Air NZ Christchurch flights take off

ALAN WOOD
Last updated 05:00 13/03/2014

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Air New Zealand will increase domestic flight capacity into Christchurch Airport by about 6 per cent over the next year or so, the airline's chief executive Christopher Luxon says.

"We're really committed to Christchurch, and as we look forward, we actually see there is 6 per cent capacity growth coming into Christchurch, and it's happening [on domestic services] from across the country."

Trans-Tasman flights, including those code-shared between Air New Zealand and partner Virgin Australia, into Christchurch would increase by about 5 per cent over the same timeframe, Luxon, the boss of the NZX-listed airline, said yesterday.

He was talking to an audience of tourism stakeholders in the Garden City, where he announced the continuation of a Christchurch-Perth non-stop service over the 2014-15 summer. He said the initial service had gone extremely well, meeting targets.

Air New Zealand and Virgin Australia have been operating a twice-weekly service, starting from December 2013 through to April. Luxon said the seats on the service had been filled to such a level it was worth putting on a second seasonal service to follow the first year's. The second Boeing service would operate twice weekly from December 13 through to December 25, 2015.

Christchurch Airport chief executive Malcolm Johns said the renewal of the service followed high bookings in both directions during the summer just gone, with lots of inquiries regarding future flights.

"This has been an extremely successful seasonal service, which has added about $9 million so far in additional earnings for the South Island's GDP," he said.

Asked if the service could become year-round, Luxon said: "That would be the ambition and the hope for the future."

Luxon said Christchurch had already benefited from increased capacity on trans-Tasman services from Air New Zealand and its alliance partner Virgin Australia (in which the New Zealand airline owns a 24 per cent stake). For example, a new Coolangatta, Gold Coast, service meant the capacity between Christchurch and the Gold Coast was up 40 per cent.

"We wouldn't be putting them in if we didn't think they were substantially good loading factors," he said of the extra capacity.

Luxon also talked about the benefits to Christchurch and Auckland airports from a new codeshare alliance with Singapore Airlines, announced in January, letting carriers increase capacity up to 30 per cent between Auckland and Singapore.

Singapore Airlines already flies to Christchurch, and Luxon said those from the lower North Island should be encouraged to use the link. "It's a very compelling proposition if you're sitting in Palmerston or Wellington to make the very simple trip down to Christchurch [to connect] with Singapore."

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