Originair lands in Palmerston North
The red carpet was rolled out for passengers arriving in Palmerston North as the first Originair flight landed at the city's airport.
The inaugural flight from Nelson on Wednesday was given a VIP welcome on the runway by Mayor Grant Smith and Palmerston North Airport chief executive David Lanham.
Near perfect weather conditions saw the twin-turbo prop 19-seater touch down on schedule at 10.40am to be met by a spray arch from two waiting fire trucks.
One of the passengers was 6-year-old Jackson Monopoli and his mother Miranda.
Jackson won the flight for first-time flyers in a competition on Facebook.
"It was cool. I thought I could touch the clouds," he said.
His mother took the opportunity to catch up with an old friend before catching the return flight later in the day.
Lanham said it was a landmark event.
"It's not every day a new airline starts up in New Zealand. It's a great day.
"It's going to reinstate a sector that was very popular," he said, adding he expected the route to be well supported.
Smith agreed, saying he expected the new route to boost visitor numbers. "It's fantastic. It's really positive. I'm confident it will be very fruitful," he said.
Destination Manawatu chief executive Lance Bickford expected the region to benefit.
"There are a lot of connections that are under the radar from Nelson and the Tasman district generally," he said.
In June, newly formed Originair Ltd announced it would be flying direct from Palmerston North to Nelson, return, seven days a week.
The announcement came after Air New Zealand announced cuts to some regional routes from April, including the Nelson to Palmerston North route.
Originair was formed by operator Robert Inglis.
Inglis said the day had come together well and was the result of more than a year of planning.
Palmerston North aviation company Fieldair will be providing support and backup services for the new route.
More information, including prices and online bookings, can be found at the airline's website.
A decision by budget airline operator Jetstar about which regional centres it will choose is keenly awaited. An announcement is expected in the next few weeks.