Taranaki to get bigger aircraft

Mount Cook Airlines is soon to begin scheduled flights through Taranaki.

The airline, which is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Air New Zealand, will begin flying 68-seat ATR72 planes to New Plymouth airport.

They will replace some of the existing flights currently operated by fellow subsidiary Air Nelson with its 50-seat Q300 aircraft.

According to Air New Zealand's latest flight schedules it will all begin on Monday October 29 when the first ATR will fly from Auckland to New Plymouth.

The bigger planes mean 72 extra seats will be available each day, easing a major shortage of seats on scheduled flights through New Plymouth at critical times.

But it will also put more pressure on an already overcrowded New Plymouth airport terminal, which may force the New Plymouth District Council to expand the building earlier than planned.

Airport manager Kevin Hill said the arrival of the larger planes - with more expected to take over other existing flights in the near future - has the potential to add more than 30,000 people a year to the passenger traffic through New Plymouth.

"As a result we might need to bring planned expansion of the terminal forward 12 to 18 months," he said.

"We've already increased the availability of parking for cars and rental cars, but it's likely that soon we're going to have to get stuck into the terminal itself.

There are already plans in place for upstairs offices, small conference rooms, a viewing deck, and expansion of the ground floor area towards the control tower."

Mr Hill added that as passenger numbers grow, it is also likely some form of departure lounge will have to be provided to meet security requirements."

The first ATRs to land at New Plymouth will not be the brand-new 600-Series models that are now starting to arrive in the country as part of a $340 million purchase deal by Air New Zealand, but older 500-Series planes that have been here for several years.

Yesterday Air New Zealand said the first of the new ATR aircraft will enter into service next month and will share flying duties between ports serviced by Mount Cook Airline services.

The first aircraft to arrive will be in Air NZ's all black livery.

Subsequent aircraft will be in the new Air New Zealand livery of white with a black tail.

Taranaki Daily News