New regional air links for New Plymouth
A new air service from New Plymouth will link the region with direct flights to Rotorua, Hamilton and Tauranga.
Tauranga-based domestic flight operator Sunair Aviation will start the twice-daily flights in the next few weeks.
Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch are the only current destinations from Taranaki.
Sunair co-owner Bev Power said the new service would provide Monday to Friday morning and afternoon return flights.
Sunair's aircraft fleet includes nine six-seat twin engine Piper Aztec and four four-seat Cessna 172 airplanes.
Both aircraft types will be flying in and out of New Plymouth as required, she said.
Sunair provided a similar service about four years ago but it didn't take off at the time, she said.
A decision to reinstate the service was made after the Taranaki District Health Board requested it include New Plymouth, she said.
In a written statement the Taranaki District Health Board said it asked Sunair last year whether a service between New Plymouth and Hamilton was being considered.
The DHB said it was supportive of the new air service as it reduced travel times between provincial locations.
The DHB service was to transfer patients who needed non-emergency medical treatment as well as medical professionals and support people, Mrs Power said.
"It's offering a service for those that are capable of walking and getting into our aircraft, it's not for stretcher patients."
The health board service began operating two weeks ago, she said.
Sunair would also offer a service targeted at business passengers and government personnel wanting to make day visits to a region, she said.
The new flights will cost $390 one-way or $560 return.
Within 24 hours of a flight there was also a one-way special where any remaining seats could be picked up for $150.
Return trips to the three destinations flying with Air New Zealand costs upwards of $500 if booked one month in advance.
Flight times are 45 minutes to Hamilton and one hour to Rotorua and Tauranga.
Leisure travellers were not Sunair's target market but they were more than welcome to embrace the service, she said.
"Certainly we would welcome them aboard but mostly it's corporate clients and government people.
New Plymouth airport manager Kevin Hill said he had not been told of the new service but welcomed its introduction.
Mrs Power's husband, Dan, would travel to New Plymouth next week to discuss the service, she said.
SunAir, which has been in business for 25 years, also operates services from Auckland, Napier, Great Barrier Island, Whitianga and Gisborne. It employed 28 staff and had 11 pilots, Mrs Power said.
Bookings can be made direct through Sunair and through various travel agents in New Plymouth.
Taranaki Daily News