A proposed multimillion-dollar expansion of the New Plymouth airport terminal has been brought forward to cater for continued growth in passenger numbers.
Air New Zealand has this week doubled the number of flights between New Plymouth and Christchurch, from one daily to two, to cope with the demand from workers heading to the rebuild and back.
The extra flights have increased the number of movements at New Plymouth's airport from 26 a day to 28.
Further changes are expected in February when the use of bigger aircraft will again increase the number of travellers using the facility.
Manager Kevin Hill said it was hoped a new master plan, which would include changes to the terminal, would be completed by June 2014.
"We are looking at increasing the size of the terminal," he said.
"I suppose we have brought it forward, it's more concrete now - that it's going to happen. The proposed changes are going to take place possibly a little bit sooner than expected."
It was hoped the expansion, which will cost more than $3 million, would be completed by the end of 2015, as the infrastructure was struggling to cope with the added demand.
"The terminal can be quite full because you have got up to 150 people waiting for the first one to go out at 6.40am to Christchurch."
The airport's main gates are now open at 5.30am to accommodate the earlier flight and three aircraft are based there overnight.
"The little old airport is not a little old airport any more, it's getting up there," Mr Hill said.
The number of passengers using the terminal annually has exceeded 300,000 and is predicted to be close to 340,000 by the end of the year.
Mr Hill said that because New Plymouth was one of the bigger regional airports more larger planes, the 68-seat ATRs, were expected to be used from next February.
"It will increase our number of seats available."
Air New Zealand group manager Cam Wallace said there was increased demand arising from the Christchurch rebuild, and the company was "pleased to be facilitating the ongoing rebuild within the Canterbury region".
Mr Wallace said many passengers travelling from New Plymouth, Hamilton and Tauranga to Christchurch previously had to stop off in Wellington.
- © Fairfax NZ News
Do you think state schools should conduct religious instruction for primary-aged children?