New airline Originair set to go
Nelson skies will become more crowded as a sixth airline, Originair, is set to take off.
Originair - established by Robert Inglis who founded Air Nelson then ran Origin Pacific Airways which collapsed in 2006 - will fly Nelson-Wellington and Nelson-Palmerston North.
His move comes as Qantas-owned Jetstar's roadshow is in Nelson on Thursday as it presses ahead with plans to start regional flights from DecemberNelson is one of the seven regional centres it is considering operating from. It will choose at least four. The Jetstar regional fares will go on sale in September.
Kiwi Regional Airlines announced on Wednesday that it will start on September 27, flying direct between Nelson and Hamilton, and Nelson and Dunedin, as well as between Dunedin and Queenstown.
The newcomers will join Air New Zealand as well as smaller airlines Sounds Air and air2there which service Nelson.
Originair will pick up the Nelson to Palmerston North direct route that Air NZ dumped in April. Kiwi Regional had intended to fly that route but instead will fly direct Nelson to Hamilton.
Originair's head office has opened this week in Achilles Ave in central Nelson and the airline will employ up to 20 staff in Nelson and Palmerston North by take-off. Inglis owns Inglis Aircraft Ltd and the new Originair fleet will consist of two 19-seat Jetstreams, one of which had been leased to Vincent Aviation then LifeFlight.
Inglis described its move as ``modest". "This isn't Ben Hur, it's a very small operation," he said. "We own the eqipment, we're not exposed to a lot of risk with exchange rates, we have operated this route and know it well. Hopefully we're just offering Nelson people another choice."
Originair's standard fares for Nelson-Wellington would go from $129 through a range to $257 for a flexi fully refundable fare, and for Nelson Palmerston North from $169 to $289. Specials would be offered from time to time, he said.
The Nelson-Palmerston North and Nelson-Wellington routes were a return to the service he and Nicki Smith first started in the 1980s, and this was an 80/20 venture between them.
"As a small regional airline we are really pleased to be able to offer the direct flights that the Nelson and Manawatu regions have said they need and appreciate," said Inglis. "We are also pleased to offer travellers to and from Wellington more peak-time flights to the capital.
"We are experienced airline operators and have the aircraft and systems to service these routes," he said. "We have been working hard since December to be ready to fly between Nelson and Palmerston North by August 12.
"Our twin-turbo prop pressurised 19-seater planes, operated with a two pilot crew, are the right gauge for these links and are aircraft that regional passengers are used to flying in. Because of this, we believe the transition to our service from Air New Zealand's former service will be easy for people."
Inglis did not see the arrival of Jetstar to the region as an issue. "I imagine they are interested in the core routes from Nelson and provincial airports to the Auckland gateway. I'm quite sure they are not interested in Nelson-Palmerston North."
He saw Kiwi Regional Airlines as focusing on the tourist market, and said he did not have a relationship with its chief executive Ewan Wilson.
Nelson Airport is in the process of planning the redevelopment of its terminal, and chief excutive Rob Evans said the establishment of a new airline was another great news story for Nelson.
"Having Originair here will be fantastic for Nelson by offering more availability for inbound and outbound passengers on a direct route to Palmerston North supporting both business and leisure travellers," Evans said. "There are some great synergies between both catchment regions to really take advantage of what's on offer. More choice for travellers to Wellington will also be welcomed by Nelsonians.
"Robert Inglis is a true aviation entrepreneur with wonderful vision and dedication in a very volatile industry," he said.
Nelson Region Economic Development Agency chief executive Bill Findlater said he supported the addition of a new regional airline for Nelson. "Gaining back the direct regional Nelson to Palmerston North route gives Nelsonians an important link to central North Island. Any initiative that provides more regional services for Nelson has to be a good thing."
Nelson mayor Rachel Reese also welcomed OriginAir flying to and from Nelson. "We already have significant interest from both the business and tourism sectors for new routes and extended services. Any new airline will only help increase capacity and opportunity for people to come to our beautiful city.
"We look forward to working with Robert and the OriginAir team to support the long term growth of travellers to our region."
Originair will not directly employ the flight crew. Inglis said that due to the relatively small scale of the proposed operation he had collaborated with two companies from the Freightways Ltd Group, Air Freight NZ Ltd (Air Freight) and Fieldair Engineering Ltd (Fieldair), to carry out flight operations and fleet maintenance respectively. Both Air Freight and Fieldair had decades of relevant aviation experience and would provide the airline with a high quality service and allow Originair's core team to focus on its marketing and customer service, he said.
"Our website and reservation system is already live so people can book their flights today at www.Originair.nz," Inglis said.
Air fare, Nelson to Wellington, September 10
Air NZ: $69-$174
Sounds Air: $120
air2there (to Paraparaumu): $149
Jetstar: unknown, fares go on sale September, first flights December
Kiwi Regional: starts September 27 but not to Wellington.
About Robert Inglis
Robert Inglis started Air Nelson in 1979 with Nicki Smith. Air New Zealand purchased 50 per cent of the airline in 1988, then the total shareholding in 1996 and still operates it today. Inglis and Smith then went on to start Origin Pacific Airways in 1996 as a feeder airline for Qantas. It went into liquidation in 2006 after Qantas' Jet Connect cancelled a contract that resulted in Origin losing 60 per cent of its business. Now Nelson-based Inglis is a director of Inglis Aircraft Ltd and the owner of Northwood Hop Co and Northwood Wines.
* Originair Nelson / Wellington winter schedule from September 10
Nelson to Wellington Wellington to Nelson
Monday to Friday 7.30am 8.40am
Saturday 10.40am 11.50am
Sunday 1.40pm 2.50pm
* Originair Nelson / Palmerston North winter schedule from August 12
Nelson to Palmerston North Palmerston North to Nelson
Monday to Friday 9.50am 11.20am
Saturday 8am 9.20am
Sunday 4.10pm 5.30pm