Airport fees worry Nelson air services

Air service providers in Nelson are concerned about hikes to landing fees at Wellington International Airport, introduced in April, which could put people's commuting lifestyles at risk.

The airport's landing and terminal charges are up more than 12 per cent in the September half-year to more than $30 million, compared with the same period last year.

Earlier this month the Commerce Commission published a report into landing charges, concluding that the current light-touch regulations were allowing Wellington Airport to "extract excessive profits".

The commission said the airport's profit targets between 2013 and 2017 amounted to overcharging of at least $21m, and up to $39m, after the airport opted not to use the commission's formula for calculating charges.

In financial results for the September half-year, out today, the airport's total revenues were up 8.1 per cent to $51.4m.

Sounds Air managing director Andrew Crawford told Radio NZ the changes would force his company's costs to go up 169 per cent over the next five years.

A "peak charge" aimed at busy times, primarily driven by people commuting, was of particular concern.

"They're trying to get rid of small aircraft in the peak times, but we don't want to change our schedule. A lot of the passengers want to fly at that time," he said.

Golden Bay Air chief executive Richard Molloy said current landing fees were at a fixed charge of about $3.80 per passenger, which would ramp up to about $30 per passenger by 2016.

Mr Molloy said if Golden Bay Air added those charges on to its ticket prices, then it would "become unpalatable to our passengers" and put the service - and people's commuting lifestyles - at risk.

The airport said strong growth in the international market saw passenger numbers up 4.2 per cent.

The Nelson Mail