Low-cost link to Wellington

New low-cost Wellington-to-Queenstown direct flights on Jetstar will open up a swathe of high-disposable-income visitors from the capital to Queenstown and Wanaka, a Queenstown Lakes District councillor says.

Cr Lyall Cox, a former Wellingtonian, yesterday said cheap, direct flights between Wellington and Queenstown had been something he had been keen to see established for years.

"Wellington is a city with a high percentage of public servants with a good degree of disposable income," he said.

"I think there's huge potential for tourism marketing bodies like Lake Wanaka Tourism and Destination Queenstown to really get in and do a great job of get-ting visitors from Wellington here, because the new flights make it really easy for them to land on a Friday, have a weekend, and get back for work on Monday."

The ski market could experience a boom of new visitors, Cr Cox said.

"A lot of Wellingtonian skiers and boarders drive to Mt Ruapehu for the weekend, and I used to drive down to Mt Hutt.

"Now they can be on a flight that'll be a lot shorter and enjoy the mountains all over our region and, with the right promotion, I'm very confident Queenstown and Wanaka will be welcoming a lot more Wellingtonians over winter, and year-round."

Previously, Air New Zealand was the only airline to service the route.

There were already very good flight links between Queenstown, Auckland and Christchurch, as well Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne.

The new Wellington link would bring the capital up to par, Cr Cox said.

Wellington student Tarquin Vesper agreed.

"My dad's in Wanaka, and flights are 80 bucks, so I'll definitely be down here a lot more than the two or three times a year I usually make it," he said.

"It makes it affordable enough to blast down here for weekends in ski season, and I reckon heaps of my mates will be cashing in on that, come winter."

Palmerston North-based air force member Tina Frew agreed.

"My family's in Twizel, and I usually flew to Christchurch or Timaru and drove from there. I'd like to come down more often, and when I do I'll be coming via Queenstown, because you really don't need much of an excuse to come here."

Queenstown Airport chief executive Steve Sanderson said he and his team had worked closely with Jetstar and Wellington Airport to secure the connection.

"Jetstar are offering very competitive fares, at least 30 per cent lower than traditional prices ... and travelling between Queenstown and our capital city is going to be much more accessible to everyone."

grant.bryant@stl.co.nz

The Southland Times