Air New Zealand Timaru schedule no good for businesses, company director says

Air New Zealand's latest flight out of Timaru leaves at 11.30am, and one Timaru businessman says that is too early.
MARTIN DE RUYTER/FAIRFAX NZ

Air New Zealand's latest flight out of Timaru leaves at 11.30am, and one Timaru businessman says that is too early.

Air New Zealand's "ridiculous" new flight schedule to Timaru is making business difficult, a local businessman says.

Brian Kenton says having the latest flight out of town at 11.30am forces business visitors to work late into the night or stay in town two nights instead. He believes TImaru District Council should raise the issue as it plans to revamp Richard Pearse airport.

Kenton, who is a director in several South Canterbury companies including engineering firm Wallace and Cooper, said on Monday a series of business meetings last week showed how difficult air commutes to Timaru were.

He said the schedule, which Air New Zealand introduced in MArch along with 50-seat airplanes to replaces its 19-seat Beechraft fleet, was less than ideal for visitors coming from Nelson, Dunedin, Auckland and Wellington. He understood many businesspeople preferred to fly to Christchurch and drive a rental car from there instead of flying to Richard Pearse Airport. 

"Nobody can fly in and do a day's business," Kenton said.

"It's ridiculous."

Timaru District mayor Damon Odey said last week population was the district's "biggest hurdle". Kenton said Timaru District, which has a population of about 43,000, needed more residents. 

"People make work."

Kenton said Nelson, whose population had grown more quickly than Timaru's in recent decades, enjoyed more air connections than Timaru. Nelson airport's website states 283 flights a week land and take off there. Air New Zealand's weekly flights to and from Timaru total 24.

Timaru District Council is discussing Air New Zealand's requirements in a planned $1.3 million upgrade of Richard Pearse airport, and Kenton said its flight schedule should be raised in discussions.

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Timaru Airport chief executive Ashley Harper said on Tuesday the council "understand that the new times will not work for everyone but are confident that Air New Zealand has listened to our feedback".

Harper, who is also the council's district services group manager, said the council had been "in close consultation" with the airline about its new aircraft and new schedule for 12 months.

"We welcome the larger aircraft and the improved level of service for Timaru air passengers", Harper said.

An Air New Zealand spokeswoman said the airline consulted with local businesspeople and key stakeholders to ensure the schedule met most customers's needs before introducing it.

The revised schedule allowed Timaru customers to travel to Wellington and back in a day and connect to other New Zealand ports and return the same day, the spokeswoman said.

She said Air New Zealand would continue to work with "local stakeholders", but said it was difficult to meet every customer's needs.

Kenton said he refused to believe Air New Zealand cared "one little bit" about Timaru. 

South Canterbury Chamber of Commerce president John Cannell said the chamber had not received any complaints about the service, but had "a real desire for the flight schedule to work in the best interests of Timaru".

 - Stuff

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