Commercial flights to Aoraki/Mt Cook return tomorrow for the first time in nearly a decade. Air New Zealand subsidiary Mount Cook Airline will run the flights from December 23 to January 27.
Christchurch International Airport chief executive Jim Boult said the revival of the service for the first time since 2002 was partly due to the recent upsurge in the Japanese market.
"Aoraki/Mt Cook has always been a popular destination with the Japanese, and it has only been in the last couple of years that it has shown signs of reviving after a lean decade," he said.
A 68-seat ATR aircraft will fly from Christchurch to Mt Cook airfield three times a week. The aircraft will carry on to Queenstown, with a return service departing mid-afternoon.
"The Japanese market love the South Island, nearly every picture marketing New Zealand is of the mountains and the lakes," Mr Boult said.
Although the move was only a trial at this stage, he hoped it could become a regular summer service and eventually year round.
"The early indications are positive, the first lot of flights are pretty well booked out," he said.
The flights will stop at the Aoraki/Mt Cook airport, not far from the Hermitage Hotel, which owns the airport.
Hotel general manager Nigel Harper said the company had spent more than $50,000 to get the airport back to the required accreditation, after a long time off-line. It would also run a bus service to the hotel.
"Needless to say, we're doing everything we can to ensure this is a success. It will be interesting to see who takes up the flights, as it's only for a short period, I imagine it will be mainly domestic tourists rather than the Asian market as such."
- © Fairfax NZ News