There) in and out of Nelson meant the region was served by several options, particularly across Cook Strait.

Duff said average airfare increases since 2010 were in line or below inflation rises. "The company has made a big investment and commitment to the ATRs which had meant the Q300s [operated by Air Nelson] have been re-deployed on other routes."

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Air Nelson Technical also provided maintenance services on the ATR fleet.

- The Nelson Mail

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