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Sounds Air eyes freight market

TRACY NEAL
Last updated 13:00 29/07/2013

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Growth in the air freight market has prompted Cook Strait operator Sounds Air to embark on its own growth spurt, as it fights to retain a firm foothold on a highly competitive route.

The commuter airline has just added a fourth aircraft to its fleet, with the aim of being able to provide a dedicated freight service, Sounds Air managing director Andrew Crawford said.

The Cessna Grand Caravan went into service on Monday and will service the Wellington to Picton, Blenheim and Nelson routes. Along with providing extra freight capacity, it will allow Sounds Air the opportunity to offer more charter flights and extra flights at peak times as demand increases at weekends and over the summer season, Crawford said.

"With the extra capacity we will also be adding a daily return freight flight across Cook Strait to enhance service to our existing customers and provide options to new freight clients."

Crawford said Sounds Air already carried freight but space was limited when the planes were full of passengers.

"The best option is to take the seats out and run a dedicated freight flight."

Crawford said the airline was talking with courier companies and also saw potential in the perishable goods market, such as flowers, food and wine.

He said it would strengthen the airline's viability on a cut-throat passenger run in and out of Nelson.

"Nelson is a hard market. There have been plenty of times I've felt like packing it in."

Crawford blamed Air New Zealand's pricing tactics, including its habit of offering below-cost seats on the Cook Strait route, and exorbitant fees and charges at Wellington Airport he described as "organised theft".

He said Sounds Air could not compete with the national carrier's flexible fares, but where it won was in the fare structure that remained the same, no matter when a passenger booked.

"If people want to travel next week, it's the same as if they want to travel tomorrow."

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- The Nelson Mail

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