Air New Zealand has denied cancelling flights between Wellington and Timaru due to light passenger loads despite claims from a frequent flyer who lost a day's work when his flight was cancelled on Monday night.
Project engineer Barry Hook travels from his home in Taupo to jobs around the country twice every fortnight and has found flying into the regions sometimes can be "hugely inconvenient".
"I don't know whether it's coincidental or not, but when there is a light loading, like last night's [Monday] five passengers, then there is no plane available," he said.
Air NZ spokesperson Emma Field said the cancelled flight NZ2305 was due to "an unforseen engineering issue".
"From the period October 1, 2013, to January 20, 2014, of 501 scheduled flights between Wellington and Timaru, 12 had been cancelled; nine of which were due to weather conditions and three because of engineering issues," Field said.
Hook and his fellow passengers were told at Wellington Airport that their 6pm flight was "unserviceable" and they could either take the 6.45pm flight to Christchurch and a shuttle to Timaru or catch a plane yesterday. Overnight accommodation expenses were not offered.
Hook opted for the later flight but instead of arriving in Timaru shortly after 7pm, as intended when his flight was originally booked, he arrived just after 10pm. He decided he was too tired to drive to Cromwell for a 5am start and instead stayed in Waimate.
Hook's tickets from Taupo to Timaru return cost $882 and he is incensed that his employer has paid for something he has not received.
"It's a lot of money," he said.
Since he started his job in 1999 he has noticed that regional airports did not get the same attention as the main routes.
A flow-on effect of Monday's cancellation was the cancellation of the 6.50am flight from Timaru to Wellington yesterday.
Another issue which has upset Mr Hook is the Friday mid-afternoon flights from Timaru to Wellington which no longer fly.
"They just disappeared, there was no communication," he said.
Air NZ's schedule varies in line with seasonal demand and its Friday mid-afternoon flight will resume on February 10.
A Commerce Commission spokesman said the airline industry's terms and conditions attached to each ticket contained the airline's right to offer alternative travel due to unforseen circumstances, so there was no issue under the Fair Trading Act for passengers such as Hook.
- The Timaru Herald